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Research round-up (4 May 2018)

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

Meta-cognition and self-regulated learning – practical recommendations

The Education Endowment Foundation reports on ‘metacognition and self-regulation’ - terminology it recognises can be hard to relate to what happens in the classroom, but which on a very basic level is about pupils’ ability to monitor, direct and review their learning. The report offers seven practical, evidence-based recommendations to support teachers to develop metacognitive knowledge and skills in their pupils.

The guidance is relevant to early years practitioners, teachers and senior leaders in primary and secondary schools as well as those in post-16 settings. 

Each recommendation below is accompanied in the report by specific examples designed to bring the work alive for teachers.           

  • Teachers should acquire the professional understanding and skills to develop their pupils’ metacognitive knowledge
  • Explicitly teach pupils metacognitive strategies, including how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning
  • Model your thinking to help pupils to develop their metacognitive and cognitive skills
  • Set an appropriate level of challenge to develop pupils’ self-regulation and metacognition
  • Promote and develop metacognitive talk in the classroom
  • Explicitly teach pupils how to organise and effectively manage their learning independently.

Evaluation of Place2Be’s counselling service in primary schools

Place2Be is a children’s mental health charity that provides in-school support and training to improve the emotional well-being of pupils, families and staff in primary and secondary schools. Pro Bono Economics (PBE), in association with Dr Alan Little (economic advisor at the Department for Education), reports on the effectiveness of Place2Be's one-to-one counselling service in primary schools - weekly sessions with a trained counsellor that are tailored to each child's needs. 

Key findings 

  • Providing counselling services in primary schools could lead to improved outcomes in the form of reduced rates of truancy, exclusion, smoking, depression and crime; and higher rates of employment and wages
  • Every £1 invested in the service in 2016/17 resulted in benefits of £6.20 in terms of improved long-term outcomes
  • The estimated benefit of counselling is £25.9m for all the children who received it in 2016/17 compared with a cost of £4.2m for the service
  • The potential benefit per child from counselling is more than £5,700 per child, including a saving of more than £2,000 per child for government.

About the data 

The results are based on several assumptions detailed in the report, two of which are particularly important to highlight: 

  1. The estimate of benefits is based on a forecast of improvements across several later life outcomes for children who received counselling in 2016/17 rather than on actual observed outcomes for these children. We assume the linkages between improved mental health in early years and later outcomes for children who received counselling in this year are similar to those found in the retrospective studies we rely on in this study
  2. The estimate of benefits includes a 50 per cent reduction to allow for the possibility that some children who received counselling would have got better anyway and the potential fading out of initial improvements in mental health after counselling. This is a broad assumption and the true importance of these effects is uncertain given the evidence available. 

Building trusts: MAT leadership and coherence of vision, strategy and operations

Ambition School Leadership (ASL) shares the results of its research into what high-performing MATs do and what choices their leaders make, so the leaders of trusts that are starting their development journey can learn from those who have gone before them.

Trusts of all sizes were involved in the research, but ASL sees its findings as most vital for CEOs of small and medium-size MATs, their trustees and schools considering joining MATs.

Questions asked

  • How does a MAT’s vision translate into its school improvement strategy and operating model?
  • How are a MAT’s strategy and operations affected by growth?
  • What differentiates high and low performers? 

Key findings

  • Higher performing trusts appear more likely to cite standards and outcomes explicitly when defining their overall vision
  • Two dominant approaches emerged on how to deliver school improvement: preserving the autonomy of individual schools, or achieving consistent teaching and pedagogy across schools
  • MAT leaders that choose a school improvement strategy of achieving consistent teaching and pedagogy will need to achieve alignment across their schools. They have to make a cultural choice about whether to achieve this through central direction or collaborative convergence. These approaches are not mutually exclusive; different approaches can be used in different areas of alignment
  • MAT operating models face ‘break points’. This is a moment of non-incremental change where a MAT has to stop a previous operational approach and make a shift. MAT leaders have to look ahead to adapt their operating model to future context and needs.

About the data gathering

ASL engaged with more than 40 MAT CEOs through case studies and interviews, and surveyed the staff from 22 trusts. 

Vulnerable children and social care in England

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) issued a review of the evidence relating to vulnerable children, exploring trends in the number of children in need, issues relating to staffing and funding, and the educational and long-term outcomes for children in contact with social services. 

Key findings           

  • Latest official statistics show there are 389,430 children in need (CIN) in England. These are children deemed unlikely to achieve reasonable health and development without the provision of services, including those with a disability
  • Since 2010 at least, there has been a rise in the numbers of children in need issued with child protection plans and council care orders
  • The increase in these more acute forms of monitoring and intervention is occurring in spite of staff-reported increases in thresholds for access to services
  • To maintain statutory services, local authorities have balanced a fall in local spending power since 2010 with cuts to early support services combined with the use of budget reserves
  • Social care staffing is showing signs of strain, and different parts of the country have adapted differently to the challenging context
  • Social worker change has been linked to a loss of trust among children in need. More positively, the number of starters was substantially higher in 2017 compared with previous years
  • The effects of the adverse childhood experiences that lead to social care intervention stretch well into adulthood, and they include mental health difficulties and crime
  • Despite efforts to prioritise looked after children in schools, through virtual school heads and the LAC pupil premium, their experiences are still characterised by instability and poor outcomes
  • Within this concerning picture, there is hope that longer-term stable care placements can result in better outcomes, including a lower chance of permanent exclusion from school.


  • With child poverty projected to increase, the strains on the system are unlikely to decrease without significant additional spending
  • Research suggests the most affected parts of the country are those that have already borne the brunt of cuts to preventative services. If the risk of further deteriorating child outcomes is to be averted, services will need to be sufficiently resourced to tackle the underlying connections between poverty and child protection risk.

Also this fortnight 

  • The Resolution Foundation looks at the role of human capital development in underpinning living standards progress, informed by discussion around technical education and skills
  • The EPI examines pressures in the teacher labour market
  • The Sutton Trust surveyed academy leaders in England and found nearly half believe the autonomy associated with their status has either had no effect or a negative impact in the classroom.