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Research round-up (9 July 2018)

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

Minds Ahead reports on challenges and ways forward in youth mental health

An extensive report, undertaken by Minds Ahead, outlines the current issues of young people's mental health and what, if any, accountabilities schools should be taking. The report offers statistics showing why change is needed, how the current system looks now, the causes and possible solutions.

The report notes that more focus is being paid to physical health in schools and the gap between children’s fitness and mental wellbeing is gradually widening. Statistics provided show that 75% of mental health issues begin before the age of 18 and without professional help, this can have a knock-on effect later in life. Mental health issues in young people are increasing year-on-year and if left unaddressed, can cause a drop in school attendance as well as a drop in overall happiness levels. Data supplied by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that suicide is the leading cause of death between five to nineteen-year-olds.

Extensive screen time, anxiety related to teenagers' socioeconomic positions and constant scrutiny from peers are all possible causes of the increase in mental wellbeing cases. But access to support, lack of funding and lack of resources is the main issue say Minds Ahead. They offer examples of cases where young people who attempted suicide were not deemed serious enough for access to professional support. In cases like these, schools do not know how or where sufficient support is available to direct the child (and their families) to. The relationship between mental health, safeguarding and special education needs is near non-existent, and the links between all three should be more explicit. Due to cases not being directed to professional help and therefore bottle-necking at schools, the government will likely miss most of their mental health targets.

Based on this evidence, Minds Ahead suggest the following (among others):

  • Mental health specialists working within the schools, therefore catching children with issues before they enter the system.
  • Campaigns and out-reach programmes aimed specifically at both children and their families to help remove the stigma around requesting help concerned with mental health.
  • The government to ensure that school funding keeps pace with yearly costs and increasing pupil numbers.


Assessment of the Return to Teaching pilot programme

The Return to Teaching pilot programme was set up in 2015 by the National College for Teaching and Leadership to help combat the recruitment shortfalls seen in secondary education. The programme was developed to recruit already qualified teachers who were no longer working in the public sector and to support them in their return to public school teaching. The evaluation outlines who were the returning teachers, what incentives and support were offered and how successful the campaign was.

  • Findings from teachers interested in returning to teach showed the majority left to raise a family or pursue a different career. Reasons given as to why they had not returned showed a lack of recent experience and concerns about workload.
  • Initial predictions estimated that 3,000 leavers would register their interest, in practice over 5,000 expressed an interest. Of these, 354 received support to return but only 62 were offered a full-time position at a state-funded school.
  • Final conclusions found that the pilot was successful in attracting interest and registrations, however, the number of teachers who were offered a full-time role was lower than expected. They found the cost of retraining a leaver was equivalent to that of training a new teacher and therefore did not represent value for money. The report shows positive aspects however and will be useful in designing similar schemes in the future.

The Education Policy Institute explains why caution is needed when taking statistics on schools at face value

Jon Andrews, of the Education Policy Institute, offers insight into why general statistics on school performance should be treated with caution, and delves into the detail behind the line that ‘1.9 million more children are in good or outstanding schools’. He makes the following points:

  • Increases in the pupil population and shifts in the schools pupils attend account for 578,000 of the increase in the number of pupils attending good or outstanding schools - over a quarter of the total. 
  • 579,000 pupils attend schools that are rated as good or outstanding but have not been inspected since 2010
  • Statistics chosen to be used are those that get the point across quickly and are something that ministers want to say, but usually, have a long list of caveats and explanatory notes the statisticians would prefer to be attached.



Local government funding: moving the conversation on

Funding to local government health and social services is being increasingly cut year-on-year, says a report published by the Local Government Association. They cite evidence that predicts ‘local services [will] face a £7.8 billion funding gap by 2025’ and argue that for libraries to stay open, recycling plants to remain active and streets to be cleaned, local government authorities require further investment.


Local area SEND inspections: one year on

A joint report conducted by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) examined how local authorities are fulfilling their duties under the ‘Special education needs and disability (SEND) code of practice: 0-25 years’. Thirty LAs have been reviewed up until this point and the report found failures in SEND identified children receiving the necessary support and lack of access to therapy services.  But the review positively notes that children’s SEND needs were identified early on and parents felt involved in the process. Out of the 30 examinations, inspectors had serious concerns with nine of them and therefore required a written statement of action from those nine. Significant concerns ranged from weak leadership to poor delivery of services. Parent feedback stated that they felt left out of the planning of their child’s requirements and lacked confidence in local leader’s abilities to implement these provisions.

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

This research article developed by Cardiff University provides a strong voice for developing professional ‘agency’ when embedding reform and suggests that ‘governance through data’ is an ultimately disempowering process and distraction. The report draws a number of interesting conclusions, many of which could be used within policy development across other countries school leadership including Wales, NI and England.

Also this fortnight:

  • Improving Social Mobility published findings that found that there has been an increase in the interest of vocational careers including apprenticeships.
  • A report released by the Education and Training Foundation identifies the training needs and professional development of early years teaching staff.
  • The Education Datalab analysed the reasons why female teachers are paid less than men.
  • Results released from a Disabled Children’s Partnership survey show a decline in health and social care quality year-on-year.
  • The University College London (UCL) has examined how schools are responding to the government’s ‘self-improving school-led system’ (SISS).
  • Ofqual has reviewed the recent changes to the AS Levels and released their findings in a report.
  • The Education Datalab has written a series of blogs examining the reasons why children drop out of the education system and are not recorded again.