A new evaluation conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies
considers the overall impacts on children’s health of the Sure Start programme
as a whole between its inception in 1999 and its peak in the late 2000s. Sure
Start is an early intervention programme targeted at parents and children under
the age of four living in the most disadvantaged areas. Sure Start projects
deliver a wide variety of services, which are designed to support children’s
learning skills, health and well-being, and social and emotional development.
They include preschool education; medical, dental, and mental health care;
nutrition services; and efforts to help parents encourage their child’s
The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, followed children who had access to Sure Start right through to the end of primary school, and found that Sure Start had major health benefits for children living in disadvantaged areas. The main findings of the study include:
Sure Start reduced hospitalisations among
children by the time they finished primary school, and these effects built over
age 11, greater Sure Start coverage (one more centre per thousand children ages
0–4) prevented around 5,500 hospitalisations per year (18% of the pre-Sure
Sure Start benefited children living in
disadvantaged areas most. While the probability of any hospitalisation fell by 11% at age 10
and 19% at age 11 for children in the poorest 30% of areas; those in more
affluent areas saw smaller benefits, and those in the richest 30% of areas saw
practically no impact at all.
At every age in primary school, Sure Start
reduced hospital admissions for injuries. At younger ages, injury-related
hospitalisations fell by around 17% of their pre-Sure Start (1998) baseline; at
ages 10 and 11 they fell by 30%.
The authors suggest that a reason greater benefits were seen
in the poorest neighbourhoods could be because disadvantaged children were more
able to benefit from Sure Start as the types of services the programme offered
in poorer areas were more helpful, or because children in disadvantaged areas were
more likely to attend a centre.
In 2012 the Department for Education published a report on the impact of Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) on seven-year-olds and their families, which found no impact on children’s outcomes.
health effects of Sure Start (June 2019), The
Institute for Fiscal Studies
The Institute for Effective Education (IEE) has published a new
report from a project funded by their Innovation Evaluation Grants. The IEE
Innovation evaluations are small-scale and test the kinds of innovations that
schools are interested in.
Thirty-four Year 4 classes took part in the evaluation of Improving times table fluency, which was conducted by Underwood West Academy. A total of 876 children were included in the study.
Five groups of four or five classes were created by matching
the pre-test scores on a 25-item tables test and the percentage of children in
receipt of pupil premium. All groups had similar pre-test scores and similar
percentages of children in receipt of pupil premium. Each class used a different balance of
conceptual and procedural activities during times tables lessons. Conceptual
activities were games that focused on the connections and patterns in tables
facts, while procedural activities were games in which pupils practiced
Pupils had four 15-minute times tables lessons each week, and the
intervention lasted for 12 weeks. Before the intervention started, all
participating pupils carried out a simple times tables test comprising 25
spoken multiplication questions. The same test was repeated as a post-test.
The results of the trial showed that no one balance of practice
activities was more effective than another. The report concludes that times
tables may be best taught by using a balanced approach – teaching both the
concepts behind them and practising them in a range of ways with low-stakes
Increasing times table fluency (May 2019), Institute
for Effective Education
Teachers’ gaze patterns could reveal the different priorities expert teachers and novice teachers have in their classrooms, according to a recent study published in Learning and Instruction.
Using eye-tracking glasses, Nora McIntyre and colleagues
investigated how gaze proportions might be different for teachers of different
expertise and culture, indicating differences in teachers’ priorities. Twenty
secondary school teachers from Hong Kong and twenty secondary school teachers
from the UK participated in this study. Teachers were considered as expert
teachers if they had six years’ or more experience, were selected by their
school leadership as experts in teaching, had professional membership within
the field of teaching, and scored highly in performance ratings.
Teachers’ gaze proportions were measured during questioning
(information seeking) and lecturing (information giving) in normal timetabled
lessons, for their gaze frequencies on the pupils, pupil materials, teacher
materials, and non-instructional areas (such as door, windows). The findings
were as follows:
Regardless of culture, expert teachers prioritised
their gaze to pupils during both questioning and lecturing, while beginning teachers
prioritised non-instructional classroom areas.
HK teachers prioritised their gazes to teacher
materials, while UK teachers prioritised it to non-instructional areas during
HK expert teachers also used more teacher
materials gaze than the UK expert teachers.
The authors suggest that the finding of prioritisation of
gaze to pupils by expert teachers was consistent with other research since
prioritisation of pupils deepens pupils’ understanding of the subject,
emotional security, security with peers, and their interest in subject
teacher priorities: Using real-world eye-tracking to investigate expert teacher
priorities across two cultures (April 2019), Learning and Instruction, volume 60
A research briefing published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) looks at what progress has been made in embedding evidence-informed practice within teaching in England.
