Portsmouth Education Strategy 2023-26

Year 1: 2023-24

This page sets out the updated three-year PEP Education Strategy for Portsmouth 2023-26.

Portsmouth Education Strategy logos

1. Introduction

Education settings are still feeling the effects of the pandemic, particularly in terms of attendance, behaviour and mental health. Further challenges are continuing to present themselves most notably in terms of the cost-of-living crisis, rising wages and recruitment and retention challenges.

More than ever, the city needs strong education leadership with clear individual school/settings and city-wide priorities, around which all education leaders can focus their efforts. We must do all we can to ensure that the education of children in Portsmouth is not a casualty of the difficult demands of this time.

While the strategy sets the direction until 2026, it outlines specific actions to be taken in Year 1 of the strategy, 2023 – 2024, so that there is complete clarity on our focus during this period.

The delivery of the strategy will be done under the auspices of the Portsmouth Education Partnership (PEP) recognising the part that all partners of the PEP will play in delivering the priorities that are set out in the strategy and will be overseen by the PEP Strategic Board.

The PEP Strategic Board continues to respond to the requirements of Priority Education Investment Area (PEIA) status. Portsmouth is one of 12 new priority areas that were announced in 2022. A PEIA Sub Group is leading this work, monitoring the implementation of the delivery plans and progress towards the targets. Due to the delay by the DfE in agreeing the delivery plans and confirming the grants to lead organisations, the PEP is effectively overseeing a two year delivery plan which got underway in the summer term of 2022/23.  The delivery plan is reflected in the three year strategy.

The PEP structures are kept under review to effectively lead the work of the partnership. The current structures are set out in section 4.

2. Vision

Our vision is that through working together we can ensure that:

All children and young people make good progress through education which sets high expectations for them, is infused with restorative high support and high challenge and which is supported through leading edge use of digital technology, empowering them to drive their own learning anywhere.

3. Shared values and accountability

The shared values and accountability that were agreed five years ago will remain in place. All members of the Portsmouth Education Partnership are committed to:

  • Shared accountability for improving standards and the educational outcomes and life chances of all children and young people
  • Promoting a culture of openness, trust and collaboration
  • Putting the interests of children and young people first at all times
  • Ensuring no child should fail to reach their educational potential because of disadvantage or vulnerability
  • Ensuring no education settings are left isolated
  • Ensuring all our joint actions add value, are evidence based and as far as possible are preventative rather than a response to a crisis.

4. Priorities

The seven priorities that form part of the PEP Education Strategy 2023-2026 are set out below with details of the Boards/Groups that will be responsible for their delivery. These incorporates three of the four PEIA priority areas. The fourth PEIA priority, improving outcomes for underperforming groups, runs through all the other priorities.

This page provides a high-level summary of the plans that support each priority with cross references and links to other documents and action plans.

No Priority Governance
1. Strong leadership and ambition at all levels within individual schools and education settings to improve effectiveness and outcomes for children and young people. School Leadership and Effectiveness Board
2. Implement a digital learning strategy for the city that supports learning both at school and at home. Digital Working Group
3. Improving early communication, language and literacy to have a significant impact on all-round achievement and progress throughout all phases of education and beyond. Early Language and Literacy Development Group
4. Secure a step change in attainment and progress in maths across all key stages. Maths Group
5. Recruit, retain and grow the best teachers, practitioners, teaching assistants, support staff and leaders and provide high quality continuing professional development. ITT, Teacher Recruitment and Retention Group
6. Ensure all children attend school regularly. Removing Barriers to Inclusion Group / Behaviour and Attendance Group (BAG)
7. Reducing the proportion of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). Post 16 Forum

5. Inclusion

Inclusion remains a central theme for the 2023-26 strategy:

Creating an educational environment that is welcoming to all children and young people and not giving up on any child whatever their circumstances.

Inclusion is about ensuring that: there is in place comprehensive Ordinarily Available Provision that meets the educational needs of the majority of children: that any additional needs are identified early and support is put in place, as part of a graduated response, to avoid exclusion and enable children to make progress with their learning; and that children are able to attend their local mainstream school wherever possible.

The strategy has strong links with the SEND and SEMH Strategies, focusing on improving inclusion for all children but with a particular focus on the provision of education for children with SEND/additional needs and improving outcomes for vulnerable children and young people including children in need, looked after children, children at risk of or already being exploited and/or experiencing the criminal justice system, children receiving targeted early help and other children identified by schools as requiring additional support.

The priority in this strategy to improve literacy, with a focus on early language skills, is particularly critical to improving outcomes for many vulnerable groups of children and young people. We know that research has shown the clear links between the ability of children and young people to read well and to express themselves in writing and, especially, orally, to the quality of the relationships they are able to make with adults and peers, their success in education and their long term life chances.

The strategy will also have running through it a commitment to engage with schools, other education settings and partners to develop and share anti-racism training and resources. A dedicated page for these resources on the PEP website has been developed.

6. Early years

Critical to the PEP Education Strategy is a clear understanding of the importance of early years provision and practice upon which future stages of education are built. Well established research continues to emphasise the importance of early childhood education as an essential building block of a child’s future success.

Central to early years success has to be the partnerships between families, education, health and other community sectors. A current priority (originating from the 2019 peer review in Portsmouth) is to ensure sector wide responsibility, commitment and understanding of the strategic approach to support early language development and its impact on the outcomes for children and young people. In order to address the issue, this strategy will have a commitment to consider the early years element within each priority, as it is early years that provides a strong base for lifelong learning and learning abilities, including cognitive and social and emotional development.

7. Key performance indicators

A range of key performance indicators will be used to judge the impact of the strategy and each of the seven priorities. Progress towards these measurable outcomes will be monitored regularly by the PEP Strategic Board.

They include:

  • Ofsted inspections of early years settings, schools and post-16 providers
  • Attainment and progress data at all key stages
  • School attendance, exclusions, reduced timetables and elective home education
  • Post-16 participation and destinations
  • Teacher/practitioner vacancies
  • ITT trainees and % finding permanent placements in Portsmouth’s schools and other education settings

The published provisional results for 22/23 can be seen here.

8. Priorities: background and key actions for 2023/24


The leadership of schools and education settings, both at the most senior level but also at all levels, is critical to effectiveness.

