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Research round-up 5 February 2018

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Here's a round-up of education research published in the last fortnight.  

The Attainment Gap //2017

The Education Endowment Foundation has released a report looking at the attainment gap from different perspectives. It highlights and summarises what they believe to be the key issues, and how their analysis of them informs their practical work with teachers and senior leaders. The report summarises 15 of the key lessons the EEF has learned from their six years funding work to generate evidence of ‘what works’ to improve teaching and learning.

Closing the attainment gap: key lessons learned in the EEF’s first six years 

  • Early Years education has huge promise in preventing the attainment gap becoming entrenched before children start school. However, it has not – yet – yielded as much as it should. Professional support and training for early years workers is key. Areas with potential include communication and language approaches; self-regulation strategies; and parental involvement.
  • What happens in the classroom makes the biggest difference: improving teaching quality generally leads to greater improvements at a lower cost than structural changes. There is particularly good evidence around the potential impact of teacher professional development; but the supply of high-quality training is limited.
  • Targeted small group and one-to-one interventions have the potential for the largest immediate impact on attainment. Some whole class and whole-school interventions have shown promise but may take longer to show results.
  • Robust and independent evaluation of high potential programmes is not only possible but essential. The evidence is a crucial tool to inform senior leaders’ decision-making and help them identify ‘best bets’ for spending. Time and money are too scarce to stick with approaches and programmes which do not make a real difference. The effective use of evidence means strategically abandoning ineffective approaches, as well as implementing new ones with positive evidence behind them.
  • The £5 billion per year asset of teaching assistants can be deployed more effectively. Though previous research had suggested that teaching assistants can have a negative impact on children’s learning, EEF trials have shown how, when properly trained and supported, teaching assistants working in structured ways with small groups can boost pupils’ progress.
  • Most programmes are no better than what schools are already doing: around 1-in-4 EEF trials show enough promise for us to re-invest in. Teachers and decision-makers are right to be discerning about where they spend their limited funds.
  • Sharing effective practice between schools – and building capacity and effective mechanisms for doing so – is key to closing the gap


Retaining and developing the teaching workforce

The public accounts committee have released a report looking at teacher recruitment and retention.

Key findings 

  • The teaching workforce increased by 15,500 (3.5%) from 441,800 in November 2010 to 457,300 in November 2016.
    • However, this overall rise masks the fact that the number of teachers in secondary schools fell by 10,800 (4.9%) from 219,000 in 2010 to 208,200 in 2016.
    • In primary schools, the pupil-teacher ratio remained fairly constant between 2011 and 2016, but in secondary schools, the ratio increased, from 14.9:1 to 15.6:1 over the same period, even though pupil numbers fell
  • The number of pupils of primary and nursery age in state-funded schools increased by 598,000 (14.6%) in the six years to January 2017, and this larger number is now moving into secondary education.
    • After a reduction between 2011 and 2015, the number of pupils of secondary school age has since begun to increase and is forecast to rise by 540,000 (19.4%) between 2017 and 2025.
  • Schools spend around £21 billion a year on teaching staff, more than half of their total spending.
  • During 2015–16 school leaders filled only around half of their vacant posts with qualified teachers with the experience and expertise required.
  • In 2015 the North East had the lowest proportion of secondary schools reporting at least one vacancy (16.4%); the highest proportions were in outer London (30.4%), the South East (26.4%) and the East of England (25.3%).
  • The number of qualified teachers leaving for reasons other than retirement increased by 2.1 percentage points from 6.0% (25,260) of the qualified workforce in 2011 to 8.1% (34,910) in 2016.

Conclusions and recommendations: 

  • The Department has failed to get a grip on teacher retention
    • Recommendation: The Department should, by April 2018, set out and communicate a coherent plan for how it will support schools to retain and develop the teaching workforce.
  • Workload is the main reason why teachers leave the profession but the Department has not set out what impact it is seeking to achieve from its interventions on this issue.
    • Recommendation: The Department should work with others in the school sector to set out what is an acceptable level of teacher workload, monitor through its periodic surveys of teachers the impact of its actions to reduce unnecessary workload, and identify possible further interventions.
  • The cost of living, in particular, housing costs, is making it difficult to recruit and retain teachers in some parts of the country.
    • Recommendation: The Department should set out how it will take account of the housing requirements for teachers, particularly in high-cost areas, in order to support recruitment and retention.
  • Teachers are not getting enough good quality continuing professional development throughout their career, which has implications for teacher retention and quality and ultimately for pupil outcomes.
    • Recommendation: The Department should write to us by April 2018 setting out its plans for improving the quality of CPD available to teachers, its expectations for how much CPD teachers should undertake and how improvements in CPD will be paid for.


Educating the North

The Northern Power House Partnership has released a report looking at education in the north and making recommendations to the education system which would help improve the productivity gap.

Key recommendations

  • There should be an initial £300m Increase in government funding for disadvantaged areas across the North, creating place-based funds integrated with other services such as health visitors and voluntary sector providers, ensuring every child is school-ready by age five.
  • Reform Pupil Premium to better target funding for disadvantage by allocating more to pupils eligible for free school meals throughout their schooling, addressing the most entrenched barriers to social mobility
  • A longer-term government commitment to Opportunity Areas – a Northern Powerhouse Schools Improvement Board to be established, drawing together existing funding with a dedicated 10-year fund to allow for further Opportunity Areas in the North. In particular, this needs to urgently address the lack of Opportunity Areas in the North East.
  • Simplify the Northern Regional Schools Commissioners areas to establish three: North West, Yorkshire and North East & Cumbria, working within frameworks and plans set by the Northern Powerhouse Schools Improvement Board. These would make the final decision on regional funding streams for school improvement, challenging poor performance in Multi Academy Trusts, reallocating schools to those with the capability and identifying schools that need rebuilding.
  • Every Northern business to mentor or otherwise meaningfully reach out on careers and enterprise skills to at least the same number of young people as they have employees, from the age of 11. This would see 900,000 young people given work experience. We already have examples of Northern businesses exceeding this commitment with Manchester Airport Group reaching 10,000 young people from their 2,500 colleagues.


