This series of articles is about Ofsted inspectors’ comments about “good” schools. This article looks at the role of disadvantaged pupils.

Disadvantaged pupils are defined as:

  • Pupils who have been eligible for Free Schools Meals (FSM) at any point over the last 6 years,
  • Pupils who have been looked after continuously for at least one day in the last year, and
  • Pupils who have left care through a formal route such as adoption.

In its School Inspection Handbook, Ofsted states that:

Inspectors will take particular account of the progress made by disadvantaged pupils from their starting points…compared with that made nationally by other pupils with similar starting points. …

For current pupils, inspectors will consider the impact of what a school is doing to reduce any differences in progress and attainment between disadvantaged and other pupils with the same starting points. …

Inspectors should talk to leaders about the quality of teaching, behaviour and the design and delivery of the curriculum to examine why there may be underperformance for some pupils.

For more information on how disadvantaged pupils’ performed is measured, please see our IDSR Key Stage 1 & 2 Attainment blog.

Performance at or above National Averages

As noted above, there is generally a gap between the attainment and progress of disadvantaged pupils compared to their non-disadvantaged peers. However, in “good” schools this gap generally doesn’t exist, in attainment or more typically in progress:

Disadvantaged pupils attained similarly to their peers and other pupils nationally. Inspection evidence shows that the school is sustaining and building on these improvements.

Pupils, including those entitled to the pupil premium, are typically well prepared for the next stage of their education.

There is no difference between the overall progress disadvantaged pupils make and that of other pupils.

Disadvantaged pupils make similar strong progress to their classmates.

…the majority of disadvantaged pupils and most-able disadvantaged pupils presently at the school are making strong progress and diminishing the difference between themselves and other pupils nationally.

Whilst the Ofsted Inspection handbook says that their performance will be compared with the National Other (non-disadvantaged) average, the below two quotes are the only examples where this is made explicit in the inspectors’ comments.

Outcomes for disadvantaged pupils are similar to, and sometimes better than, the outcomes achieved by other pupils in school. Attainment remains low when compared to other pupils nationally but the differences are reducing.
Disadvantaged pupils who do not also have SEN and/or disabilities tend to attain at least the same standards as other pupils nationally in reading, writing and mathematics. Crucially, this puts them on a level playing field with their peers as they transfer to junior school.

One inspectors particularly praised a school for its ranking:

In 2017, the progress of disadvantaged pupils was in the top 25% of schools nationally.

Unfortunately, all Ofsted inspectors would be able to see in 2018 is that the school is somewhere between 21% and 40% of schools nationally, as this very useful ranking has been reduced to a quintile indication in the 2018 IDSR.

Our ASaP report, however, does include ranking for all of your cohort types, and can be useful in providing context and analysis for your school.

Closing the Gap / Diminishing the Differences

If there is a gap, particularly in attainment, the question is then whether that gap is closing:

The attainment of disadvantaged pupils is improving. Although still behind their peers, the gap is closing quickly.

The progress of disadvantaged pupils has significantly improved since the previous inspection. They have gained ground across all areas of the curriculum, leading to much better attainment in reading, writing and mathematics. This means that previous gaps…have diminished greatly.

The difference between outcomes for disadvantaged pupils and other pupils nationally is diminishing. … Inspection evidence showed that this positive trend is continuing for disadvantaged pupils currently at the school.

The difference between the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and others is diminishing in each of reading, writing and mathematics year on year. In reading, the difference has almost been eliminated.

The progress that disadvantaged pupils make has also improved markedly so that it is now much closer to that of their peers…

However, inspectors will not comment on any gaps for small cohorts of disadvantaged pupils:

There are too few disadvantaged pupils in the school to make comparisons with other pupils nationally without the risk of identifying individuals.

As there are only a very small number of disadvantaged pupils across the school it is not meaningful to compare their progress and achievements with the performance of pupils nationally. Even so, school assessments, pupils. responses in class and work in books show that these pupils make good progress…

The definition of “small” for Ofsted inspectors is under 6 pupils or, if looking at only one year’s results, under 11 pupils. See our KS1 article for more details.

Click here to pre-order your KS2 SATs Question Level Analysis for 2019

Ofsted’s inspectors also comment on what measures the school is taking to ensure that the gap is reduced or eliminated:

Targeted programmes of support for disadvantaged pupils … enable pupils to make strong progress from their low starting points.

…due to effective support tailored to their needs…

…disadvantaged pupils across the school are making similar progress to their peers in the school. However, leaders recognise that there is further work to be done to ensure that progress for these pupils is consistently strong.

This is because, as a result of leaders’ actions, all staff are fully aware of the needs and barriers to learning for the disadvantaged pupils in their care and teaching is carefully focused on supporting them so that they make good progress.

This is because teachers pinpoint the specific help and guidance disadvantaged pupils need to achieve as well as other pupils. Sometimes disadvantaged pupils receive extra help in class and, at other times, they are helped with the costs of school trips and other activities that give them the same opportunities as other pupils.

They benefit from good teaching and well-focused additional resources and support when they need it.

…, including extra help when pupils have been absent from school.

Inspectors also comment on whether Pupil Premium funding is being used well.

Pupil premium funding has demonstrable impact. Disadvantaged pupils make strong progress in all areas of the curriculum.

The effective use of additional funding diminishes differences in progress well.

Leaders ensure that the pupil premium funding is used effectively. It is helping to bring about strong improvements in pupils’ achievement across the school in reading, writing and mathematics.

Leaders use additional funds well to ensure that disadvantaged pupils…make good progress. Targeted support through a range of interventions ensures that pupils continue to make good progress…

School leaders have also made more precise and effective use of the additional funding for these pupils.

Finally, inspectors sometimes comment separately on the most-able (i.e. high prior attaining) disadvantaged pupils, but generally not on other groups:

Disadvantaged pupils, including the very few who are most able, achieve as well as others from similar starting points as they are supported well, both personally and academically.


We hope that you have enjoyed this article.

It was based on Ofsted’s Inspection reports from 80 “good” schools published in November 2018.

For the full set of articles on Ofsted Inspections – click HERE

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