Since 2016 there had been a significant improvement in the Ofsted inspection grades for schools and academies in Portsmouth, improving at a faster rate than nationally until the Covid-19 pandemic and introduction of the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF). Currently 82% of schools and academies are judged by Ofsted as Good or better for Overall Effectiveness. The quality of early years settings in the city as judged by Ofsted is positive with 96% of early years settings in Portsmouth currently judged to be Good or better.

At the same time while school leaders, teachers and practitioners in the city work hard and many go the extra mile for children, as Ofsted inspections testify, the city has seen its position in rankings for local authority areas decline across a number of key indicators, to the point where many are significantly out of line with those of comparable areas. This undoubtedly affects the life chances of children in the city.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the cancellation of all end of year assessments and exams there is no published data available in 2020 or 2021 to determine if the position has improved or worsened. Additionally, primary accountability guidance for 2022 strongly advises against making any comparisons with 2019 data, with local authority and national averages and between individual schools. However, whilst the education strategy for 2020-23 and the actions set out for the three years, have a somewhat different focus in response to Covid-19, the focus on standards, and in particular attainment and progress measures, should continue given recent trends and the inevitable fact that disadvantaged children will have lost ground to those who are not disadvantaged and this will be most felt in areas like Portsmouth where there are higher levels of deprivation.

Our strategy over recent years to try and improve standards and accelerate progress has been based on a combination of:

  • Support for leadership development at all levels which to date has focused on: aspiring leadership programmes for groups of teachers preparing for their first leadership role; middle and senior leaders ready for whole school responsibility; development of potential senior leaders who have the talent and commitment to become headteachers within 2-3 years; and programmes for aspiring or existing Executive Headteachers and CEOs of Multi Academy Trusts.
  • A collaborative school improvement approach through the Portsmouth Education Partnership, led by the PEP School Leadership and Effectiveness Board, in order to generate more locally co-ordinated support for schools and encourage the sharing of resources and best practice, with a focus on peer review.
  • Academisation whereby the majority of schools in the city become part of strong and effective Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) which can act as strong engines for school improvement, bringing in support and challenge from outside the city as well as from within. Two thirds of schools are now part of a MAT.
  • Securing funding through Portsmouth being identified as one of only 12 Priority Education Investment Areas across the country. This has been welcomed with the opportunity for investment and further rigorous development of the work of the Portsmouth Education Partnership.  This can only be effective with the commitment, participation, and actions of our school leaders.

Official results from 2022 and 2023 have made it clear that the education strategy has not yet succeeded despite the best efforts of our strategic leaders and that Covid-19 has had a significant impact upon our education settings, outcomes, and the wellbeing of Portsmouth children, young people, and families. The improvements made in terms of Ofsted judgements pre-pandemic had been welcomed and it was hoped that this would translate into improved outcomes but clearly more needs to be done to have the desired impact and to provide a lasting legacy of ambition and improvement.

Research suggests that school-led improvement is the most sustainable way to make genuine and bespoke changes in schools. David Hopkins describes this as the ‘third age of school improvement’. The PEP peer review process aims to create a community of colleagues and partners who share a common focus linked to school improvement and improving education throughout the city. This is not about a rubber-stamping that school intentions and actions are in operation, but rather much more sharply focused on improvement. It is the action of continuous incremental improvement that, over time, leads to cumulative and exponential effects.

Through the PEP peer review process, we have the opportunity to look at the evidence and impact of initiatives, such as relational practice, curriculum development, use of digital learning (Priority 2 within this strategy), reading and language development programmes, subject knowledge in mathematics, with impartiality but common purpose. The PEP School Leadership and Effectiveness Board will have oversight of the peer review process and outcomes in the form of feedback from the enquiry based ‘To what extent …’ themes that review teams explore with recipient schools. This high-level review will enable opportunities for initiating new learning or different CPD, a better understanding of how school leadership can be supported, the wider development of good practice and impactful networks, and where resources and support can be best targeted.

To drive the effectiveness at individual school level which contributes to the collective education standards for Portsmouth, the PEP recognises that we must also develop outward-facing opportunities e.g. utilising staff and expertise from schools and MATs from both within and beyond the city, accessing DfE approved Hubs (Teaching School, English, Maths, Research School) and exploring strategies to achieve ambitious targets that are benchmarked against attainment and progress by schools elsewhere in the country that have similar pupil profiles, such as the comparison tools of the Fisher Family Trust or the Education Endowment Foundation. Use of the PEP Information Dashboard in agreement with all MATs and LA Maintained schools, means that support and challenge can be delivered, through being curious, understanding what schools need most to support their improvement journeys, targeting resource, and ultimately evaluating impact upon educational outcomes.

The system leadership reforms announced by the Government offer another opportunity in terms of what a Teaching School Hub can do for the city and investment by the Government in National Leaders of Education (NLEs) and the extended range of National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). A key partner for Portsmouth is the HISP Teaching School Hub who will be working with the local Salterns MAT to deliver National Professional Qualifications for our established and emerging school leaders, in addition to the University of Chichester Academy Trust who have developed a CPD offer to support professionals in the early stages of their career to develop subject leadership skills and knowledge. HISP Research School are also a key player in delivering activity on Priority 4 of the PEIA delivery plan, as are Springhill English Hub for Priority 1 and the Solent Maths Hub for Priority 2.

Key actions for 2023/24:

  1. Continue the work of the PEP School Leadership and Effectiveness Board initiated in the first year of the Portsmouth Education Strategy 2020 – 2023, strengthening partnerships, sharing best practice and exploring school priorities through the PEP Information Dashboard, the 3H’s document, and ensuring a clear focus on outcomes as we strive to recover from the pandemic.
  2. Facilitate the PEP peer review process with access to training, and evaluation of the impact upon ambitious target levels of attainment and progress.
  3. Oversee and shape a coordinated leadership support programme to help individual school leaders at all levels to achieve their targets, building on current and the new leadership programmes available.
  4. Strengthen the support and development for leaders and managers in early years settings so that high quality provision provides a firm foundation for good outcomes and secure progress through future stages of education.
  5. Continue to organise and assist subject networks in the city in order to provide more support for middle leaders to develop subject knowledge, high quality curriculum planning and a clear understanding of the importance of sequencing learning in order to improve the quality of education.
  6. Support the progress of disadvantaged pupils, with opportunities from Education Endowment Foundation work and the HISP Research School to focus on priority schools funded through Priority Education Investment Area identification and implementation of the delivery plan.
  7. Embed programmes of support for early years settings and schools in terms of communication and literacy (refer to Priority 3).
  8. Continue to focus on improving outcomes for pupils in mainstream schools with SEND and support the development of the middle leadership of SENCos, building on the work of the previous SSIF programme and the proposed new National Professional Qualification for SENCos (linked to PEIA Priority 4).
  9. Ensure the effective delivery of moderation at KS2 including monitoring the End of KS2 SATs administration, and the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check.

