Student leadership and alternative curriculum
In our research we uncovered schools with shared characteristics or which experience similar challenges. One group of schools face extremely challenging circumstances. They are located in highly deprived areas and as a result have much higher proportions of pupil premium students than the national average. These students achieve well in these schools. The question is whether this is despite, or because of, the contextual challenges they face.
Here we offer accounts of two schools in which over 60% of students have pupil premium status and many other students also face significant disadvantage. As a result, teachers recognise that support and interventions must be developed holistically for all students. We focus here on the student leadership initiatives both schools introduced, which were designed to offer students the life skills and developmental opportunities that others who live in more advantaged areas often take for granted.
Some schools engage students by offering an alternative curriculum. Here we focus on how students’ real world skills are developed in a studio school. Studio schools offer students aged 14-19 the opportunity to develop skills in workplace environments. A high proportion of students in the studio school described here qualify for pupil premium, but this is only one of many indicators of disadvantage or vulnerability and many students had negative previous school experiences.
Alongside the core subjects, its alternative curriculum has three pathways: care, computing and care. The real world skills they develop through their selected pathway have enabled students who arrive at the school disengaged in education to progress into employment or further education.