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Research round-up (21 May 2018)

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

NSPCC reports on school referrals to CAMHS

In the climate of rising demand for mental health support across the NHS, schools and the voluntary sector,  the NSPCC’s freedom of information (FOI) request to NHS Trusts in England found the following:

  • The number of referrals by schools seeking mental health treatment for pupils has shot up by more than a third in the last three years
  • 123,713 referrals were made by schools seeking professional mental health help between 2014/15 and 2017/18
  • Where information was provided about the outcome of the referral, it showed that almost one-third were declined specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) treatment
  • On average, 183 referrals were made per school day in 2017/18
  • 56 per cent of referrals came from primary schools.  

LSE's study shows the impact of increased competition within the education system  

A new study from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) examined the impact of increased access to autonomous schools, such as academies, faith schools and private schools. 

Researchers found the inclusion of independently-operated schools in education systems increases choice and therefore competition, which raises academic performance, but has considerable negative effects on pupils' well-being.

When analysing the reasons behind this, the researchers found that increased competition sharpens schools’ focus on academic achievement, leading to the adoption of learning tools which, although academically effective, are not necessarily inspiring or enjoyable for pupils.

The researchers warn more work is needed in this area to draw strong conclusions, but the analysis suggests there is a trade-off between the attainment goals of education policy and the well-being agenda, to which policymakers should pay attention. 

About the data

The study used pupil data on 15-year-olds across 34 OECD countries, including the UK. The researchers analysed pupils' well-being and academic efficiency. 

Independent schools' council's census and annual report 2018

Executive summary 

  • There are a record 529,164 pupils at 1,326 ISC's members' schools (up from 522,879 in 2017)
  • Overseas pupils account for 5.4 per cent of all pupils (compared with 5.3 per cent last year)
  • Boarding pupils account for 13.2 per cent of all pupils (compared with 13.4 per cent last year)
  • 75.7 per cent of pupils attend co-educational schools (75 per cent last year)
  • A higher proportion of pupils with SEND was recorded this year (15 per cent of all ISC's members' pupils are recorded as having a SEND compared with 13.7 per cent last year). This might reflect the redesign of this section of the census this year
  • There are nearly 60,000 full-time equivalent teachers at ISC's members' schools, equating to a pupil-teacher ratio of 9:1 (compared with a pupil-teacher ratio in the state sector of 18:1)
  • This year, 449 teachers from outside the UK came to teach in ISC's members' schools.  

Impact of extracurricular activities

The Journal Sport, Education and Society published results of academic research into the impact of extracurricular activities, based on interviews with parents and children from 62 families living in and around a small city in the north-west of England.

The researchers recognised that parents are particularly keen to ensure their children get on in life, and by facilitating their children’s participation in organised activities, they hoped their children would benefit in both the short term (by keeping them fit and healthy, and helping them to develop friendship groups) and long term (by improving their job prospects).

However, the research highlighted the reality could be somewhat different. While children might experience some of these benefits, a busy, organised activity schedule can put considerable strain on parents' resources and families' relationships, as well as potentially harm children's development and well-being. 

  • The vast majority of interviewed families had children who were involved in some sort of extracurricular activity - such as music lessons or team sports – four out of the five days during the week (88 per cent)
  • An additional 57 per cent of those children even had more than one activity occurring on the same evening.

The researchers say extracurricular activities can easily dominate family life in cases like these, especially if families have more than one child. Sharon Wheeler, one of the authors, suggests that families take a careful look at how extracurricular activities are affecting home life to see if children should scale back. 

Also this week 

  • The Department for Education provides case studies on the mental health provision of 36 schools, colleges and other educational institutions across England
  • The Education Datalab looks at the link between key stage one attainment and key stage four outcomes.