As a city, we understand the impact effective use of technology can have on improving outcomes for children, both now and in the future. This not only includes the teacher toolkit, where it can be incredibly powerful in supporting modelling, guided practice and in the moment feedback, but the way that are children can understand how to choose the right tool, for the right activity for them to support their own learning.

Based on lessons learnt from lockdown, studies by EEF and knowledge of best practice and relevant research, our transformative approach and vision aims to develop a city-wide digital strategy that uses technology to:

  • Enhance teaching and learning
  • Reduce workload
  • Support accessibility and inclusion
  • Narrow the digital divide
  • To improve outcomes for ALL citizens across the city.


The “Portsmouth: The Digital City project” first began in in 2020 by Natalie Sheppard and a wider team. It looked at lessons learnt from lockdown, knowledge of digital divide across the city and the belief that this would truly support our children.

In September 2021, the Digital Drive Team then utilised the funding and support available from the Ed Tech Demonstrator Schools programme, including local Educational Technologist, Gemma Gwilliam to help shape the vision moving forward.

When funding ended in March 2022, the role of Head of Digital Learning, Education and Innovation was created. As a key member of the PEP Strategic Board and PEIA Project, the Head of Digital Learning,

Education and Innovation is responsible for the strategic leadership and development of the PEP Priority 2: Digital.

They contribute to the strategic direction and leadership of the whole priority area whilst also being directly responsible for the management and development of Digital Learning technologies, systems and tools.

They have a strategic role in guiding and supporting schools and colleges with their effective use and implementation of technology, as well as working with Shaping Portsmouth, local businesses and other professional services to create an affordable and accessible offer that helps to recognise Portsmouth as the first Digital City in the UK.

The Project

All 62 schools in Portsmouth have been awarded either a Bronze, Silver or Gold SLA offering between 6 and 30 hours of personalised, targeted support to develop their own digital strategy which links to their School Improvement Plan to predominantly improve outcomes for all.

There’s other group training sessions, the development of Digital Champions who can then go out to help share this best practice and the impact it’s had on their own classrooms, workshops and learning for Parents and Carers to then be able to go on and support their children at home. The city has also formed relationships with Arbor, Teach Computing, STEM, TTS and Global Equality Collective, which then provides further access to training and support.

Highlights from 2022/2023

Much of the work in 2022/2023 focussed on the DfE Connect the Classroom project, DfE pilot research project and helping schools to audit and understand the technology that they have and the benefits around this so that they can start to shape their digital strategy. Most schools began to have a greater understanding of how technology can be used to enhance teaching and learning, reduce workload and support accessibility and inclusion.

Schools were supported in a whole range of ways including:

  • Use of visualisers, devices, software and programmes to embed relevant pedagogical practices e.g. Rosenshine Principles, metacognition
  • Introducing Clicker as a way to support writing
  • Working to develop reading opportunities for our bottom 20% in Primary and Secondary
  • Using accessibility tools such as subtitles whilst teaching or dictate or immersive reader
  • Closing the digital divide so that children can continue to learn beyond the school day and support those who are unable to attend school for periods of time
  • Assessment and feedback opportunities to elicit misconceptions in the moment
  • Developing a toolkit and introducing a platform to support our groups across the city
  • Applying the coaching and mentoring model to staff development with recording lessons and watching them back as a reflective process

Key actions for 2023/2024:

  1. Ensure the appropriate leadership and governance of the “Portsmouth: The Digital City” project through the role of the Head of Digital Learning, Education and Innovation. Develop a sustainable model of digital specialists, who can help drive forward and support the Head of Digital with the project.
  2. To ensure all schools across the city are supported with the implementation of the PEIA strand 5 objectives, which underpin all four main priority areas and use technology to enhance teaching and learning, support accessibility and inclusion and reduce workload, over the five years and beyond.
  3. Continue to work with schools to reduce the number of children with no access to either appropriate devices or to the internet. This will include supporting schools and education settings with auditing, reviewing and identifying pupils and families who require access to an appropriate device and/or the internet then working together to facilitate this through deployment of current devices and securing of additional devices through citywide links.
  4. Continue to develop our Adult-Education offer to upskill parents and pupils in order to support home learning and a blended offer of digital and non-digital and support schools and other education settings to build and develop better relationships with parents about their child’s learning. To also enable adults with developing their own knowledge, skills and understanding around digital literacy and the necessary skills to enter the workplace.
  5. Raise the reputational capital of the project across Portsmouth and beyond in order to support the development of the project and ensure that all stakeholders are able to have a vested interest.
  6. Continue to strengthen the city-wide STEM offer led by the Head of Digital and UTC, by working collaboratively with other organisations such as Teach Computing, HISP and STEMunity, to further establish the importance of STEM across our schools and wider community, whilst ensuring that all children are enthused, engaged and inspired by STEM both within Portsmouth and the wider world around them.

BackgroundHungry Little Minds logo

Improving early communication, language and literacy development is a key priority for the city. We know that by the age for four, a child from a disadvantaged background has heard 30 million fewer words compared to their more advantaged peers. We know that a child with a poor vocabulary when they are five is more than twice as likely to be unemployed in their thirties and one and a half times more likely to have mental health problems compared to a child with a good vocabulary. There is also significant research linking poor speech and language skills to a range of poor outcomes including offending.

Some of the most disadvantaged children in Portsmouth start school months behind their peers and the gap can grow through their school years. As a result of Covid-19 the likelihood is that disadvantaged children in Portsmouth will have lost more ground in their language development, exacerbating the situation.