Omnibus Survey of Pupils and their Parents/Carers

The DfE has released a report that draws together the findings from the third wave of the omnibus survey of pupils and their parents/carers in England, which was conducted by Kantar Public on behalf of the Department for Education


Key findings

  • The vast majority of both pupils (90%) and parents/carers (88%) ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that the school makes it clear how it expects pupils to behave
  • Three-quarters of parents/carers (75%) ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that their child’s school would involve them to help find a solution if there was a problem with their child’s behaviour
  • Most parents/carers ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that they know how to look after their child’s mental health (83%). This was higher than the proportion of pupils who ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that they know enough about how to look after their own mental health (71%)
  • 12% of parents/carers said that they considered their child to have a special educational need or disability
    • More than a third (39%) of these parents/carers said that their child had a statement/Education Health and Care (EHC) plan/Learning Difficulty Assessment
  • More than half (55%) of parents/carers said ‘I feel that most teachers at the school/college know how to support my child’
  • A large majority of pupils in Year 9 and above (95%) said they had heard of the GCSE reforms to replace the old A* - G grading with new grades 9 – 1. The proportion was only slightly lower among parents/carers of pupils in Year 9 and above (89%)
  • Awareness of Progress 8 among parents/carers has increased over time, from 14% in wave 1, and 19% in wave 2 to 30% in wave 3

About the report

  • Data was collected from pupils in years 7-13 in state-funded secondary schools in England as well as their parent/carers. This included pupils in school sixth forms but not pupils from further education or sixth form colleges.
  • Fieldwork for wave 1 was conducted between July 4th and August 22nd 2016. Overall, a total of 1,723 paired parent/carer pupil questionnaires were completed (22% response rate). Fieldwork for wave 2 was conducted between November 23rd 2016 and January 16th 2017, and included 1,595 paired parent/carer pupil questionnaires (23% response rate). Fieldwork for wave 3 was conducted between July 11th and August 30th 2017, and includes 1,504 paired interviews (21% response rate).


Internships - Unpaid, unadvertised, unfair

The Sutton Trust has released a report looking at the unfairness of internships on young people. The report explains Internships are the new rung on the professional ladder. For the most sought-after professions especially, they are increasingly seen as a requirement before a young person is offered their first job. However, too often internships are unpaid and not openly advertised. For young people who cannot afford to work for free, and for those who do not have the networks with which to secure a placement informally, internships are acting as a barrier to the best careers - and to social mobility 

Key findings

  • Even if transport costs are provided, their new analysis shows the minimum cost of carrying out an internship in London unpaid is £1,019 per month (or £827 in Manchester).
  • Although there has been some progress since their last report on the subject, organisations continue to offer internships which are unpaid and offer internships without formally advertising them.
  • Current research suggests that over 40% of young people who have carried out an internship have done at least one of them unpaid.
  • The most recent government estimate is that there are 70,000 interns in the UK at any one time, although there is no newer estimate available than 2010. In 2017, 11,000 internships were found to be advertised online, but much more are likely to have been offered unadvertised
  • New Sutton Trust analysis of the most recent HESA data suggests that roughly 10,000 graduates are carrying out an internship at six months post-graduation, with 20% of them doing so unpaid.
  • There are concerns that some employers are either unaware that their interns should be paid, or that some employers are exploiting the lack of clarity in the law to avoid paying their interns.



1. All internships longer than one month should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.
2. Internship positions should be advertised publicly, rather than being filled informally
3. Recruitment processes should be fair, transparent and based on merit.


Meeting the health and wellbeing needs of young carers

The LGA have released a report looking at the wellbeing of young carers and some of the disadvantages they face. The report looks at what can be done to tackle inequalities. Councils are under a legal duty to identify young carers and carry out assessments that consider the impact on the child and whole family. But finding those young carers is tricky. The last census puts the official figure for young carers at nearly 170,000. However, there is an understanding that the figure could be higher than that. 

The report looks at different LAs and what they are doing to support young carers.

Key findings

  • Schools are vital. Getting them signed up to the national Young Carers in Schools programme is a way of getting them engaged, but they must be supported to achieve the standards
  • A whole family approach is key. When assessing a young person’s needs check whether the individual they are caring for is entitled to more support to minimise the young person’s caring burden.
  • Get adult and children’s social care teams working as one
  • Ensure the voices of young people are heard either through a forum, council or some other mechanism.
  • Provide training to the wider workforce – schools, GPs, health visitors, school nurses and hospital staff – and consider incorporating key message about young carers into other training programmes, such as safeguarding courses.
  • Work with other services. Family support workers, substance misuse teams, mental health teams and school nurses all provide valuable help that can complement the work of young carers services.


Key statistics used by the report

  • 166,363 young carers in England – a fifth higher than a decade previously
  • 1 in 12 young carers is caring for more than 15 hours a week
  • 1 in 20 misses school because of their caring responsibilities
  • Young carers are 1.5 times more likely to have a long-term illness, special educational needs or a disability
  • Young carers are 1.5 times more likely to be from an ethnic minority community
  • Average annual income for families with a young carer is £5,000 less than families do not have a young carer
  • Young carers providing over 50 hours of care a week are up to five times more likely to report their general health as ‘not good’
  • 4 in 10 young carers report feeling sad in the past week


Other recent reports