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Research round-up 24 November 2017

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

Education Policy Institute has published a report, ‘Free Schools in England,’ that seeks to assess the outcomes of the free schools programme using data on parental preferences, attainment and progress, inspection outcomes, and access measures.

Key findings 

  • Access to free schools
    • Free schools still represent just two per cent of all state-funded schools
    • Two-thirds of areas in England are not within a reasonable travel distance of either a primary or secondary free school
    • Free school growth has been greatest in the areas most in need of new school places, but the report finds significant numbers in areas where there is already an excess number of places  
  • The characteristics of free school pupils and their local communities
    • Pupils in free schools are more likely to have a first language other than English than pupils in other state-funded schools, and they are much less likely to be from white British backgrounds
    • The data suggests free schools, particularly primary free schools, are not necessarily attracting disadvantaged pupils in the proportions that might be expected given the communities they serve
  • The performance of free schools
    • There is insufficient data to reach robust conclusions on the effectiveness of free schools in terms of Ofsted outcomes and pupil attainment and progress. Both currently have serious limitations as to the extent to which they can be taken to be a measure of the effectiveness of the programme
    • Primary free schools have a similar propensity to be good or outstanding as other school types, but the proportion rated as outstanding is nearly double that of all state-funded primary schools
    • Ofsted outcomes suggest little difference between secondary free schools and other state-funded schools
    • Special and alternative provision free schools are much less likely than other state-funded special and alternative provision schools to be rated as outstanding
    • In 2017, the 54 free schools that had pupils at the end of key stage four achieved an average Progress 8 score of +0.10. Among the major school groups, this was the joint highest Progress 8 score alongside converter academies. However, Progress 8 measures do not control for the different profile of pupil characteristics seen in free schools. 

About the data

  • The report includes analysis of the National Pupil Database, the school census, Ofsted grades, school performance tables and school preference data. In addition to primary analysis, it draws on a wide range of statistics published by the Department for Education. 

Read the full report here.

Adopted children: school exclusion 

Adoption UK has published a report on findings from a survey of adoptive parents in the UK that asks about their children’s experiences in school with a particular focus on exclusions.

Key findings

  • Twenty-three per cent of children represented had received a fixed-period exclusion, and 14.5 per cent of these had been excluded more than 10 times in their school career
  • 4.7 per cent of adopted children represented had been permanently excluded. 23.5 per cent (that's nearly a quarter) of children had been illegally informally excluded
  • Twenty-nine per cent of children had changed school as a result of their needs not being adequately met
  • Twelve per cent of children had been home educated because their needs were not being met in school
  • Twelve per cent of parents indicated that their children's schools had suggested to them that the only way to avoid permanent exclusion was to voluntarily remove their child (sometimes known as a managed move)
  • Compared with national statistics from the DfE and devolved governments, adopted children are over-represented in exclusions statistics in all nations
  • The children in the survey were permanently excluded at a rate just more than 20 times that of the general pupil population
  • The children in the survey were five times more likely to receive a fixed-term exclusion than the general pupil population. 

About the data 

  • The survey was distributed to Adoption UK members and then circulated more widely via social media and Adopter Voice networks from Thursday 12 October to Tuesday 17 October 2017. There were 2,084 responses - each relating to one individual adopted child
  • Respondents were encouraged to complete the survey for each of their children whether they had ever been excluded or not. Over three-quarters of children represented in the survey had never received a fixed-term exclusion. 

Read the full report here.

Engaging parents effectively: evaluation of the PEN Home learning project

The Sutton Trust has published an evaluation of the parental engagement network (PEN) home learning project on children’s development in nurseries. The engaging parents effectively project trained school staff to work more closely with parents and support them in helping their children to learn.

Key findings 

  • Researchers from Oxford University found that taking part in the intervention had a significant effect on the child's home learning environment, which was measured by learning activities the parents reported they do at home with their children
  • Most schools reported that the intervention had a positive effect on children’s progress in the EYFS profile outcomes
  • According to the evaluation, 90 per cent of parents found the project ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’
  • Almost all the staff (94 per cent) of the participating schools said they had gained confidence and skills in working with parents through the training and implementing the project. Schools have seen a longer-term impact on the motivation and ability of staff to work with parents too
  • Experience from previous trials has shown that recruiting and retaining parents is often challenging, but the report notes that this project has been notably successful in recruiting 84 families in the intervention schools and retaining 72 throughout the project (85 per cent families). Schools have also reported that this initial engagement has led to continued involvement by these families with the school. 

About the data 

  • Eighteen schools from Greater Manchester, which recruited 167 families, took part in PEN's Engaging Parents Effectively project, which prioritised disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds and those eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium. Half of the schools were allocated to the intervention group, while the other half to the control group. 

Read the full report here

Report on body dissatisfaction in young people

The British Youth Council has published a report that aims to understand the major drivers of body dissatisfaction in young people and recommend concrete steps the government should take to support young people to develop a positive body image.  

Key findings 

  • Body dissatisfaction affects a large proportion of young people and can have serious and long-lasting consequences for health, education and wider life outcomes
  • A number of studies have found that poor body image predicts depression, anxiety and some eating disorders. Poor body image has also been linked to young people starting and continuing with risky behaviours
  • While the report accepts that women are often particularly susceptible to body dissatisfaction, it highlights concerns that the distinctive challenges faced by young men, LGBT+ youth, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities or serious illnesses are overlooked
  • Social media can have serious and detrimental effects on the body image of young people. However, it can also promote body positivity through allowing young people to connect with individuals with similar experiences. The scale and speed with which social media has become an integral part of young people’s lives means too little is known about its impact
  • The report makes a number of key recommendations to government, including calling for adequate funding for schools so that pupils are supported in their wider well-being. 

About the data

  • The 2017 Youth Select Committee collected evidence through a number of channels, including calling for written evidence, hearing from seven panels of witnesses and drawing on UNICEF poll data. 

Read the full report here.

Also out this fortnight