Our performance through EYFS and KS1 and KS2 underlines the issue and the particular impact of Covid-19 in Portsmouth where clearly standards have not yet returned to those pre-pandemic. The DfE strongly advised not to use primary 2022 results for any comparative or accountability measures due to the uneven impact of Covid-19 across the country and we continue to be mindful of this, as effects of school closures and pupil/staff absence are long-lasting. Whilst mirroring national trends, gaps still remain significant and our aspiration to be in line with national averages is a firm commitment.

Literacy related outcomes for 2023 EYFS – KS2

Key performance indicator LA % achieving expected standard


National % and gap

(national proxy)

Previous year comparison


EYFS Good Level of Development 65% 67% (-2%) +3%
EYFS Communication and Language ELG (combined) 78% Not yet available -2%
Phonics Year 1 75% 78% (-3%) +8%
KS1 Reading 64% 68% (-4%) +1%
KS1 Writing 54% 60% (-6%) +4%
KS2 Reading 64% 73% (-9%) -6%
KS2 Writing 62% 71% (-9%) +2%

Positive indications of the impact of considerable work on the teaching and learning of Phonics over the last 3 years are illustrated by the 8.4% increase in the Portsmouth local authority average from 2022 to 2023 compared to the national average increase of 2.8%. Access to funding and support from our local designated English Hub and follow up work is key to this continued progress.

In Early Years there has been a collaborative effort across the city to develop a cohesive communication and language strategy which is helpfully summarised on the co-produced Portsmouth Commitment to Early Language. This is being woven into all training opportunities e.g. initial teacher training, EY settings, school staff. Other work includes continuation of the ‘Read with Me’ project – an initiative bringing together the School Library Service, public libraries, EY settings, Yr R practitioners and parents with a universal approach of identifying 10 key quality and popular texts to be shared in EY settings, accessed over the summer holidays by families and revisited by schools in the early Autumn term.

The Early Years service have been working with Solent NHS speech and language therapists in the development of ‘Best Start Top Tips for Talking’ strategies. So far these have been shared with a number of partners e.g. EY settings, Portage, EMAS, the Hearing and Vision Team, plus training the wider EY service in promoting the use of these with parents. The city has actively supported and promoted the national Hungry Little Minds campaign and the investment in Family Hubs, including Home Start who run supportive groups for parents regarding the communication, language and literacy skills young children need to thrive.

Oracy and language development is a key focus workstream of the PEP Early Language and Literacy Development Group with the development of Home Learning Environment learning cards which are to be published on both the PEP and Family Assist websites. The local authority in conjunction with the NHS has been selected to test out the Early Language Support for Every Child (ELSEC) initiative as part of the SEND and AP Change program whereby speech and language therapists will seek to improve early identification and reduce the rate of specialist referrals, as well as increase workforce capacity and improve the quality of data and evidence through improved join-up between health and education. Schools continue to be encouraged to be involved in the delivery of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI); a high-quality, evidence-based, 20-week intervention designed to improve the language skills of reception age pupils.

Within the primary sector, 22 Portsmouth KS2 schools are now implementing part or all of Hackney Education’s Destination Reader program with positive impact on staff subject knowledge, pupil attitudes, enjoyment, and progress in reading. Continuation of the support DR network group and the trialing of development into Year 7 plus the support of the Schools’ Library Service has been praised by Hackney Education advisers on a visit to the city in May 2022. In collaboration with Hackney 5 DR Portsmouth Lead Practitioners have now been identified and are being developed in school-to-school working, which will build capacity and sustainability.

The highly successful Portsmouth ‘Year 6 Big City Read’ event in 2021 where Year 6 pupils were provided with their own copy of Michael Morpurgo’s book ‘Boy Giant’ was further developed in July 2022 and 2023. Year 6 pupils across Portsmouth primary schools are each gifted a copy of a chosen book and are able to attend a live-streamed interview with the author. A transition unit of work to accompany the novel is annually written by representatives of Year 6 and Year 7 teachers to support pupils from different schools coming together in their new secondary school. The impact is reflected in feedback from a parent Taking part in the Year 6 Big City Read was a fantastic experience for my daughter in Year 6 and she thoroughly enjoyed hearing the author answer their questions and talk about the book they had all read. It also had a big impact on her settling into her Secondary School at the start of Year 7, as it meant that despite all the pupils in her English class being from various feeder schools in the city, they all had something in common. They were able to discuss the shared experience of the Year 6 Big City Read as well as the book itself.”

At secondary we know that literacy is key to learning across all subjects and a strong predictor of outcomes in later life. Disciplinary literacy is an approach to improving literacy across the curriculum which recognises that literacy skills are both general and subject specific. This guidance challenges the notion that literacy in secondary school is solely the preserve of English teachers, or literacy coordinators. The emphasis on disciplinary literacy makes clear that every teacher communicates their subject through academic language, and that reading, writing, speaking and listening are at the heart of knowing and doing every subject in secondary school. Secondary literacy is being supported in the city through the PEP Secondary English Network, the work of Education Psychologists outlined in the document ‘Supporting young people at secondary school with literacy difficulties’ and the promotion of a secondary self-assessment literacy toolkit, based on the EEF guidance report on improving literacy in secondary schools.

All sectors from early years, through primary, into secondary and post-16, plus parents and carers, can now benefit from the 5 minute videos ‘Phonics in 5’ that have been developed and posted on the Portsmouth Education Partnership website. The Portsmouth Ethnic Minority Achievement Service (EMAS) have also supported work on phonics by writing a helpful document which outlines research and top tips about how to approach phonics with pupils learning English as an additional language. To further support Key Stage 2 and 3 staff in particular a Phonics and Spelling Mapping Progression lists different and increasingly more difficult words from Year R to Year 6 that share the same phonetic sound. Action research from local Portsmouth schools successfully using this tool and identifying its early impact have been written up as case studies supported by the University of Portsmouth.

