The impact of Sure Start Local Programmes

This research report from the Department for Education presents findings of a longitudinal study that measures the impact of Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) on seven-year-olds and their families. The study looks at over 5,000 families in 150 SSLP areas and makes comparisons with children and families in similarly disadvantaged areas that do not have an SSLP.

The results show positive effects on family functioning and maternal well-being associated with living in an SSLP area. However, no impact was found on any of the child outcomes measured. The report demonstrates that SSLPs are extremely popular and have proved to be successful in engaging and supporting the poorest families. However, greater emphasis is needed on services that will directly improve child outcomes, particularly language development and children’s daily experiences.

Source: The impact of Sure Start Local Programmes on seven year olds and their families (2012), Department for Education

Raising expectations across the school

Talent Development Secondary (TDS) has been added to the Promising Practices Network’s (PPN) “Programs that Work” section, and is listed as a “Promising Program”. According to PPN’s programme overview, the TDS model seeks to enhance pupil achievement by raising expectations for both teachers and pupils. The goal of the model is to change the school climate by reorganising the school into smaller learning communities.

In these learning communities, pupils share a common set of peers and teachers across their time at secondary school, and course curricula are designed around a common, career-related theme. PPN has identified several evaluations of TDS that have shown the programme improves test scores, attendance, and course credits earned.

Source: Promising Practices Network (2012), Talent Development Secondary

Teaching pupils to be effective writers

A new practice guide from the What Works Clearinghouse in the US, Teaching Elementary School Students to Be Effective Writers, offers four strategies for improving pupils’ writing:

  • Provide daily time for pupils to write
  • Teach pupils to use the writing process for a variety of purposes
  • Teach pupils to become fluent with handwriting, spelling, sentence construction, typing, and word processing
  • Create an engaged community of writers.

For each recommendation, the guide provides implementation ideas and examples, summaries of supporting research, and solutions to common roadblocks. It is aimed at teachers, literacy advisers, and other practitioners who want to improve the writing of their pupils.

Source: Teaching elementary school students to be effective writers (2012), What Works Clearinghouse

Improving literacy though music

An independent evaluation of the New London Orchestra’s (NLO) “Literacy through Music” programme shows that participants achieve significantly more in literacy and music compared to similar children outside the programme.

The 20-week NLO programme took place in seven Year 2 classes in three schools in the London borough of Newham. It aimed to improve the reading abilities of six- to seven-year-old children by engaging them in a special programme of music activities that were combined with sessions involving games, poetry, and story-telling.

Researchers tested children at the beginning and end of the NLO programme and found that participants’ reading ages went up by 8.4 months on average. The reading ages of the children in the control group improved by only 1.8 months. Participants’ singing ability also improved significantly, as measured by a researcher-led singing assessment.

Source: Literacy through music: A research evaluation of the New London Orchestra’s literacy through music programme (2012), International music education research centre

Poor pupils more than two years behind in reading

New research published in a special issue of Fiscal Studies shows that the link between family background and high achievement is stronger in England than in most other developed countries.

The study uses data from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and analyses the reading test scores of 15-year-old pupils in 23 countries.

The results show that high-achieving pupils from the lowest socio-economic groups in England are, on average, two-and-a-half years behind their wealthier peers. This is more than twice the gap found in in some other developed countries. Only the US, New Zealand, and Scotland have a bigger socio-economic gap than England in the reading test scores of high-achieving pupils.

The Government is attempting to improve the performance of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing £10 million for projects to help those who fail to reach the expected level of English by the end of primary school (level 4 at Key Stage 2).The announcement comes as a response to last year’s Key Stage 2 results, which showed around 100,000 pupils in England failed to reach level 4 in English by the end of primary school.

Source: The socio-economic gradient in teenagers’ reading skills: How does England compare with other countries? (2012), Fiscal Studies, 33(2).