Nelson Mandela Primary School

School plus Family equals Success

Case study by Azita Zohadi.

Tell us about your school

Sparkbrook has the highest proportion of overcrowded households of any ward in Birmingham. One in five adults in Sparkbrook are unemployed and the ward has the highest proportion of households with children where no adult is in employment.  Child poverty is therefore an acute problem in the area. With regard to education, around half of the adult population have no qualifications; this is the third highest proportion of any ward in Birmingham. Sparkbrook has a greater proportion of people on income benefits for mental health disorders, 56.9 per 1000, than any other ward in the city.

Our children are predominantly from the immediate vicinity of our school which has an IDACI rate of 34.7.  45% of our children are disadvantaged, 89% are EAL and 35% require SEN support.

The majority of our children arrive at school with poor communication as the biggest barrier. For many this barrier is linked to fluency and having English as an additional language.

A significant number of our children also have communication barriers linked to Speech and Language issues and a lack of early identification and support.

For many of our children school is their first engagement with an educational setting. Many have not experienced any pre-school groups or activities.

Due to high levels of deprivation many of our children have limited resources outside of school to provide out of hours learning support. Added to this many families live in overcrowded housing. This poses an additional barrier for study due to lack of space, quiet and the capacity for quality study support. Many of our families have limited fluency in English and some parents have limited educational experience. This, again, makes home study a challenge.

The vast majority of our children leave school and then go to mosque studies for another two hours. The school day is a long one and does not provide much out of school time for homework, family time or relaxation.

Our children enter Nursery and Reception significantly below age related expectations in all areas. We have identified limited experience of life outside that of their immediate locality as having an impact on their ability to learn from the world around them.

We have many children who are young carers, many growing up in homes with a parent having mental health issues as well as having undiagnosed mental health difficulties themselves.  Poor attendance has historically been a challenge.

Many of our families are large families who live in a traditional model of stay at home mums with fathers often working long hours or night shifts. Some of our families are isolated and rely on  older siblings to take a lead.

In some cases low self esteem and low expectations are also a barrier. Knowing what the external barriers are as well as child or school specific issues lead our strategy for breaking barriers.

Our Pupil Premium Strategy is divided into four key areas:

1.       Home Study (online subscriptions, Personalised Reading Diaries, Play and Stay etc)

2.       School Study Support and Curriculum (Subsidy for school trips and enrichment, interventions)

3.       Development of Teaching and Learning (Mastery Maths, Assessment CPD, Moderation, UFS: Developing Leadership in Learning, Peer Review Programme), Reciprocal Reading

4.       Breaking Barriers: Parent Impact Training, Speech and Language Therapy, Family Learning –numeracy and literacy, Attendance prizes, Boxhall Profile (Emotional Assessment Tool)

What did you do to create such notable success with the pupil premium?

Our approach to our Pupil Premium Strategy is one that encompasses the development of the whole child and that includes working closely with families and external agencies. “Putting Your Child at the Heart of Learning” is our vision statement and it sends a clear message to our families that we regard school as a partnership. Their child is precious to us and central to all that we do.  Improved, sustainable outcomes cannot happen without family engagement. This is vital in developing the complete picture of a child. Without this we might miss a key part of their jigsaw. We work hard to establish strong relationships with our families throughout their child’s journey with us. Building positive dialogue and relationship with parents opens the door to establishing trust leading to stronger engagement and the ability to work collaboratively to support their children.

Developing Relationships First

The biggest issue has been helping our hard to reach mothers. In our community many mothers have stated that they are only able to meet others when they take their children to school. Our informal conversations with mothers showed that many mothers felt that they didn’t have the skills, education or knowledge to support their children with their learning.

We found our general coffee mornings were poorly attended by women and these were a really great way of signposting parents to access help from outside agencies across the community – health, learning, family support  and police. After talking to our mothers we were informed that cultural barriers were preventing many women accessing our coffee mornings. Women were scared who would be watching and judging them. So we decided to change some of our meetings so that they were women only events. We invited local community groups and charities who offered leisure activities such as Mendhi, pampering activities, exercise classes, healthy eating demonstrations and created more of an informal meeting place atmosphere. Alongside this we invited key agencies who had previously been at coffee mornings but not accessed. 

The impact of this is now we have an event which is regularly attended by mothers and their female families and relatives. They make requests for demonstrations and advice talks – at one of our meetings they brought and shared healthy snack treats and recipes. We know from feedback from agencies that many have enrolled in English classes, asked for and attend Triple P Parenting classes, discussing health issues of their own and their children.

By creating a more informal and culturally aware space we were able to build trust and thereby providing a gateway for some of our families who have sought help and support for domestic violence by accessing the services we have provided as well as them using school as a safe haven for having meetings. We have been able to reach some of our vulnerable families and enabled them to access services in an approach which is non-threatening and more importantly, has been identified by them. Our families know school is a supportive and caring partnership and we can make a difference to our children and families lives together.