The PEP Early Language and Literacy Development Group established in the Autumn of 2020 has completed much work already to drive this priority of the Education Strategy forward in spite of the pandemic and is now focused on delivering strands of work for Priority 1 of Portsmouth’s Priority Education Investment Area (PEIA) delivery plan. The group has enabled partners from different age phases and sectors, ranging from education, childcare and inclusion to health and cultural services to align and connect initiatives in a coherent and strategic manner. Language development, vocabulary extension and oracy will be the focus for the work of this group in 2023/24 including a Portsmouth Pupil Poet Laureates project, Word Collectors initiative, developing reading fluency and intensive staff support and training on improving standards of writing.

Key actions for 2023/24:

  1. Improve EYFSP outcomes but with a particular focus on communication and language. This will include:
  • Engagement by schools with the national reception year early language programme for 2020/21 and in subsequent years.
  • Regularly refresh and publicise Hungry Little Minds and Tiny Happy People on social media platforms.
  • Provide training for early years settings and the reception year with communication and language focus.
  • Provide universal training on the 10 top tips for talking strategies which formed the SALT Best Start programme. Share these key strategies with all partners (Portage, Family Hubs, Home Start, EY outreach team) so that every opportunity is taken to embed the Best Start work with educational settings and parents.
  • Delivery of ELSEC programme of speech and language screening and intervention in EY settings and Year R classes.
  • Engagement with the ’50 things to do before you’re 5′ programme to model language use, talking and vocabulary development with families.
  • Engagement with the Home Learning Environment learning cards created by the ELLD workstream and shared widely with partners to go out to parents (PEP website for schools to access and Family Assist website for families).
  1. Continue to implement the strategic Portsmouth Commitment to Early Language which includes:
  • Ensuring the early years workforce understand early language development and support children to achieve their very best.
  • Ensuring that families understand the importance of early language development and the vital role they play and take an active interest in supporting children to develop a wide and rich vocabulary.
  • Develop a data-led approach to the delivery and analysis of the effectiveness of early language programs across the city.
  • Develop appropriate tools, training and practice sharing that support schools and early years providers to deliver robust and effective approaches to all children’s early language development.
  • Work with health service providers to ensure they use a range of resources and tools, share key messages about language development with families at every contact and develop mechanisms to share best practice across the health workforce, supporting families at all levels of the Healthy Child Program.
  • Work with early years providers and schools to ensure key staff are trained in a way which provides them with a high level of understanding around the acquisition of early language.  Ensure that provision has a culture in which early language and communication development is a primary focus and integrated into all activity and promote engaging and stimulating language rich environments.
  1. In our primary schools we will focus on supporting schools to deliver the following:
  • Develop pupils’ speaking and listening skills and wider understanding of language development.
  • Use a wide range of explicit and implicit approaches including planning the teaching of vocabulary, modelling and extending children’s language and thinking. Pupil Poet Laureates, Word Collectors.
  • Effectively support schools to implement a systematic synthetic phonics program (SSP) which explicitly and robustly teaches pupils a comprehensive set of letter-sound relationships for reading and sound letter relationships for spelling with resources that closely match the phonics cumulatively taught, from Year R and on into KS2.
  • Support for progression in phonics so that Key Stage 2 and 3 practitioners are developed in their subject knowledge and pedagogy to improve levels of literacy in Portsmouth children and young people.
  • Use a balanced and engaging approach to developing reading, integrating both decoding and comprehension skills. Both decoding and comprehension skills are necessary for confident and competent reading, but neither is sufficient on its own.
  • Teach pupils to develop greater reading fluency that will enable them to access more text, gain confidence, enjoyment and free up cognitive overload.
  • Support pupils to use strategies for planning and monitoring their writing. Producing quality writing is a complex process but a number of different strategies are likely to help.  These include pre-writing activities, the ‘I do, we do, you do’ method, drafting, editing and revising and sharing.
  • Promote fluent written transcription skills (handwriting, spelling or typing) through encouraging extensive and purposeful practice and explicit teaching as well as accessing assistive technology.  Children must develop fluency in these skills to the point that they have become automated.
  • Embed and extend the partnership with Hackney Education as part of the Priority Education Investment Area work which has enabled schools to access the literacy programs ‘Destination Reader’ and ‘Daily Supported Reading’ and develop 5 Portsmouth DR Lead Practitioners.
  1. In our secondary schools we will focus on supporting schools to deliver the following:
  • Appropriate diagnostic identification of students’ barriers to improving their reading and the appropriate pathway to meet these needs.
  • Phonics support and interventions with trained and skilled staff to support older students who are struggling with the early stages of reading.
  • Disciplinary literacy and targeted vocabulary across the curriculum.
  • Complete a literacy self-assessment using a given consistent toolkit.
  • Develop students’ ability to read increasingly complex academic texts.
  • Continue the trialled Destination Reader Plus programme for Year 7 students.
  • Break down complex writing tasks and combine writing instruction with reading in and provide opportunities for structured talk.
  • Provide high quality literacy interventions for struggling students. This will include the continuation and extension of the Literacy Hubs’ innovative programme (Pompey Pirates and Portsea Sailors) which delivers an intensive yearlong learning programme for children aged 9 to 13 who are both falling behind in their literacy progress and are disadvantaged.
  • Utilise digital technology, particularly for students with SEND and those who may have additional vulnerabilities.


There is a need across the city to develop mathematical fluency and recall of key facts from an early age to ensure that all pupils have a solid foundation upon which to build. There is also a significant need to support teacher development so that pedagogies move away from procedural learning and focus upon developing deep conceptual learning. Once teachers are more confident in teaching this way, pupils should be able to confidently explain their maths learning, remember it weeks later and build upon it in future learning. Both aspects can be developed through high-quality, research-based professional development for staff in the city.

The latest key performance indicators for maths highlights the scale of the challenge and the gap between the LA average and the national average despite some recent improvements in overall performance.

Key performance indicator LA % 2023 National % 2023 Previous year comparison 2022
KS1 Maths expected standard 65% 70% +2% points
KS2 Maths expected standard 64% 73% +1% points
KS4 Maths standard pass 58% 70% Not comparable

Maths work in the city to date: (Solent Maths Hub)

The most significant change to teacher practice and pupil learning in EYFS has come through the introduction of the Mastering Number (MN) in KS1 programme from the NCETM. This programme aims to improve children’s ability to subitise, see structures and develop the language they have to be able to talk about their maths. The programme is number based and uses the Rekenrek as the key representation and manipulative to support the pupils’ learning. The programme is created by the NCETM and delivered by Maths Hubs, providing training for teachers in YR-2. The feedback from this programme so far has been fantastic and teachers are really seeing a difference in the way that pupils are seeing and talking about mathematical structures.

