Are local authorities the ‘missing link’?

Local authorities could be the missing link in a system of autonomous schools, according to two research reports into effective school improvement published by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. Both reports highlight concerns among head teachers, governors and local government officials that there are risks involved in increasing school autonomy. They identify where local authorities have been successful in supporting school improvement in the past, and how that work is changing in response to national policy and budget restrictions. In particular, the reports explore:

  • What are the characteristics of an effective local authority school improvement service?
  • What are the implications for school improvement of increased numbers of academies and free schools?
  • What kind of middle tier is needed for the next five years?
  • How will local authorities need to change if they are to fulfil that role?

They include case studies of successful local authorities and examples of the different models of school engagement that are emerging.

Source: The missing link: The evolving role of the local authority in school improvement (2012), ADCS

Entrepreneurship education in European schools

Europe faces a number of challenges that can only be met if it has innovative, well-educated, and entrepreneurial citizens, according to the Eurydice Network, which surveyed entrepreneurship studies in primary and secondary education in 31 European countries. Their analysis is divided into four areas:

  • National strategies and action plans to encourage the integration of entrepreneurship education;
  • How entrepreneurship education is currently being addressed;
  • Specific learning outcomes defined for entrepreneurship education and practical guidelines to support teachers; and
  • Initiatives to promote entrepreneurship education and current educational reforms on the subject.

The results of the survey show that two-thirds of European countries incorporate entrepreneurship education into the curriculum at primary education level, but that this changes significantly in secondary education, where virtually all countries integrate it into the curriculum in some form.

Source: Entrepreneurship education at school in Europe: National strategies, curricula and learning outcomes (2012), Eurydice

The costs and benefits of education interventions

A new series of publications aims to provide independent investment advice for children’s services. Launched last Friday Investing in Children, from the Social Research Unit at Dartington, will publish reports on the effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness, of programmes and approaches. The reports look at the financial costs of particular interventions, the financial benefits to taxpayers and participants, and the risk that an approach might not be successful. The first two reports look at interventions for early years and education, and youth justice. In the early years and education report, programmes rated include Reading Recovery, Success for All and Life Skills Training.

Source: Investing in Children

The effectiveness of education technology for enhancing maths achievement

Findings of this review of research into the effects of technology use on mathematics achievement suggest that educational technology applications produce a positive but small effect. This review was completed in 2011, but a new educator’s summary has been posted that presents the findings in a more accessible form.

The review, from the Johns Hopkins School of Education’s Center for Research and Reform in Education, examines three major categories of education technology:

  • comprehensive models, which use computer-assisted teaching alongside non-computer activities;
  • supplemental computer-assisted teaching programmes, which provide individualised computer-assisted instruction to supplement traditional classroom teaching; and
  • a computer-managed learning programme, Accelerated Math.

All three were found to produce a positive effect on mathematics achievement, with supplemental computer-assisted teaching programmes having the largest effect. The review concludes that educational technology is making some difference in mathematics learning, but new and better tools are needed to harness the power of technology to further enhance mathematics achievement for all students.

Source: The effectiveness of educational technology applications for enhancing mathematics achievement: A meta-analysis (2012), Best Evidence Encyclopedia

Recent policy developments in school sport

This policy update from the House of Commons library provides a summary of the debate around the type and level of provision of sport and physical education (PE) in schools. The Department for Education has confirmed that PE will remain a compulsory subject after the review of the National Curriculum in England.

Since the Secretary of State for Education’s October 2010 statement, calling for a new direction in school sport, there have been many significant policy changes, and the update provides a useful precis.

The next issue of Better: Evidence-based Education, published in June, takes as its theme “Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds” and looks at the evidence that sport and other non-academic activities, such as yoga and programmes to address problem behaviour, can boost children’s physical and mental health and help them to learn.

Source: School Sport (2012), House of Commons Library

A practical guide to low-cost randomised controlled trials

This guide from the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy summarises five well-conducted, low-cost randomised controlled trials (RCTs) carried out in real-world community settings. As the guide states, RCTs are regarded as the strongest method for evaluating programme effectiveness. Evaluations of the Triple P (Positive Parenting Programme) system and New York City’s teacher incentive programme are reviewed. The purpose of the guide is to illustrate the feasibility and value of low-cost RCTs for policy makers and researchers.

Source: Rigorous program evaluations on a budget: How low-cost randomized controlled trials are possible in many areas of social policy (2012), Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy