Discovery Education Pathway: Narrowing the Attainment Gap

An on demand event jointly hosted by the NAHT and Discovery Education

Experienced school leader and recipient of a National Award for Pupil Premium Strategy, Daniel Jones, shares his interest in ‘Narrowing the Attainment Gap’, the title of his course in the forthcoming Pathway Programme from Discovery Education and NAHT.

The reason I became a teacher is because I know that education is the passport that should enable any child to reach the destination of their true potential, irrespective of their pre-determined circumstances and starting points. I was lucky enough to be born into circumstances that enabled me to access a solid education in the state school system. This was a gateway for myself into teaching via Goldsmiths University in London and I have had many transformational opportunities in my career, including leading schools and now leading a 7 school Academy Trust.

In 2016, I trained to be a Pupil Premium Reviewer, whilst I was part of a fantastic school and leadership team in Ipswich at Springfield Junior School. I was responsible for the Pupil Premium Strategy and was delighted when we won the National Award in 2017 at the Houses of Parliament. At Springfield, outcomes for disadvantaged pupils have consistently exceeded national benchmarks for non-disadvantaged pupils. These excellent outcomes are achieved within the framework of precise teaching, an engaging curriculum and significant enrichment activities.

Since receiving this national recognition, I have been lucky enough to work with many schools reviewing and developing provision for disadvantaged learners. This has included around 30 in Suffolk and has also taken me to London, Bristol and Yorkshire. I have delivered training, some that I have written myself, and some on behalf of the Education Endowment Fund, through Ipswich Research School. Other interesting work and projects I have benefitted professionally from have included visits to schools in Grenada as part of a teacher exchange and also Singapore as part of a British Council and Singapore Ministry of Education project, looking at the teaching of maths. I was also an ‘expert adviser’ for a year on a project in Ipswich Opportunity Area within which I helped schools review their approach to professional development, under the guidance of the Teacher Development Trust.

It is very exciting to be able to share some of the benefit of my work and experiences through the NAHT & Discovery Education Pathway  Programme.

Education is supposed to be ‘the great leveller’ however, the life chances and opportunities available to a child, more often than not, depend on the circumstances they are born into. Social class has been a determinate factor for many, many years in the UK, initially in terms of access to education and in more modern times in terms of achievement and outcomes. Whilst there has obviously been progress in widening provision over the last century and a half, the outcomes that pupils achieve remain firmly rooted to their circumstances.  As school leaders today, this challenge is illustrated starkly by the ‘Attainment Gap’ – the disparity in achievement between ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘non-disadvantaged’ pupils and the impact of this on their subsequent life-chances.

Pupil Premium Funding was introduced in 2011, shining a light on this challenge. Since then schools have been required to strategically plan and account for how they use resources to address this inequality. The Pathway course I have written explores the ‘Attainment Gap’ and barriers to achievement. It highlights the importance of using evidenced-based approaches to formulate strategies to enable achievement for all and engaging all stakeholders to do so.

As a starting point, I consider any pupil who is not making expected progress in their learning to be disadvantaged. It just so happens that a great number of these pupils are also pupils may be (or may have been) entitled to free school meals. It is also important for us to recognise that there is nothing fundamentally different about how disadvantaged pupils learn compared to non-disadvantaged pupils and that, ultimately, the best strategy to provide effective learning is precise, high quality teaching. Although disadvantaged pupils are certainly not a homogenous group, there are certain common barriers and challenges that may stand in the way of learning and progress. The link between language and achievement cannot be overstated. The module highlights the importance of a thorough whole school approach to oracy, vocabulary building and creating a love of reading.

It is imperative that a school’s approach to disadvantage is aligned with whole school provision and championed by school leadership. It must also be shared, owned and recognised by every member of a school’s staff as part of what they do. Although the attainment gap is measured through outcomes in English and Maths, as educators, we know that achievement in these subjects is only part of the challenge. The responsibility to provide a varied and rounded education belongs to all of us and is securely underpinned by Ofsted’s requirements to ensure that our school curricula are ambitious and designed to give all learners, particularly the most disadvantaged, the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.

If you would like further information about the Pathway programme or to register your interest please visit


Daniel Jones

CEO of Children’s Endeavour Trust

Daniel is currently the CEO of Children’s Endeavour Trust, a MAT of seven primary schools in Suffolk. Prior to this, Daniel was instrumental in Springfield Junior School, Ipswich being awarded the National Pupil Premium Award in 2017, having written the strategy and bid. Since then, Daniel has worked extensively with schools in Suffolk and nationally, reviewing provision for disadvantaged learners and constructing Pupil Premium Strategies. He has spoken at many national conferences and delivered training across the country, including a three day ‘Effective Use of Pupil Premium’ course on behalf of the Education Endowment Fund. In January 2018, Daniel visited Singapore as part of the British Council and Singapore Ministry of Education project of ‘Building Educational Bridges.’ He then co-wrote a chapter in the subsequent report on the maths curriculum for the Schools Minister. Daniel worked as an Expert CPD Adviser for the Teacher Development Trust in 2019-20 and evaluated the use of CPD for several schools in the Ipswich Opportunity Area.