Low-cost tutoring boosted struggling pupils’ maths results

An evaluation of the Education Endowment Foundation trial of Tutor Trust’s affordable tuition project found that low-cost tutoring in small groups increased maths scores for disadvantaged pupils who are working below age-expected levels in maths.

One hundred and five schools in Manchester and Leeds with double the average numbers of disadvantaged pupils participated in the effectiveness trial of the Tutor Trust project from September 2016 until July 2017. The aim of the project is to improve the maths achievement of disadvantaged pupils by providing small-group tutoring sessions with trained university students and recent graduates.

Year 6 pupils (ages 10–11) who were struggling with maths were selected by their teacher to receive extra support from Tutor Trust tutors, should their school be randomly allocated to the intervention group. The selected pupils in the intervention schools received 12 hours of additional tuition, usually one hour per week for 12 weeks, in groups of three. Pupils in the control schools continued with normal teaching. Achievement was measured using Key Stage 2 maths scores.

The report found that children who received tutoring from Tutor Trust progressed more in maths compared to children in control schools (effect size = +0.19). Among children eligible for free school meals, the effect size was +0.25. There was also some evidence that pupils with lower prior achievement tended to benefit more from the tutoring.

Source: Tutor Trust: Affordable primary tuition evaluation report and executive summary (November 2018), Education Endowment Foundation

Review of school-based interventions for children with ADHD

A systematic review published in Review of Education looks at the evidence from randomised controlled trials of the effectiveness of interventions for children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in school settings.

Twenty-eight studies were included in the review and were sorted into eight categories of school-based intervention for ADHD. They were analysed for effectiveness according to a range of different ADHD symptoms, difficulties and school outcomes. The eight categories of intervention were: combined/multiple component; cognitive training; daily report card; neuro-feedback; relaxation; self-monitoring; study and organisation skills training; and task modification.

The strongest evidence of beneficial effects was found for interventions that combine multiple components. There was a large effect size (+0.79) for improved ADHD symptoms rated by teachers and parents, and a small effect size (+0.30) for parent- and teacher-rated academic outcomes.

Interventions involving daily report cards also showed some promise for academic outcomes (effect size = +0.68). There was a beneficial effect on academic outcomes for neuro-feedback interventions, and mixed findings for relaxation and self-monitoring interventions.

Source: School‐based interventions for attention‐deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A systematic review with multiple synthesis methods (October 2018), Review of Education Volume 6, Issue 3

Does mindfulness training work for young people?

A meta-analysis published in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry aims to establish the efficacy of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) for children.

Darren Dunning and colleagues carried out a systematic literature search of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of MBIs conducted up to October 2017. Thirty-three studies (3,666 children, ages 18 years or younger) were included in the meta-analysis, with outcome measures categorised into cognitive, behavioural, and emotional. In addition, a separate meta-analysis was completed for 17 RCTs (1,762 children) that had an active control condition (ie, something else that might be expected to benefit participants, but did not include mindfulness).

Across all RCTs, the researchers found small positive effects of MBIs, compared with control groups, for all measures (overall effect size = +0.19). In particular, MBIs led to greater improvements for mindfulness (effect size = +0.24), executive functions (effect size = +0.30), and attention (effect size = +0.13). However, for the RCTs with active control groups, children who completed an MBI improved significantly more than those in the active control groups on outcomes of mindfulness (effect size = +0.42), depression (effect size = +0.47), and anxiety/stress (effect size = +0.18) only.

Source: Research review: The effects of mindfulness‐based interventions on cognition and mental health in children and adolescents – a meta‐analysis of randomized controlled trials (October 2018), The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry doi:10.1111/jcpp.12980

Reviewing the evidence on career and technical education

A new report by Rachel Rosen and colleagues at MDRC reviews the available research evidence supporting various types of career and technical education (CTE) programmes, examining both the amount of evidence available in each area and its level of rigour. The report details several CTE programme types (eg, instruction and training, apprenticeships and readiness skills training) and provides a literature review of the available evidence to support each programme type.

Key findings were as follows:

  • The most evidence exists for CTE course work and training. In that area, there are multiple studies suggesting that participation in CTE can improve pupils’ outcomes. In addition, multiple studies found that career-related certificates and associate’s degrees are linked to increased wages.
  • Several career pathway models, particularly career academies and early college high schools, are also supported by strong, rigorous studies that provide evidence of positive benefits for pupils.
  • The evidence for other models and for individual programme components is weaker. The authors suggest that these models and components probably need to be evaluated further.

Source: Career and technical education current policy, prominent programs, and evidence (September 2018), MDRC

Small class size has at best a small effect on academic achievement

Reducing class size is often suggested as a way of improving pupil performance. However evidence from a new Campbell systematic review suggests that reducing class size has at best only a very small effect.

The review summarises findings from relevant studies that measured the effects of class size on academic achievement. A total of 127 studies were analysed, including 45 studies that used data from the US Student Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) programme that reduced class sizes substantially in kindergarten to grade 3 (Years 1 to Year 4). However only ten studies, including four of the STAR programme, could be included in the meta-analysis.

Their analysis focused on effects on maths and reading and found a small positive effect of reducing class size on pupils’ reading achievement and a negative, but statistically insignificant, effect on maths. For reading, the weighted average effect size was +0.11, and the weighted average effect size for maths was -0.03.

For the four studies using data from the STAR programme, the researchers found a positive effect of smaller class sizes for both reading and maths. However, the average effect sizes were still very small and do not change the overall finding.

Source: Small class sizes for improving student achievement in primary and secondary schools: a systematic review (October 2018), Campbell Systematic Reviews 2018:10

Do children who are born prematurely struggle more at school?

A study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood looks at whether children who are born prematurely (at 23–36 weeks) are more likely to struggle in school compared to their full-term peers.

David Odd and colleagues used data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) (a longitudinal population-based cohort study that enrolled pregnant women in 1991 and 1992) to examine how the educational progress of children who are born prematurely varies from their peers throughout school, and to what extent they catch up over time.

The study found that, on average, premature children had lower test scores at Key Stage 1 (5–7 years), and continued to perform below their peers throughout school However, there was some evidence of catching up between Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 (age 7 to 11 years), particularly among children with the lowest scores. Between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4 (14-16 years) premature children progressed at a similar rate as their peers.

There was little evidence that closing the gap between KS1 and KS2 was explained by special education support. The authors point out that educating premature children in their correct school year for their expected birth date may be a cost-effective way of supporting them, and also highlight the importance of early schooling and environment for these children.Source: Prediction of school outcome after preterm birth: a cohort study (October 2018), Archives of Disease in Childhood doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2018-315441