As part of
the brief, researchers from the National Foundation for Educational Research
(NFER) summarised findings from a nationally representative survey of 1,670
schools and teachers. The survey was conducted between September and November
2017, and investigated teachers’ research use. The results of the survey
Research evidence continues to play
a relatively small role in influencing teachers’ decision-making. Eighty-four percent of those
surveyed said that their continuing professional development was based on
information other than academic research.
Most teachers report that their
schools offer supporting environments, which enablesevidence-informed practice to flourish. Seventy-three percent
‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that their school provided a positive culture for
professional development and evidence use.
Teachers report generally positive attitudes towards research evidence, despite the fact that research
evidence had only a small influence on their decision-making.
responses varied by school phase, by type of respondent, and by type of schools.
Those who were more likely to report that their schools had a positive research
culture, and that they used research to inform their selection of teaching
Senior leaders (as opposed to classroom teachers).
Primary school teachers (rather than secondary school teachers).
Schools with the lowest 25 percent of achievement (versus highest 25 percent achievement).
Source: Teachers’ engagement with
research: what do we know? A research briefing (May 2019), Education Endowment Foundation
The Education Endowment Foundation has published an evaluation of Research Leads Improving Students’ Education (RISE). The programme, which was developed and delivered by Huntington School in York, aimed to improve the maths and English achievement of pupils in secondary school using a research-informed school improvement model.
Forty schools took part in the randomised controlled trial and were randomly allocated to either take part in RISE or to a control group which continued with business as usual. Schools participating in RISE appointed a senior teacher as a Research Lead who was responsible for promoting and supporting the use of research throughout the school. Support for Research Leads included an initial eight professional development sessions held over eight months, occasional follow-up meetings over two academic years, a customised email newsletter, a website with resources, a peer network, and school visits by the RISE team. The RISE team also provided a workshop for headteachers and annual workshops for English and maths subject leads.
The evaluation examined the impact on pupils in two cohorts:
in the first cohort (A) the school was only exposed to one year of RISE, while
in the second cohort (B) the school experienced two years of the intervention. For
both the one-year and two-year cohorts, children in RISE schools made a small
amount of additional progress in maths (effect size = +0.09 for cohort A and
+0.04 for cohort B) and English (effect size = +0.05 for cohort A and +0.03 for
cohort B) compared to children in the control-group
schools. However, the differences were small and not significant, so the
evaluation concludes that there is no evidence that participating in one or two
years of the RISE programme has a positive impact on pupil achievement.
In addition, the evaluation highlights the importance of
schools’ ability and motivation to make use of the Research Lead in shaping
school improvement decisions and processes. For example, it suggests that
implementation was stronger when headteachers gave clear and visible support
for the project and Research Leads had additional dedicated time to undertake
Source: The RISE
project: Evidence-informed school improvement (May 2019), Education Endowment Foundation
While mathematics is often considered a hard subject, not all difficulties with the subject result from cognitive difficulties. Many children and adults experience feelings of anxiety, apprehension, tension or discomfort when confronted by a maths problem. Research conducted by the Centre for Neuroscience in Education at the University of Cambridge examined the maths performance of more than 2,700 primary and secondary pupils in the UK and Italy who were screened for maths anxiety and general anxiety. Researchers then worked one-to-one with the children in order to gain deeper understanding of their cognitive abilities and feelings towards maths using a series of cognitive tasks, questionnaires, and interviews.
Emma Carey and colleagues found that a general feeling that
maths was more difficult than other subjects often contributed to feelings of
anxiety about the subject, and that teachers and parents may inadvertently play
a role. Girls in both primary and secondary school were found to have higher
levels of both maths anxiety and general anxiety.
Pupils indicated poor test results, or negative comparisons
to peers or siblings, as reasons for feeling anxious. Secondary school pupils
also indicated that the transition from primary to secondary school was a cause
of maths anxiety, as the work seemed harder and there was greater pressure on
tests and increased homework.
The report sets out a series of recommendations, including:
Teachers should be aware that maths anxiety can
affect pupils’ maths performance.
Teachers and parents need to be aware that their
own maths anxiety might influence pupils’ math anxiety.
Teachers and parents also need to be aware that gendered
stereotypes about maths ability might contribute to the gender gap in maths
Reducing classroom pressure and using methods
like free writing about emotions before a test could help to alleviate maths
Source: Understanding mathematics
anxiety: Investigating the experiences of UK primary and secondary school
students (March 2019), Centre for
Neuroscience in Education, University of Cambridge