Alongside this programme, the Solent Maths Hub also offer the EYFS SKTM (Specialist Knowledge for the Teaching of Mathematics). This is maths and phase specific subject knowledge to support and empower Early Years (EY) practitioners to develop the quality of maths provision and discussion in their classrooms. EY practitioners really appreciate this group as it is bespoke to the landscape of the Year R classroom and EYFS curriculum.

One of the key elements of the Primary Programme is the Teaching for Mastery Pathway which supports and empowers teachers to improve the quality of maths teaching and learning in their schools. The pathway is a three year minimum programme which develops an understanding of the 5 Big Ideas in Teaching for Mastery, and supports teachers to build these practices into their own teaching and eventually that of their colleagues. Portsmouth has always been at the forefront of engagement with this across Hampshire and we currently have welcomed almost 100% of primaries onto the pathway over the past nine years and have the majority of primaries involved in a work group this academic year 2023-24. This demonstrates the outward-facing nature of teachers and schools in the city, and their desire to improve outcomes for Portsmouth’s children.

As a result of the success of Mastering Number at KS1, this year hubs will be trialling Mastering Number for KS2 which focuses on multiplicative reasoning and times tables knowledge. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of this project with the expectation they will have the same level of impact as MN at KS1.

Primary schools also have a range of SKTM programmes to choose from:

  • Primary Teacher
  • Primary TA
  • Primary ECT
  • SEND in the mainstream

Y5-8 Continuity programme – supporting transition between primary and secondary
Like primary, we also have a Teaching for Mastery Pathway open to secondary schools to support schools in developing TfM approaches. Take up of this programme in secondary is currently at 50% and we are working hard to try to support and encourage more secondaries to take up the offer.

SKTMs are also available for secondary schools, and this year the programme includes:

  • Secondary ECT
  • Secondary Non-specialist
  • Y5-8 Continuity

This year, Maths Hubs are excited to have recruited the first cohort of Post-16 Mastery Specialists which means within two years there will be a TfM Pathway available to Post-16 institutions.

We currently have these SKTMs available within this phase:

  • A Level Pedagogy
  • GCSE Resits
  • Strengthening ITT Partnerships
  • KS4-5 Transition

Additional PEIA support
Alongside the standard package of support, some Portsmouth schools have access to additional support to try and cause the ‘step change’ we need to see.

  • The first initiative is to use PEIA funding to buy additional Rekenreks for those schools involved in MN at KS1 who have been struggling to deliver due to timetabling issues with this key resource.
  • The primaries and secondaries in the city with the lowest statutory assessment results have been identified and will be supported with bespoke school visits from an experienced school improvement partner to diagnose need and support staff to make the changes needed for improvement.
  • As many of the programmes as possible will be hosted in Portsmouth to ensure that location isn’t a barrier to accessing support – PEIA funding has been dessignated to pay for work group leads to provide Portsmouth based sessions.
  • A primary network has been set up and all primary maths subject leads have been invited – the aim of the sessions is to tackle the issues and barriers unique to Portsmouth and to share Professional Development resources that can be taken away and delivered in schools.
  • PEIA funding is also available to support those schools with participation who are struggling to release teachers for training due to the supply/cover costs for schools.
  • The second Portsmouth Education Partnership Teaching and Learning Conference is being organised for March 2024 with a mathematical focus, re-establishing a PortsMaths branding and imperative for the high quality teaching and learning of maths. There are key note speakers, workshops and stallholders booked to inspire practitioners, share information and develop pedagogy across the city.

Key actions for 2023-2024:

  1. To ensure as many schools as possible sign up to a work group running in the city.
  2. To identify those schools who need additional bespoke support.
  3. To use the networks to create a feeling of community and collaboration which will continue long after the project has finished.
  4. To develop staff subject and pedagogical understanding to ensure a higher quality of maths teaching in schools.
  5. To facilitate events that inspire and support our education professionals from early years to post-16.


The shortage of practitioners across Portsmouth continues to increase due to national challenges around pay and workload. This applies to teachers and senior leaders, with support staff also being affected. Other contributing factors include fewer graduates entering the profession and the cost-of-living crisis.

The PEP has made recruitment and retention one of its early priorities and established the ITT and Teacher & Retention Group to lead on this work and drive forward Teach Portsmouth

Feedback from this stakeholder group has shown that fewer people are applying for teacher training, which directly impacts the overall number of new people entering the profession. This has affected both early years, primary and secondary settings, with numbers down significantly since the pandemic.

Members have also cited media coverage of recent strike action has impacted overall public perception of working in the profession. Training providers have seen a decline in applications overall in 22/23 and anticipate less interest in the future.

The bi-annual recruitment and retention staff survey for academic year 20/21 indicated that out of the 20 schools that took part, schools had seen more applications that are lower quality of candidates and less people moving within the profession.

Schools had also experienced resignations in subject areas in teaching specialisms in English, science, PE, PSHE and art. The average number of resignations per school was three.

Stakeholder feedback has also indicated a continued shortage of support staff in schools and colleges. Teach Portsmouth made this a priority last year to support this area of need by introducing a series of information events.

Staff retention also features as part of Teach Portsmouth’s plans. This year, it is envisaged that a small awards event will be organised to celebrate long service alongside a dedicated campaign to recognise staff achievement within their community, with a focus on engaging parents and carers in this process.

PEP must broaden its scope to support the recruitment of other school and college practitioners, alongside teachers and senior leaders. The development of Teach Portsmouth’s branded activities continues to attract and retain staff across all settings through a series of events and campaigns.

Recruiting teaching assistants

In 22/23, Teach Portsmouth expanded its remit to support the recruitment of teaching assistants in all settings through a series of information events. Local schools and education providers who support training for support staff also attended.

This resulted in four teaching assistants and a volunteer being placed in local schools. It also saw an increase in applications for functional skills courses (maths and English) through The Learning Place and City of Portsmouth College.

