Parenting app has positive impact on children’s development

A new randomised controlled trial of EasyPeasy, conducted by the University of Oxford’s Department of Education and published by the Sutton Trust, suggests that the EasyPeasy app had moderate positive effects on children’s concentration levels, determination and ability to make their own decisions, as well as parents’ sense of control.

EasyPeasy is a smartphone app for the parents and caregivers of children ages 2 – 6 that aims to improve school readiness by encouraging positive play and parent–child interaction. A total of 302 families with children ages 3 – 4 were recruited from eight children’s centres in the London borough of Newham. The eight centres were randomly assigned to either the intervention group or comparison group. All families in the intervention centres were given access to the EasyPeasy app, and games were sent via the app once a week over the three-month duration of the intervention.

Families in the intervention group scored higher than those in the comparison group on two parent-reported outcomes: children’s cognitive self-regulation (effect size = +0.35) and parents’ sense of control (effect size = +0.26). Parents reported that they felt more able to get their child to behave well and respond to boundaries, as well as feeling more able to stay calm when facing difficulties.

However, because of the self-report measures used in the evaluation, the researchers note that caution must be exercised when interpreting the results from the study.

These findings build on similar results from an earlier evaluation of EasyPeasy, which showed some positive benefits for children’s cognitive self-regulation and parents’ sense of control.

Source: EasyPeasy: Evaluation in Newham findings from the Sutton Trust Parental Engagement Fund (PEF) project (April 2018), The Sutton Trust

Best schools in England continue to be highly socially selective

A report published by the Sutton Trust reveals that 85% of England’s top comprehensive schools are more socially selective than the average state school. However, schools where pupils make the most progress are much less so.

The report looks at the social composition of England’s top 500 comprehensive schools, based on GCSE attainment, and finds that the top-performing schools take just 9.4% of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), which is just over half the rate of the average comprehensive (17.2%). About half of this gap is due to the location of high-attaining schools in catchment areas with lower numbers of disadvantaged pupils, but the rest is due to social selection in admissions occurring even within those neighbourhoods.

Among the best schools measured by the Department for Education’s new ‘Progress 8’ measure, which focuses on gains, Carl Cullinane and colleagues find that FSM rates are much closer to the national average (15.2%), and that they are less socially selective, with a third of these schools admitting more FSM pupils than their catchment area.

There are indications of improvement in the numbers of disadvantaged pupils attending top schools, with the average 9.4% FSM rate up from 7.6% in 2013. In that year, 57% of the best schools had FSM rates lower than six per cent, but the number below that mark has fallen to 39%.

Source:  Selective comprehensives 2017: Admissions to high-attaining non-selective schools for disadvantaged pupils (March 2017) The Sutton Trust

Three-year achievement gap between poor pupils and their better-off peers

Research published by the Sutton Trust shows that for schools in the UK, the achievement gap in maths, science and reading between the top-performing pupils from low and high socio-economic backgrounds is around two years and eight months.

Global Gaps by Dr John Jerrim of the UCL Institute of Education analyses the 2015 test scores from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) PISA tests to assess how well the top 10% of pupils in the UK’s schools are doing. In England, the highest-achieving pupils score above the median score for OECD countries in maths, science and reading. However, in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, high-achieving pupils perform, on average, below the OECD median scores.

For girls in England, the achievement gap in science and reading is even greater. High-achieving girls from low socio-economic backgrounds are around three years behind their more advantaged, high-achieving peers. This is around eight months greater than the equivalent gap for boys for science, and nine months greater for reading. There is no significant gender difference in maths, with an achievement gap of around two years and nine months for both girls and boys.

Source: Global Gaps: Comparing socio-economic gaps in the performance of highly able UK pupils internationally (February 2017), The Sutton Trust

Better parenting for school readiness – there’s an app for that

A randomised controlled trial carried out by the University of Oxford’s Department of Education and published by the Sutton Trust tested EasyPeasy, a smartphone app for the parents and carers of two- to six-year-old children. EasyPeasy aims to improve school readiness by encouraging positive play and interaction with young children.

The trial, which lasted 18 weeks, was carried out in eight children’s centres in Bournemouth with 144 families taking part. Games were sent directly to parents’ mobiles via an app once a week along with tailored prompts, encouragement, reminders, and information on child development.

The study reported significant findings for two out of seven outcome measures. Parents who took part in the intervention reported improvements in their children’s persistence and concentration (cognitive self-regulation). Parental consistency with discipline and boundaries also increased in the intervention group with parents feeling more comfortable setting limits for behaviour and following through on expectations. Both showed positive effect sizes; 0.51 and 0.44 respectively.

Source: EasyPeasy parenting app: Findings from an e­fficacy trial on parent engagement and school readiness skills (2016), The Sutton Trust

Talented poor pupils missing out on GCSE success

A new research brief from the Sutton Trust has shown that talented pupils from poor backgrounds are falling short of their potential at GCSE, achieving on average half a grade less than other highly able pupils.;

The authors looked at pupils’ performance in Key Stage 2 (KS2) tests at age 11, and then at their GCSE attainment. They found that 15% of “highly able” pupils, that is those who score in the top 10% nationally at KS2, fail to achieve in the top 25% at GCSE.

The two factors that appear to make the most difference in this achievement are FSM6 status (those who are eligible for the Pupil Premium because they have received free school meals in any of the previous six years) and gender. Highly able boys are almost twice as likely to fall off track as girls, and for both boys and girls FSM6 status more than doubles the risk of falling into the missing talent group. One in ten of the poor but clever pupils are barely achieving C grades.

The report also found differences in the subjects taken. Highly able FSM6 pupils are less likely to be taking history or geography (included in the English Baccalaureate measure), and only 53% take triple sciences, compared to 69% of those not in the FSM6 category. This may be because they attend one of the 20% of schools that does not offer the triple science curriculum.

Recommendations include:

  • Developing a national programme for highly able pupils, with ring-fenced funding to support evidence-based activities and tracking of pupils’ progress.
  • Making schools accountable for this progress.
  • Ensuring all highly able pupils have access to triple science.
  • Ensuring all highly able pupils study a broad traditional curriculum (including a language and humanity) to widen future educational opportunities.
  • Using schools that buck the trend to support those where highly able pupils underperform, or to offer extra-curricular support to raise aspirations for young people in the area.

Source: Missing Talent (2015), The Sutton Trust.

Great teaching report

A report from the Sutton Trust assessed more than 200 pieces of research evidence in an attempt to address three broad questions:

  • What makes great teaching?
  • What kinds of frameworks or tools could help us to capture it?
  • How could this promote better learning?

The report identified six key factors in great teaching and rated them from strongly evidenced (teachers’ content knowledge and quality of instruction) through moderately evidenced (classroom climate and classroom management) to factors with some supporting evidence (teacher beliefs and professional behaviours).

Common practices not supported by evidence included lavish use of praise, allowing learners to discover key ideas by themselves, grouping students by ability, and presenting information based on students’ preferred learning style.

The report included recommendations for practitioners to sustain their professional learning across the short and long terms.

Source: What makes great teaching? (2014), The Sutton Trust