Which pupils are we talking about?

Which pupils are we talking about?

Pupils key points

All pupils cope with some adversity

• Pupils who experience multiple disadvantages face greater challenges in schools
• This resource is about supporting schools to ‘step up’ for those pupils
• All pupils will benefit from an academic resilience approach
• There are many disadvantages and stressors that can have a negative impact upon pupils. These are called risk factors

Pyramid Of Need

All pupils will have to cope with some adversity, that is part of life. However pupils who experience multiple disadvantages (such as poverty, domestic violence, bullying, refugee and asylum seekers, young people with special educational or complex needs), face greater challenges in school than most.

This resource supports schools to ‘step up’ the things they do to have greater impact on the achievements of their most disadvantaged pupils.

All pupils will benefit from a school-wide approach to increasing academic resilience. In fact, more advantaged pupils often benefit more than others because they get even more support than they had before, so you need to be extra careful to ensure that disadvantaged pupils will benefit.

Risk Factors

There are many disadvantages and stressors that can have a negative impact upon pupils. These are called risk factors which can include, but are not limited to:

• Stress effects and malnourishment in the womb
• Poverty
• Parents with little formal education
• Family instability
• Parental alcoholism
• Poor parental mental health (Werner, 1989)
• Poor educational attainment
• Poor relationships with others
• Poor school attendance
• Low peer and adult support
• Not engaging with the wider community
• Being exposed to negative life experiences, such as domestic violence or drug abuse in the family
• Not mastering life skills
• Low self-esteem and self-confidence
• Having the feeling of little control or influence over one’s own life

If you work in a school then you can probably picture many pupils that fit a few of these criteria in terms of risk. Most high-risk pupils will already have come to your attention because of their behaviour, or maybe if they are the quieter type, through concerns about academic progress, or perhaps lack of engagement in the class room?

High risk pupils

High risk pupils are often those that are on the receiving end of behaviour management strategies, safeguarding frameworks, attendance strategies, or pastoral support.

Boingboing have published a safeguarding and resilience factsheet that helps professionals consider the safeguarding issues whilst building resilient relationships with children, young people and their families.

You may be trying to work with the parents, get alongside them, engage them in some way. You may have referred to external agencies or carried out a ‘common assessment’ of some kind. You may already have a plan…

But some pupils just seem to eat up your plans and your energy along with it. In fact some pupils seem to eat entire banquets of professionals for breakfast and we are still no further forward!

Some pupils’ circumstances are so risk-laden and tough you may be thinking ‘We can’t make this better no matter how hard we try’.

There’s absolutely no easy solution to this. What we can do is encourage you to stick with them because that alone is perhaps what is making the biggest difference.

TAC Meeting

Did you know…? The most commonly cited resilience factor across all the research with adults who suffered adversity in childhood and yet did better than might have been expected, is an adult like you.

Those high risk pupils who eventually bounce back, look back when grown up and think about what made the biggest difference – and their tale will often include,

“That teacher/caretaker/Head/mentor (basically adult) who believed in me, never gave up on me, told me I could do it.”

Of course there are a lot of other things you can do along the way that have been proven to work. No one thing is a magic bullet – but think about how you can focus on strengths or hope in the situation, and build on them.

Use the Resilience Framework for ideas.

Medium and lower risk pupils (or those not taking up all your time…yet!)

Do you know who they are? Are you from a big secondary? Or maybe all your pupils have some element of risk, such as if you’re a special school or perhaps a school in an area of poverty and all the social and health problems that go with that.

One way to try and get ahead of the curve and reduce demand on your time later on is to think about prevention and earlier intervention. Think about building resilience across the whole school population, and alongside this think about how you identify who is likely to be at greater risk before they hit your radar.

• Schools can do a lot to identify vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. Have a look at our ideas  and things we have heard about that might help… Read more about how to identify vulnerable pupils.

All a bit doom and gloom? Well once you’ve identified those pupils you need to pay special attention to, you might want to think about them in terms of the risk and resilience matrix.

Understanding risk and resilience factors

The Resilience Matrix, developed by Daniel and Wassell[1] provides a handy framework to begin to weigh up the particular risks against protective factors.

The Matrix was originally designed for use with extremely disadvantaged pupils. It was put together to help practitioners weigh up the strengths and risks already identified from the Common Assessment Framework and any other specialist assessments.

Resilience Factors

The Matrix is used to assist practitioners in making sense of the relationship between the child’s vulnerability or resilience and the world around them, which in turn may highlight areas of risk requiring more comprehensive or specialist assessment and analysis. The Matrix can be used to examine and weigh factors in relation to:

• Vulnerability and unmet needs
• Adversity
• Strengths or protective factors
• Resilience

You might want to use it to do a quick overview of a pupil’s risk and resilience factors before you get stuck in with applying the Resilience Framework.


[1] Daniel and Wassell, (2002) Assessing and Promoting Resilience in Vulnerable Children Vols. 1, 2 & 3, London & Philadelphia, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd. See also: Daniel, B., Wassell, S. and Gilligan, R. (1999) Child Development for Child Care and Child Protection Workers, London and Philadelphia, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd.



The Academic Resilience Approach

Our resources help any school establish systems to build ‘resilience approaches’ that support disadvantaged pupils over time through a whole school approach, will benefit all pupils from a school-wide approach to increasing academic resilience and offer ideas to help everyone in the school community play a part.

read more

About the Academic Resilience Approach

There are many school resilience programmes which aim to narrow the gap between pupils who do well academically and those who don’t. A lot of them are very useful, so why have we put this information together? Resilience programmes can be expensive – we wanted to offer something everyone could access for free.

read more

Audit the whole school

A systematic approach to understanding your school and identifying where and what you might do to better promote resilience can help the whole school community to look through a ‘resilience lens’ in order to close the gap for disadvantaged pupils or those facing additional challenges.

read more

Resilience Zap

Try a resilience zap if you want to get the following going across the school community: A basic level of understanding about building resilience and what it involves; Some shared language around disadvantaged pupils and support for them; Building of commitment to really go the extra mile with pupils who need it; Inspiring ideas based on evidence of what works.

read more

What is Academic Resilience?

What is Academic Resilience key points: Good educational outcomes despite adversity; We can spot the impact of academic resilience through individuals doing better than we might have expected; Promoting academic resilience will lead to better behaviour and results for disadvantaged pupils.

read more

How to use the Resilience Framework

The Resilience Framework summarises a set of ideas and practices that promote resilience. It is based on a body of research and practice development called Resilient Therapy developed by Angie Hart and Derek Blincow, with help from Helen Thomas and a group of parents and practitioners.

read more

What can schools do?

Focusing on just a few quick and easy activities can have an impact. A whole schools approach makes a bigger difference. Get a few things going, make sure you are doing them well and share them with the whole community. Evidence and practice based experience tells us there are a few key actions that you could take in school that would have impact.

read more

How can services support me?

We understand the idea of commissioning or buying in help from external services can be daunting and know that there are differences between commissioning and procurement. You can use this page to think about why schools need to buy in services, and how to ensure services are good enough.

read more

What about parents?

Every school knows that the more engaged a parent is in their child’s learning, the more learning is supported in the home. Some parents are dead easy to involve, eager to get your attention and are queuing up to talk to staff at every opportunity. But often the very families you would like to be involved more, can be the hardest to hook into school life.

read more

Academic Resilience resources directory

Here you can download the Academic Resilience Approach resources to help any school establish systems to build ‘resilience approaches’ that support disadvantaged pupils over time through a whole school approach. All the Academic Resilience Approach resources are free to download.

read more