Alongside these events, a new series of taster sessions encouraged schools to organise a follow up event. These were designed to convert those who attended the event to learn more about a specific school and apply.

Collectively, over 200 people have attended three information events. The need to recruit staff is still present and will continue for 23/24 as part of Teach Portsmouth’s communications and marketing plan.

Wider recruitment of education practitioners 

Stakeholders from across the PEP also identified a need to recruit specialists across the children and education directorate as well as wider support roles within schools and colleges.

A more high-profile event, the Teach Portsmouth Jobs and Opportunities Fair welcomed 26 exhibitors and over 250 people through the doors of Guildhall. A series of information sessions were also held to promote topics related to jobs available at the event.

The event will return in 23/24 to recruit qualified professionals from a variety of backgrounds. It will also introduce a new twilight session to capture those who are unable to attend daytime events.

Initial teacher training

Since September 2020, new teachers have been entitled to at least 3 years of evidence-based professional development and support.

They start with ITT, based on the core content framework, which is followed by a 2-year induction underpinned by the early career framework.

Teacher training providers who attend termly ITTR&R meetings have experienced a decline in applications for teacher training. Teach Portsmouth proposed an annual campaign to include a mixture of information and match maker type events to attract people to train.

Despite budgetary challenges, all providers were supportive of the proposal, with the first information event schedule to take held as applications for teacher training open nationally. Alongside events, broader items including case studies and interviews with early career teachers which will form part of a campaign launch called love to teach.

Celebrating long service and success

The Teach Portsmouth Awards is an annual event that celebrates the achievements of Portsmouth’s teachers, support staff and leaders. This year, the team will be focusing on long service through a dedicated event and campaign.

Alongside this, parents and carers will have the opportunity to say thank you to school staff by sharing a special message. This will then be included in a book which will be given to schools for recognition of their impact on children and young people.

Key activities in 2022/23

Over the last year, Teach Portsmouth delivered a full calendar of face-to-face events. Alongside this, Teach Portsmouth launched a fully accessible website that now meets public sector requirements.

The Teach Portsmouth Awards was held at Portsmouth Guildhall in June 23, welcoming schools, colleges and sponsors. For the first time, school governors and early years practitioners were recognised.

Other activities saw the introduction of the new supporting section of the website to reflect this new area of work. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter also increased to 1,300.

Key actions for 2023/24:

  1. Deliver a communications and marketing plan of activities to support the recruitment and retention of education practitioners.
  2. Support initial teacher training providers in response to declining application numbers.
  3. Increase online engagement with parents and carers in a thank you campaign for school staff.
  4. Develop the Teach Portsmouth website to meet the requirements of stakeholders and increase engagement.
  5. Develop a new traded services model for Teach Portsmouth.
  6. Organise bi-annual recruitment and retention survey and improve school engagement.
  7. Review the membership of the Teacher & Retention Group ITTR group and increase representation from schools.
  8. Explore the role of volunteers in schools and develop a potential programme.


Whilst comparative data for the last few years is less reliable it remains true that Portsmouth’s pupils do not attend school as regularly as their peers nationally and there is therefore still more work to do to improve school attendance. We know that by not attending school regularly children and young people are leaving themselves vulnerable to risks which can reduce their life chances. Equally accredited results last academic year demonstrated clear negative differences in outcome for those who hadn’t attended regularly. For our most vulnerable young people, school will be the only safe and consistent part of their lives. Away from the safety and security of school, young people are more at risk of abuse and exploitation, taking part in criminal activity and missing out on support for special educational needs and mental health problems.

The School Attendance Support Team (School Attendance Team, Link Co-ordinators, Early Help) are implementing the new attendance guidance and priority education investment area attendance priority alongside schools. Implementation is being steered and monitored through the PEP Behaviour and Attendance Group (BAG).

A school attendance campaign will be re-launched this year. Consultation has taken place with parent/carers and schools and the campaign will be developed with a new focus and approach.

The early years team have created a series of short attendance videos which are shared regularly across the city on social media to remind parents of the importance of attendance during a child’s nursery years. It is hoped that by re-enforcing the benefits of a child attending regularly from an early age, the concept will be embedded ready for a child starting school.

During the pandemic, systems were established with schools to track vulnerable children and respond to a wide range of issues impacting on families as a result of the lockdown, including RAG-rated child level data on spreadsheets, LA Link Co-ordinators attached to schools and colleges and the Children’s Hub.  These systems have now been adjusted to focus on children who are severely absent, with attendance below 50%[1]. The vulnerable children tracking team is now established as a permanent team and in line with the new guidance.

In addition to the above, there will be a continued focus during 2023/24 on a number of areas that impact on school attendance. This includes work to reduce:

  • Permanent Exclusions and suspension through the relaunch of restorative practice in schools, the effective use of alternative provision (in house and externally commissioned) and use of alternative exclusions.
  • Reduced timetables that go beyond 6 weeks without a clear plan in place for returning a pupil back to full time education.  The reasons for reduced timetables should be: exceptional and limited; short term; require parental consent; Family Support plans in place; and all exclusions should be accurately recorded on the attendance register
  • Elective Home Education (EHE) adhering to the principles of the EHE protocol that was agreed with Headteachers in 2019.  Following the result of Portsmouth’s judicial review, we will look to continue robustly ensuring that all pupils have a suitable education. The numbers of pupils leaving school rolls for EHE will be monitored, alongside the numbers where the meetings between the school, parent and the LA, pre-deregistration, don’t take place

Key actions for 2023/4:

