A whole-school approach to supporting disadvantaged learners

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A whole-school approach to supporting disadvantaged learners

The core aims of Bryngwyn School, Llanelli, are to improve attendance, attitude and the achievement of disadvantaged learners. Their successful strategy using a skills-based curriculum has seen a marked improvement in many areas such as attendance, literacy, mathematics and English.


Bryngwyn School is an 11-16 community school situated in Dafen, on the north-eastern side of Llanelli, and draws its learners from parts of the town centre and from a number of outlying villages. There are 834 learners on roll. Overall, the catchment area is disadvantaged. Twenty-two per cent of learners are entitled to free school meals.


The core aims of the school are to focus on improving the attendance, attitude and achievement of disadvantaged learners. In order to achieve these aims, the school has decided to focus on a skills-driven curriculum supported by key skills qualifications.


The school identifies its disadvantaged learners and tracks individual learners’ progress against baseline data on a termly basis. The progress of disadvantaged learners is analysed specifically at the end of key stages 3 and 4 to inform planning. Leaders and managers use a good range of processes to analyse a range of performance data, such as school tracking data and information from Cognitive Ability Tests (CATs) and National Federation for Educational Research (NFER) tests, to evaluate the impact of strategies on disadvantaged learners.

Strategies for improving key skills, among disadvantaged learners, include the following:

  • identifying two members of the senior team dedicated to improving outcomes for learners in communication and numeracy;
  • increasing the numbers of sets for English and mathematics for Years 9, 10 and 11;
  • creating withdrawal groups for numeracy and literacy in Years 7 and 8;
  • introducing key Skills qualifications in Application of Number and Communication spanning levels 1-3;
  • introducing a transition literacy project for key stages 2 and 3. Learners from Years 6 and 7 were identified from data analysis to receive one-to-one ‘catch up’ sessions every week, plus early morning reading sessions every day;
  • introducing a key stage 2/3 transition numeracy project. Learners in Years 6, 7 and 8 were identified using data and small intervention groups were created. These learners receive a weekly one hour session – following ‘number workout programme’; and
  • using key skills qualifications in key stage 3 to motivate learners.

Other strategies for tackling disadvantage include the following:

  • an emotional literacy project for key stage 3 learners who were identified by the head of year as disadvantaged learners in need of support. This group benefited from a range of intervention strategies to suit individual needs. Extra support for the project was given through links with other support services and voluntary agencies;
  • a strong emphasis on learner voice to make changes to the curriculum. This has resulted in some learning being based on short ‘task and finish’ projects to motivate learners, and in other instances to setting a week-long project that included visits so that learners could have a richer learning experience;
  • engaging boys more successfully in reading by developing a project linking football to reading. Learners involved in the project then took leadership of the task by mentoring Year 6 learners from the school’s feeder primary schools;
  • an attendance officer working with the school to ensure effective contact with parents. This officer also works with an identified group of learners whose attendance is poor to reduce the number of unauthorised absences;
  • providing a base for social services in the school. This has resulted in better communication and an effective exchange of information between social services and the school and has a positive impact on the school’s ability to support disadvantaged learners; and
  • working effectively with the Carmarthenshire Youth and Children’s Association to provide activities a wide range of out-of-hours provision for learners and their families.

Good and excellent features

The school is very successful at engaging learners from disadvantaged backgrounds as a result of:

  • the very effective development of learners’ key skills in their programmes of study;
  • listening to feedback from disadvantaged learners and acting very effectively upon this information;
  • successfully adapting teaching and learning strategies to motivate learners and allow them to complete their work successfully;
  • the careful monitoring of the impact of these strategies on disadvantaged learners; and
  • the highly effective and extremely well attended out-of-school-hours programme.


The school has improved outcomes for disadvantaged learners in the following areas:

  • the core subject indicator at key stage 4 has improved significantly over the past four years. In the last 2 years the school has been in the top 25% of similar schools in this performance indicator;
  • in literacy the school has improved learners’ reading accuracy and comprehension skills significantly;
  • in 2009/10, 69% of 15-year-olds achieved level 2 in English. This was above the average for similar schools (62%) and the national average (63%);
  • in numeracy, Year 7 and Year 8 learners improved their skills significantly, achieving results higher than predicted;
  • in 2009-2010, 68% of 15-year-olds achieved level 2 in mathematics. This is well above the average for similar schools (55%) and the national average (56%);
  • there has been a marked improvement in the achievement of disadvantaged boys generally. At key stage 3, there is little difference between the performance of boys and girls. The headteacher attributes this success to changes in learning and teaching strategies;
  • GCSE results for all learners were significantly higher than predicted by the Cognitive Ability Test (CAT) data; the number of learners achieving the level 2 threshold including English and mathematics has improved over the last three years and is now the highest within Bryngwyn’s family of similar schools;
  • the average wider points score for 15-year-olds in the school has improved significantly over the past four years and is now the highest in Bryngwyn’s family of schools;
  • and attendance has improved for learners entitled to free school meals and the school recorded a fall in unauthorised absences.