Evaluation of Challenge the Gap

An evaluation of the Challenge the Gap (CtG) programme for the Education Endowment Foundation found no evidence that the programme increased average achievement for either primary or secondary pupils overall.

Challenge the Gap is a two-year school improvement programme that aims to help schools improve the achievement of their disadvantaged pupils through a professional development programme for staff. The evaluation conducted by The University of Manchester, involved 21,041 pupils from 104 schools (64 primary schools and 39 secondary schools). Around 24% of pupils in the primary schools and 16% in the secondary schools were eligible for free school meals. The evaluation assessed the impact on all participating schools using 2015 Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 4 results. CtG schools were compared to schools with a similar socio-demographic profile.

No evidence was found that CtG increased the average achievement for either primary or secondary school pupils, overall. For children eligible for free school meals (FSM), those in CtG primary schools made two months’ additional progress (average effect size = +0.10) compared to similar children in non-CtG schools. In CtG secondary schools, FSM-eligible pupils made two months’ less progress compared to similar pupils in non-CtG secondary schools (average effect size = -0.10). The smaller number of FSM-eligible pupils in the trial means that these results are less secure than the overall findings.

Source: Challenge the Gap: Evaluation report and executive summary (July 2017), Education Endowment Foundation

Interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder

The National Council for Special Education in Ireland has published a systematic literature review of the research evidence available on educational interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Among other questions, the review, by Caroline Bond and colleagues from the University of Manchester, considered what works best in the provision of education for people with ASD. The literature review included 85 best-evidence studies published between 2008 and 2013. These studies were considered to be of at least medium standard for the quality of evidence, methodological appropriateness, and effectiveness of the intervention. Most studies focused on preschool children and children aged 5–8 years.

For preschool children, two interventions were rated as having the most evidence:

  • Interventions designed to increase joint attention skills, usually involving one-to-one delivery of a play-based/turn-taking intervention by a teacher or parent
  • Comprehensive preschool intervention programs, which offered a comprehensive educational experience for the child, targeting areas such as behaviour, social skills, communication, and learning

For school-aged children, three interventions were rated as having the most evidence:

  • Peer-mediated interventions – group interventions with peers to support the development of social skills in children with ASD and/or help peers to interact more successfully with children with ASD
  • Multi-component social skills interventions, which included several elements, such as social skills training, peer support in school, or the involvement of parents in supporting the child’s social skills
  • Behavioural interventions based on behavioural principles were also used to target challenging/interfering behaviours in children with ASD, often based on an initial functional assessment followed by specific interventions

Source: Educating Persons with Autistic Spectrum Disorder – A Systematic Literature Review (2016), The National Council for Special Education

Traditional teaching methods may be putting off maths pupils

Traditional teaching methods, where the teacher stands at the front and dictates to the class, may be affecting pupils’ attitudes toward maths, suggest researchers at the University of Manchester. The initial findings of the Economics and Social Research Council-funded study were presented at the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference.

More than 13,000 11- to 16-year-old pupils and 128 teachers at 40 secondary schools across England were asked to complete questionnaires detailing the kind of activities they experienced in maths lessons. Traditional activities such as copying the teacher’s notes from the board and being asked questions by the teacher were most frequently cited, ahead of alternative learning approaches such as using media, like magazines and videos, in class. Pupils who reported a more traditional teaching experience in their lessons also named maths as their least favourite subject.

The results of a 2009 review from the Institute for Effective Education,Effective programmes in secondary mathematics, found that the most successful programmes for teaching maths focus on changing daily teaching practices, particularly the use of co-operative learning methods, and encourage pupil interaction.

Sources: What works in teaching maths? (2009), Institute for Effective Education

Teaching and learning practices in secondary mathematics: measuring teaching from teachers’ and students perspectives (2012), Pampaka M, Wo L, Kalambouka A, Qasim S, and Swanson D, presentation at BERA Conference 2012