Case Study

Engaging successfully with Pupil Premium students

When chemistry teacher Donna Tolley took on a new leadership role at the beginning of the 2019 autumn term focusing on Pupil Premium students, she made it her priority to hunt out a modern, easy to use online learning resource that could be effectively used to narrow the knowledge gap.


Ashby School

At the Ashby School in Leicestershire, GCSEPod is being used to engage successfully with Pupil Premium students as the centuries old education establishment looks to ensure all its learners can achieve outstanding results.

Having spent a couple of months researching the barriers faced by the Leicestershire-based school’s 200 Year 10 and 11 Pupil Premium students – especially the boys – she had found her ideal e-learning platform: GCSEPod.

The EdTech teaching and learning tool is dedicated to improving both the working lives of teachers and making GCSE learning stick.

One of its many unique selling points is its short three to five minute audio-visual learning aids, known as Pods, written by skilled specialists and covering more than 27 GCSE and IGCSE subjects, that can be easily downloaded and watched on any mobile device, whether it be a smart phone, tablet or laptop.

For Donna, who is on a two year secondment as a member of Ashby School’s Extended Leadership Team, GCSEPod ticked a host of boxes.

“One of the main issues we have with our Pupil Premium students is engagement, and I was very keen to get something that would help with this, especially for the boys who don’t achieve as well academically as the girls. GCSEPod is proven to help in this area,” Donna explains.

“One of the main issues we have with our Pupil Premium students is engagement, and I was very keen to get something that would help with this, especially for the boys who don’t achieve as well academically as the girls. GCSEPod is proven to help in this area,” Donna explains.

“I also wanted something that would help our low-attenders stay up-to-date, which given the way the platform is set-up and how the material is presented, I really felt GCSEPod could make a difference with.

“GCSEPod also struck me as a great way to encourage parental engagement. I know the majority of parents of our Pupil Premium students want to support their children, but sadly for many of them school wasn’t a good place.

“But GCSEPod exploits something students and their parents are already enjoy doing – watching videos on their phone or tablet.

“Moreover, it’s a great way of ensuring students are getting the right information, and it has the added bonus that we can keep tabs on who is and isn’t engaging with it and intervene if needed.

“Finally, I needed something that was modern to appeal to today’s students, wasn’t clunky, that they could quickly grasp, and could be easily used in school and remotely – something that has become essential since we were forced to close in March because of the coronavirus lockdown.”

Due to its unique set-up, Ashby School faces a number of singular challenges when it comes to its Pupil Premium students, as Donna explains. “As students start at the school in Year 10, a particular challenge is that poor attendance has become habitual for some. Some students are low-attenders or persistent absentees from the outset.”

Added to that, for some, is low student engagement, aspirations, and parental support, coupled with economic difficulties with regards to paying for uniform, trips and equipment.

Donna is lucky that she has control of the Pupil Premium budget, which has been used to not only fund the introduction of GCSEPod, but attendance initiatives, visualisers in classrooms, PP-focused parents’ evenings, counselling, trips, a school PP coordinator and small group tuition.  The fact the GCSEPod benefits the whole school is the icing on the cake.

Ashby School – which celebrated its 450th anniversary in 2018 and has academy status – also brought well-known motivational speaker and role model, Cameron Parker from Dreams2reality, on board in January 2020 to help inspire its Pupil Premium students. Donna says: “He has really helped push GCSEPod. He’ll say to the students, ‘You’ve got this wonderful resource, use it.’ The kids listen to him because he isn’t your average motivational speaker; he isn’t a middle-aged man in a suit. He dresses like them and speaks their language.”

Donna continues: “Prior to lockdown things were looking very positive, and the general feeling was that a number of parents who had perhaps become disenchanted were getting back on board and that students were feeling motivated and believing they could achieve.

“Sadly, our Year 11 Pupil Premium students never got the chance to make that final push as the GCSE exams were cancelled, and the lockdown came before all the mock exam results could be processed.

“But we were definitely seeing improvements amongst our Year 11 students.

“Our Year 10 students have really gone for it with GCSEPod, though. We have a timetable running whilst they are off school and they are actively using GCSEPod. Usage has been increasing and peaked in April, probably due to the lockdown.

“We have seen some outstanding results. Our top performing Pupil Premium student has accessed 988 Pods, and our second highest user 492. Our 20 highest users, ranging from 59 to 988 streams and downloads, have been using GCSEPod very efficiently during this period.”

The gender comparison has been especially heartening. On average male students have viewed 45.44% more Pods than their female counterparts – music to Donna’s ears with boys traditionally underperforming girls.

The average number of Pods viewed per female has been 26.5, but for the males it has been 86.96.

Donna is in no doubt as to why GCSEPod is proving such a big hit. “It’s very accessible. A lot of the students using it are those that wouldn’t want to be seen walking around school with a revision guide or text book, but they are happy to access information on their phone. People won’t know what they are reading or listening to and it takes away the embarrassment factor.

“A really positive thing about GCSEPod is that it can so easily be viewed on a smartphone, so those students who don’t have access to a laptop or tablet can still use it.”

Previously, Donna says money had been spent on providing every Pupil Premium student with revision guides. “They were being sent home with these guides and, for many, they were just sitting in a pile in their bedroom.

“With GCSEPod we can see who is using it, which subjects are getting the most streams, and we can easily intervene and give the students a nudge if they aren’t tapping into it.

“One of the things I really love is the Check and Challenge which evaluates students’ knowledge and understanding, and the fact there are so many ready-made assignments that teachers can set.

“For me, GCSEPod gives our Pupil Premium students that extra push they wouldn’t be getting.”

This year’s Year 9 Pupil Premium transition sadly won’t be taking place due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. But Donna has ensured these students have been given access to GCSEPod and Cameron Parker’s D2R webinars during the lockdown to help ease their integration into Ashby School in September when everything hopefully returns to normal.

The Results

Donna says lockdown has forced everyone to look at new ways of teaching and learning. “For us, it has been brilliant that we already had GCSEPod in place for our Pupil Premium students. It has helped make a very difficult situation that much easier and ensured our Pupil Premium students aren’t being left behind.

“What we have done has been really applauded by parents, and having GCSEPod has helped in the rebuilding of relationships between the school, students and parents, especially during this lockdown.”

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