South Hunsley Secondary School and Sixth Form

 Attendance is The Key.

Case study by Julie Wickenden.

Tell us about your school

South Hunsley School, part of The Educational Alliance (TEAL) MAT, is one of the largest secondary schools in the country with over 2100 students from a wide range of backgrounds.  Over the last three years our students have been in the top 5% nationally for progress, an achievement for which the whole school is enormously proud.

Our priorities are straight forward.  Our first is to make sure our pupil premium students are attending.  Then we look at the individual student and what their needs are.  We treat pupil premium students the same as every other student.  However simple or complex the individual students’ needs are, we try to work out what the student needs and provide it at the right level and at the right time. 

Our Pupil Premium Plan priorities last year were:

1 reduce persistent absence in Key Stage 4

2 target students who gained a 4c or below in English at Key Stage 2

3 maximise achievement for all Pupil Premium students in Maths

4 target students making below expected progress in Science at Key Stage 4

5 increase the amount of students choosing modern foreign languages

There is no ‘magic bullet’ and our focus is to keep things simple and do them right.  However, we have found that the most significant factor in narrowing gaps and improving progress of all cohorts is to focus on improving attendance first. 

For us, pupil premium is like safeguarding, in that it is everyone’s responsibility.  But in the end the priority that mattered the most and had the most impact upon pupil progress was attendance.

Attendance really is the key to unlocking progress for pupil premium students.

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

Our ethos is to keep it simple and do it right!

About four years ago we realised that we needed to change our approach to pupil premium students.  We became more cautious about the label of disadvantaged, recognising that students are not a label but are individuals who do not all perform the same. 

When we removed the label and asked the simple question; ‘What is the biggest barrier to success all students face?’ answer; attendance.  Then we asked another simple question; ‘So why do disadvantaged students do less well than their peers?’ answer; because they come to school less often.  It sounds simple, but we knew that if we could get these students into school they would get great teaching, a place to study, whatever resources they needed and staff who would champion and encourage them every day.  Social mobility for some students has to start in school and removing the label of disadvantaged was a good place for us to start.

What did we do?  We created a four tiered response.   

Tier 1 students are those who attend well – over 95% and are on target to make excellent progress in maths and English.  These students will get resources, and invitation to subject drop-ins if they need it and attendance monitoring.

Tier 2 students are those who attendance under 95% and may be on track to miss their target in maths and or English.  These students will be monitored by the House Team and their tutor for attendance. Then they are given additional core subject support and a House Leader for academic mentoring.  In addition, they receive resources such as the textbooks they require.

Tier 3 students are students whose attendance is below 90%.  These students may also have issues with behaviour, be under target in core subjects or have another complicating factor (such as adoption, EAL, exclusion from their last school). These students are monitored for attendance by our Education Welfare Officer, and Senior Leader for Inclusion.  These students will have both academic and pastoral mentoring and be given a senior leader as an academic mentor: someone to advocate on their behalf.  These tier 3 students may have had significant pastoral input or external agency support in the past but are considered to be trying to engage with their education.  In addition, they receive the menu of support the tier two students receive.

Tier 4 students are students who are at risk of full disengagement with school.  This group could include students who are at risk of permanent exclusion or students who have significant illnesses and or mental health issues.  This group may also include students for whom we have significant safeguarding concerns.  This group of students will be accessing support from external agencies too.

So what do these tier 4 students get?  Firstly, they receive support in accessing external agency support, such as CAMHS, MIND, Educational Psychologists, Youth and Family Support Services, and Alternative Providers.  Alongside of this, they receive intervention and support from our Education Welfare Officer who works closely with families and agencies to work out the student’s individual needs.  The next step is to produce an Attendance Action Plan and personalise students’ timetables, taking into account their health and wellbeing, their ability and what their ambitions are for the future.   These students also get everything that the students in tier 3 get, including a senior leader champion.

All students (whatever their tier) are monitored for attendance.  All are monitored by senior leaders and all receive packs of revision resources.


Our pupil premium strategy has been refined over the last four years as our understanding of the impact of attendance has grown.  This year our school was in the top 5% of all schools for progress nationally for the third year in a row.  Our disadvantaged students Progress 8 was +0.44 compared to national figure of – 0.38 for disadvantaged nationally.  This means that our students gained on average 4 grades higher than non-disadvantaged students nationally.  But the reality is that our ‘disadvantaged’ students gained 8 grades higher than disadvantaged students nationally because of our focus on attendance and our focus on their individual needs rather than the blanket term ‘disadvantage’. 

We have also witnessed that the flight path of our students has not slowed down when they entered our 6th form.  What we have been able to see is how this strategy has the potential to transform young peoples’ lives as more and more of our students are able to and have the desire to continue their education post-18. 

What next for your pupil premium strategy?

The model that we have designed is being rolled out across our Trust. It is being shared widely within our authority and has been shared through our Specialist Leader in Education outreach work.  The model is also being used to support our SEND students too this year.

This year we drew up a Maximising Attendance Plan and shared it with all staff. 

Attendance is embedded into all stages of monitoring and evaluation, including school and the trust’s weekly key performance indicators.  This is broken down so each cohort can be closely monitored whatever their label.  This model can be applied to other cohorts of students, in any year.  But we know it is a strategy that has huge impact for our pupil premium students.

Sharing good practice

As a past pupil premium winner in 2014, and more recently in 2017, we have been able to provide support across our own growing MAT but also to other schools in the Yorkshire and Humber region.  Our reputation for expertise in this area continues to grow.  Consequently, we have worked with East Riding of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire Local Authorities to share best practice.  Within our Multi Academy Trust we now have several Specialist Leaders in Education who are able to work in partnership with other schools and agencies to narrow gaps and improve life chances for disadvantaged students.  The ethos of being a champion for our students is deeply embedded into our Trust’s culture.

Winning the Pupil Premium Award

This has had a great impact across the school.  It has given enormous confidence to staff to know they are doing things right and this has impacted positively on student and parents.

Get in touch

Please contact Vanessa Arthur, PA to the Executive Principal:

South Hunsley School and Sixth Form College,

East Dale Road,


HU14 3HS

Tel: 01482 631208