A Thornton school has been hailed by the deputy prime minister as the best secondary school in England for helping disadvantaged pupils succeed.
Staff from Millfield Science and Performing Arts College in Thornton received the £10,000 award from Nick Clegg at a ceremony in London after seeing off competition from more than 3,100 secondary schools.
The award recognises the school’s pioneering use of the pupil premium – extra funding given to schools for every disadvantaged pupil they teach.
Nearly a third of pupils at the school – more than 200 – receive free school meals, meaning the school gets a pupil premium for each of them, amounting to a total of around £200,000 in extra cash.
Judges commended the school for using the funding to employ extra staff to reduce class sizes in Maths and English and provide catch-up sessions for pupils struggling in English.
The gap between the school’s pupil premium pupils and their peers in achieving five A* to C grade GCSEs, including maths and English, was just three percentage points in 2013 – compared to 26 percentage points nationally. The gap at Millfield has closed by 16 percentage points since the premium was introduced in 2011.
The school credits its success in educating disadvantaged pupils to what it calls the “Team Millfield” ethos – a school-wide effort to “go the extra mile for all students”.
Mr Clegg said: “In a modern, fair society I want every child to have the best opportunity to get on in life, regardless of their background.
“The fantastic work of Millfield Science and Performing Arts College shows how the Pupil Premium is working.
“They’ve closed the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers and helped them perform way above the national average. “
Millfield headteacher Sean Bullen said: “The Pupil Premium is a wonderful initiative that really does target funding at the right place in education.
“We’re very excited and absolutely delighted for the students and while we’re very proud we still know we can do even better.
“We’ve got characters, we’ve got very bright kids, but we’re just a normal school and we’re elated to win this award.”
The pupil premium will rise to £1,300 for disadvantaged primary school pupils and £935 for secondary pupils from September.