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Research round-up (23 July 2018)

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

Turning heads: The impact of political reform on the professional role, identity and recruitment of head teachers in Wales

Cardiff University examines issues around head teacher recruitment in Wales and explores the changing nature of the role following the reform changes made in 2011. Using interviews from head teachers around Wales, they argue that the intensive changes to policy reform have forced head teachers to re-examine their role within the school. The main points found were:

  • Head teachers feel increased levels of scrutiny and accountability and are driven by the system and its processes. Concern was expressed over the paperwork and data required.
  • Frustration was voiced over the ways of measuring data, with one head teacher advising ‘not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted’.
  • Head teachers were unsure about where support for them lay within the multi-layers structural system.
  • The role of a head teacher is slowly moving towards an ‘organised professional’ and business manager that takes on increased accountability and undergoes further scrutiny.

The report recommends that the Welsh government introduces policies to support head teacher development and therefore help confirm their position.  They also suggest ways to reduce head teachers' administration responsibilities, such as implementing ‘a reduction in accountability mechanisms’.


School funding per pupil falls faster in England than in Wales

Research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that between 2009-2010 and 2017-2018 total school spending per pupil in England fell by about 8% in real terms, which compares with about 5% in Wales’. The report found that local authorities (LA) in England are spending less which has resulted in the gap between England and Wales in pupil spending closing. The main findings found were:

  • The increase in pupil numbers in England created greater pressure on LA budgets.
  • Direct funding to schools has increased by 7% in real terms.


Public Accounts Commission identifies several failings in recent academies

As of January 2018, the Department for Education (DfE) has converted 72% of secondary schools and 27% of primary schools to academies. But a report conducted by the Public Accounts Commission (PAC) has found that the DfE did not vet the schools thoroughly enough in the application process. The report raises concerns over the DfE ‘failing to give a clear sense of direction for maintained schools, academies, local authorities, pupils and parents’ while the policy for converting schools to academies remains unclear.


Obesity, healthy eating and physical activity in primary schools

With the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring obesity one of the ‘most serious public health challenges of the 21st century’, Ofsted has published an in-depth review into what schools are doing to combat this issue. Oftsed examined 60 primary schools and interviewed staff, parents and pupils while also speaking with professionals. The review covers all aspects including what is in the curriculum (such as sport, PE and healthy eating) while also looking at what facilities the school has (such as drinking water), analysis on school meals compared to packed lunches and how much water children are drinking. It concludes with findings and observations from other studies.

Multi-agency report looks at the neglect in older children and how this can be avoided 

The Care Quality Commission has released a report in conjunction with Ofsted that examines how agencies in local areas address the neglect of older children (aged seven to fifteen). The main points found were:

  • The neglect of older children is often difficult to identify. This may be because they want to spend time away from a neglectful home and may be more susceptible to going missing.
  • Older children still require parental care and guidance and various agencies were not able to recognise that further communication with the parents was required.
  • The report recommends a ‘whole system approach’ where services work with adults who have mental health issues, substance abuse or offending behaviour that may pose a risk to the children. They found that often these services weren’t acknowledging the whole family when working with an individual and the effects they may have on the children.
  • Children who are neglected have usually had some form of past abuse or trauma in their lives, this can then manifest itself as post-traumatic stress disorder later in life. The report recognises that many local services had implemented trauma training for staff and noticed that many staff members were building meaningful relationships with the children.
  • Due to many independent services helping the children (such as health, youth work and social care), a coordinated approach is vital to the quality of care the child receives. The report noticed where agencies were actively communicating with each other, there was shared ownership of training and helping while parents would be challenged about their neglectful parenting.

The report concludes that while local services are working hard to combat the issue of child neglect, they are focusing on younger children. More focus needs to be paid to older children, including identifying issues early on and then responding appropriately.


A detailed blog post from Education Datalab examines the idea that Ofsted are biased against schools with predominantly disadvantaged white British children

In recent weeks, Ofsted has been accused of bias against schools with a large population of disadvantaged white children. Datalab says that schools with these numbers are less likely to be judged as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, while Ofsted argues that this is because ‘the quality of education in such schools tends to be poorer’. They also point to the fact that schools in economically deprived areas are unable to recruit suitably qualified teachers. But Datalab states that pupils have been found to achieve poor Progress 8 scores, regardless of which school they go to. The article quotes school leaders who say that the Progress 8 system is biased against disadvantaged children, especially those who have English as a second language. The report concludes by providing and analysing the data of schools judged by Progress 8 score at the time of inspection.


Latest research suggests formative assessments can increase a child’s results by two months

The Education Endowment Foundation has found evidence that formative assessments in schools can increase a child’s results. A trial, conducted by the foundation, found pupils who were enrolled in the ‘embedding formative assessment’ trial made the equivalent of two months additional progress. Progress was measured using the Attainment 8 GCSE scores, with results having a very high security rating.


Using data to inform and evaluate antibullying

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission contains advice and guidance on how schools in England, Scotland and Wales can use data to monitor and prevent bullying. The guide covers: creating an anti-bullying culture in schools, finding ways for students and staff to report bullying incidents, finding ways to record and review the data on bullying, and communicating anti-bullying messages.


1,000 pupils from poorer homes miss out on top grades at GCSE each year

Findings from the Sutton Trust have found that ‘students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to be in the top 10% for attainment in English and maths at the end of primary school’. While the disadvantaged children who do perform strongly at primary school are much more likely to underperform at secondary school. The report concludes by offering recommendations to tackle these results.

Also this fortnight:

  • The campaign group ‘Comprehensive Future’ released figures that show 35 grammar schools are planning to expand under the Government’s £50m Selective School Expansion Fund scheme.
  • YouGov data released this week shows that ‘one in four children believe SATs results will affect future job prospects’.