  1. Continue to develop relational and restoratives practice in schools on the basis of a whole-school approach, working towards and understanding that a relational approach is “the way we do things in Portsmouth”
  2. A school attendance campaign will be re-launched this year with a new approach.
  3. Continue to deploy LA Link Co-ordinators building on the success of the previous academic years, working with schools and ensuring this work is embedded with the School Attendance Support Team. Revised guidance for a graduated response will be issued jointly through these teams.
  4. Helping parents meet their responsibilities to ensure children attend school or another education setting regularly through effective communication / information, advice and guidance, pastoral support, intervention through Early Help and MABS where appropriate and punitive sanctions as authorised by Headteachers. The introduction of parenting contracts will be considered in line with the aforementioned guidance.
  5. Ensuring schools are supported and challenged and there is effective leadership and management of school attendance in place, through the termly monitoring of school attendance data by BAG, half termly Persistent Absence Reviews, Attendance Audits and Multi-agency, termly, severely absent meetings. Audits where appropriate, ensuring schools are aware of and access appropriate medical provision, focus on reduced timetables that exceed 6 weeks. Appropriate support and challenge will be provided to schools through the Support and Enhancement arm of the school attendance team (PEIA funded).
  6. Working with partners to provide additional needs based support that contributes to improvements in attendance, running termly school school attendance network meetings and continuing to make school attendance everyone’s business including health workers, social workers, school nurses, Early Help family workers, CAHMS, GPs, etc. This will include electronic health evidence co-ordination between schools & health.
  7. Focus on severe absence (below 50%), sharing information with Missing Exploited and Trafficked (MET) group and Early Help, encouraging schools to complete an Early Help Assessment and have a Lead Professional in place, working with Early Help and / or contacting MASH where school interventions and previous legal sanctions have failed. Termly multi-agency meeting with all secondary schools and primary schools with high levels, to review severely absent pupils.
  8. Continue the focus on the EHE protocol and track and monitor EHE numbers.


Local authorities have broad duties to encourage, enable and assist young people to participate in education or training. Specifically, these are to:

  • Secure sufficient suitable education and training provision for all young people in their area who are over compulsory school age but under 19 or aged 19 to 25 and for whom an Education, Health, and Care (EHC) plan is maintained. To fulfil this, local authorities need to have a strategic overview of the provision available in their area and to identify and resolve gaps in provision.
  • Make available to all young people aged 13 to 19 and to those between 20 and 25 with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), support that will encourage, enable, or assist them to participate in education or training.

The DfE monitors the participation of young people in employment, education, or training in all local authority areas. This data is supplied by each local authority, all of whom have a statutory duty to do so monthly. The overall performance measure used is a combined average figure of young people who are NEET and unknown over a three-month period (December to February). Reporting includes a combined figure for young people who are NEET or unknown to the local authority. This change was made after several local authorities reported low NEETs whilst having a high number of unknowns.

As a city we have made some significant improvements over the past 8 years. In 2013 NEET and unknown figures were significantly higher than the national average with NEETs at 7.7% and unknowns at 18.7%. To address this the council worked with schools and post-16 providers to improve progression outcomes for young people aged 16 to 18.

A key part of this work was the Youth NEET Prevention Programme which was launched in 2014. A Progression Adviser works with the young people during the spring term of year 11 through to post-16 enrolment. During the autumn and spring term of year 12 advisers are based in the colleges to support these young people and other Portsmouth students who were at risk of becoming NEET.  The project has had a positive impact on the NEET figures and this combined with close and collaborative work with the Data Team brought the NEET down to 3.8% and unknowns to 1.1%.  The work is led by the post-16 Forum supported financially by PCC, colleges, and schools.

Since 2017 the NEET score card has reported data for a three-month average.

The figures for 2020 and 2021 however showed a concerning trend of 4.4% NEET and 1.1% unknowns,  and it was clear that the pandemic had a negative impact on participation.   Whilst there has been a very small improvement there is significant work to do to reduce the numbers of young people who are NEET.  It should be noted however that Portsmouth figures 22/23 figures of  3.9% NEET and 1.6% Unknowns, reflect those of our statistical neighbours.  Unknown figures are always lower for Portsmouth than other local authorities which is a reflection of the strong tracking process

The closure of the ESF funded STEP programme is a concern as this is a loss of funding but we continue to offer the re-engagement and support service to young people who are NEET.

Key changes to the post-16 curriculum including the defunding of BTEC qualifications and the introduction of T-Levels has had an impact on progression for our young people, this has resulted young people having to repeat a level 2  course rather than progression straight to level 3.   We will be monitoring the impact of this on progression and retention.

Key activity includes:

  • Youth NEET Prevention Programme – This project continues to be a key activity within the strategy. In the past two academic years there have been increase in the number of young people supported via this programme from approximately 60 to 160. We are working closely with the Link Coordinators to ensure we use insight data to inform this programme.
  • A Youth Hub was established through DWP funding. Although this programme closed in March 23, we have taken the decision to continue to offer the service and run the hub in the ground floor of the Civic. The hub is now renamed the Careers and Employability Hub and provides a drop-in service for young people who are NEET and the professionals who are supporting them. The hub is open 5 days per week. This service will move to Chaucer House in Autumn 24.
  • Insight Hub – We work closely with the Link Co-ordinators and utilise data from the Insight Hub to support the identification of those who are risk of NEET. Further work to develop the risk of NEET indicators will take place in 23/24.
  • A Post-16 Transition Protocol has been developed in partnership with secondary schools, colleges, and parent/carers. This will be further developed in 23/24.
  • A post-16 Alternative Provision Group has been formed and a successful meeting was held in June 23. The group will now meet termly to look at ways to fill provision gaps and discuss shared projects. 2 further organisations have now secured DfE registration.

Key actions for 2023/24:

  1. Employability Academy
    We are currently developing and Employability Academy to support care experienced young people. The Academy will be based in the Careers and Employability Hub and will offer enhanced support for our most vulnerable young people. A steering group, which includes key partners has been formed and Employability Academy will formally launch in January 24.
  2. PEIA Early Intervention project
    PEIA funding has been secured to delivery careers activities to year 10 pupils who are at risk of becoming NEET. The programme is designed to support career planning and raise aspirations. The programme has been designed to support the work to improve attendance. The programme includes 1-1 support and small group work utilising the iCan Programme and VR technology.
  3. Youth NEET Prevention Programme
    It is vital that we continue to deliver this programme, which is jointly funded by PCC, schools, City of Portsmouth College and HSDC. The programme delivers support to young people at risk of becoming NEET in year 11 and 12 and has been instrumental in reducing our NEET figures. We rely on colleges to continue to contribute the financial support for the programme to continue.
  4. Progression Conference
    Following the development of the Transition Protocol we have secured funding to deliver a transition event for year 10 students in the summer term of 23/24. The event will be designed to support young people and parent/carers to make a successful progression to post-16 education.