Ensuring effective support for vulnerable learners

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Penllwyn Primary School has used a range of strategies specifically designed to meet the characteristic needs of disadvantaged learners. The school has reduced the barriers to learning and improved the outcomes for all children by devising a tracking system that assesses learners’ wellbeing, attendance, expected academic ability, behaviour and exposure to extra curricular activities to monitor their needs.


Number of learners: 141
Age range: 3-11 years
Date of inspection:  January 2018

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The school ethos is based on the wellbeing of all learners and staff.  The school vision, ‘Achieve, Care, Enrich’ (ACE), is evident throughout the school.  To ensure effective support for vulnerable learners, the school employs a range of strategies specifically designed to meet the characteristic needs of disadvantaged learners.  A key part of the school’s strategy to reduce the barriers to learning and to improve outcomes for all learners is to:

  • ensure that there is a close match of support to the needs of individual learners

  • use the established tracking systems to monitor the progress of disadvantaged learners rigorously

  • identify and support particularly disadvantaged learners that may not be eligible for free school meals

  • prioritise the tackling of poverty and planning strategically to raise the performance of disadvantaged learners

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

Staff have devised a tracking system to monitor vulnerable learners across the school.  Teachers assess learners’ wellbeing, attendance, expected academic ability, behaviour and exposure to extra‑curricular activities.  Pupils are given a score that highlights their level of vulnerability.  Tracking sheets are completed in the Autumn term and re-evaluated and assessed for impact at the end of the Spring term.  This enables interventions and support systems to have maximum effect across the school.

The information collected is linked to academic tracking systems, and is used by all staff to inform teaching, learning and support that is appropriately tailored to the needs of individual learners.

In key stage 2, groups are selected based on scores from the tracking information, which ensures that there is sufficient support for learners’ social and emotional needs, as well as their confidence, motivation and self-esteem.  These groups focus on practical activities such as art, craft and outdoor activities.  In addition, an extra-curricular club provides pupils with extra support.  This programme targets out-of-school-hours learning, providing opportunities specifically to promote independence and deliver experiences that pupils might not normally have the chance to participate in outside of school.

What impact has this work had on provision and pupils’ standards?

Learners who are eligible for free school meals achieve well in Penllwyn Primary School.  Over time, pupils have achieved better results than those in similar schools.  The support and intervention for pupils eligible for free school meals have good impact on many pupils’ progress, from a low starting point.  The ‘Vulnerable Pupil’ progress tracker demonstrates that 78% of foundation phase pupils and 74% of key stage 2 pupils sustained or made good progress in relation to the indicators.  The performance gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and those who are not has narrowed notably.  Leaders provide a strategic and rigorous approach to monitoring progress, and this contributes well to most pupils making very good progress during the year. 

How have you shared your good practice?

The local cluster of schools works together effectively to ensure smooth transition for learners.  Information about learners’ wellbeing and levels of participation, as well as levels of attainment, is shared with the secondary school at the end of key stage 2.  Staff from both schools meet to discuss individual needs.