What can we do to help?

The Children's Commission (2014), At What Cost? Exposing the impact of poverty on school life, found that a third of children who said their family is “not well off at all” had fallen behind in class because their family could not afford the necessary books or materials. Two in five children in these families said they had missed a term-time school trip because of the cost.

We recognise that many of our families have limited resources at home so we  have developed our study support offer at school and purchased resources to support families at home too. We have purchased subscriptions for online membership which can be accessed safely through our school website. Families without access to the internet have had the availability of school computers / iPads out of school hours. We also subsidise our school trips so that no child misses out due to poverty. Our trips are a crucial component of our educational offer and are a springboard to learning. We also look for trips and sign post trips and events so that our families can access them during holiday time. We have had families going to museums, festivals and galleries who would not normally have done so.

Empowering Parents

During the Autumn Term, IMPACT parent workshops took place at Nelson Mandela School. The workshops are intended to fully engage parents and enable them to support their children with their learning at home.

Parents from the identified year group were invited into school to have an initial meeting which gave some background into how effective parent support can be if they have the necessary skills and resources. (Charles Desforges)

Following this introduction the parents sat with their child and class teacher and the process was explained. The focus was on writing and each week the child would be asked to produce a piece of writing at home, supported by their parent. A framework for the writing was shared, as were resources that the parent and child would be able to use at home each week. The teacher would mark and comment the piece of writing, suggesting ways in which the resources could be used to improve the next piece of writing that the child would do.

During the year the school has regular parent workshops that allow parents to join their siblings in class to experience working to do the work the children do. These always prove popular and are always successful. Parents are also encouraged to come along to parent only workshops where parents can work on a variety of projects some examples being lino printing, slab pot building, water-colour painting, computers for beginners These also have become popular and at times very competitive.

High Expectations and Aspirations

We recognise that having successful outcomes for our children is not just about results and quick wins. We believe that investing in long term strategies we are laying the foundations for lifelong change.

We have developed a Parent Volunteer Programme in school. Our volunteers are supported every step of the way.

Recognising that our parents have so much to offer us too.

We also run a nine week programme provided by a charity called Mosaic. Mothers and daughters work together with a mentor from the local community to help raise the aspirations of the young people and empowering their parents to support their daughters in fulfilling their potential.


Our children come to school motivated and keen. Families engage well -

KS2 outcomes:


Average scaled score Reading and Maths: 111.5 significantly above National (104.1) Pupil Premium 111 (+7 National All)

% Expected Re,Wr,M: 82% significantly above National (61%) Pupil Premium 77% (+16 National All)


Average scaled score Reading and Maths: +4.9 significantly above National (0) Pupil Premium + 4.5

% Expected Re,Wr,M: + 12% significantly above national (0) Pupil Premium +8

60 Year 3 children took part in the IMPACT workshop with their parents and then completed the seven homework sessions.

42 children (70%) made 1 step progress from their Recount Writing Assessment.

10 children (16%) made 2 steps progress.

Impact Workshops: each child produced a piece of writing (Recount) before the sessions started. They repeated this after the seven weeks. Attendance for by the Year 3 and 4 parents was high, approximately 75%-80% of parents attended.

Following the initial workshop parents completed evaluation forms about how useful they felt the morning had been. These were all very positive and indicated that they had valued the opportunity to be shown how the children are taught, that the resources they could take home would be very useful and they enjoyed having the opportunity to sit with their child and work with them whilst at the same time been supported by the teacher. At the end of the seven weeks it was clear that many of the children had made progress with their writing. Although the children had only been writing Recount pieces, teachers commented that this had positively impacted on all of their writing. It was clear from looking at the books that there were three major factors in the children making progress.

·         Focussed marking by the teachers. This made it very clear to the child how they could improve their writing in their next piece.

·         The conversations that they had been having at home about their work. Children and parents commented that this enabled the child to develop their ideas further and also to help focus them on their specific targets from the teacher marking.

·         Parental competiveness!

Our Parent Volunteer Programme has given some of our families the confidence to gain employment and access further education. In addition to this it has empowered our families and raised their self esteem..

What next for your pupil premium strategy?

This year we want to further develop our support for children with mental health and attachment issues. We will continue much of what we have developed over the years as we have seen high impact.

We are also focusing this year on writing and our more able.

Sharing good practice

We regularly share our work with other schools through school to school support. We have also participated in a research study looking at underachievement within the Pakistani community.

Following the Award we have been asked to present our work at a Pupil Premium conference in Manchester.

Winning the Award

Winning the award has been lovely as it is always lovely to achieve official recognition for the achievements of our school community.

Get in touch

Please contact the school office: