“Invisible” pupils not considered for Pupil Premium

In England, Pupil Premium (PP) funding is provided for pupils who, on the national school census return (collected termly since 2006/07), are recorded as having been eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) at any point during the previous six years (Ever 6). However, new research, published by FFT Education, has identified an “invisible group” of pupils, whose attainment and progress may also have been negatively affected by disadvantage but who do not qualify for PP funding.

The report’s author examined the attainment and progress of pupils who fall outside Ever 6, but who had qualified for FSM at an earlier time. This is a substantial number of pupils. In 2013 the Year 11 cohort in England included over 38,000 pupils who had received FSM at some point, but not in the previous six years. He found that the attainment and progress of this “invisible group” was much lower than those who have never received FSM. Other findings included that the proportion of time for which a pupil is FSM while at school is likely to be the best indicator of the potential impact of disadvantage upon attainment and progress.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including considering basing the PP on FSM “ever” (rather than Ever 6), and taking into account the amount of time an individual pupil has qualified for FSM. Independently of this, schools could consider whether pupils who have previously been FSM, but not in the previous six years, are in need of additional support.

Source: Pupil Premium and the Invisible Group (2014) FFT Education.

Breaking the cycle of disadvantage

This policy brief from the RAND Corporation examines the impact of child-targeted interventions in early childhood education and care (ECEC) as well as initiatives to widen access to higher education in Europe, and their impact on social mobility in later years. It provides an overview of research on the topic, discusses various policies, and describes a number of case studies on different programmes and practices.

One example presented is the UK Aim Higher initiative, which focused on children from lower socio-economic backgrounds living in areas characterised by low participation in higher education. The aim of the initiative was two-fold: first, to raise the aspirations of potential candidates, and second, to develop the abilities of under-represented groups so they could apply to college. According to the brief, research suggests that the programme appears to have delivered some improvements in exam results, retention, and progression to higher education. However, there appears to be little evidence that it was successful in influencing participants’ attitudes towards higher education.

Overall, key conclusions of the brief include:

  • In the context of economic uncertainty, investing in high-quality ECEC appears to be an effective evidence-based social policy tool, although it should not be considered a panacea.
  • The level of ECEC provision is very unequal across the EU: to be effective, it needs to be of high quality.
  • One way to break the cycle of disadvantage would be to develop ambitious indicators and policy goals that link ECEC provision for under-represented groups to access to higher education.

Source: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage: Early Childhood Interventions and Progression to Higher Education in Europe (2014), RAND Corporation.

Reading partners

A new policy brief from MDRC summarises the early results of an evaluation of the Reading Partners one-to-one volunteer reading programme, and finds positive impacts.

The programme serves more than 7,000 struggling readers in primary schools in deprived areas of several US states. Tutors do not need to have any experience, but are given training and ongoing support. Reading Partners received $7 million in investments and grants to expand to more schools throughout the US, and for an evaluation of the effectiveness of the programme.

This evaluation took place during the 2012-2013 school year in 19 schools in three states, and involved 1,265 pupils. Positive impacts were found on three different assessments of reading proficiency which measured reading comprehension, fluency, and the ability to read sight-words efficiently. The authors say that these encouraging results demonstrate that Reading Partners, when delivered on a large scale and implemented with fidelity, can be an effective tool for improving reading proficiency.

Source: Reading Partners: The Implementation and Effectiveness of a One-on-One Tutoring Program Delivered by Community Volunteers (2014), MDRC.

How an inner-city childhood affects adult success

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US have published results of a study that show “A family’s resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children’s life trajectories.” As part of the study, the researchers followed nearly 800 Baltimore school children for a quarter of a century – from 1982, the year they entered first grade (age 6-7), until they turned 28 or 29 years old – focusing in particular on those who started in the most disadvantaged settings. Data included interviews with families, teachers, and other community members as the children made their way through elementary, middle, and high school; joined the work force; and started families.

Key findings of the study included:

  • Almost none of the children from low-income families made it through college.
  • Among those who did not attend college, white men from low-income backgrounds found the best-paying jobs.
  • White women from low-income backgrounds benefit financially from marriage and stable live-in partnerships.
  • The most likely to abuse drugs were better-off white men.

Read more about the findings on the Johns Hopkins news website.

Source: The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood (2014), American Sociological Association.

KS4 achievement key to HE success

What role do schools play in encouraging more young people to continue into higher education and achieve at university? New research published by the Department for Education suggests that pupils’ Key Stage 4 (KS4) attainment is central.

Using data from schools and universities, the authors found evidence of sizable differences between pupils from different types of schools. For example, pupils who attended selective state schools were more than 40 percentage points more likely to go to university and more than 30 points more likely to go to a high-status institution than pupils attending non-selective state schools. In contrast, students who attended one of the 20% of secondary schools with the highest proportions of free school meal (FSM)-eligible pupils were, on average, 5.4 percentage points more likely to drop out, 11.0 points less likely to complete their degree, and 21.8 percentage points less likely to graduate with a first or a 2:1 than those who attended one of the 20% of secondary schools with the lowest proportions of FSM-eligible pupils.

However, when comparing pupils with similar background characteristics and KS2 scores, most of the remaining gaps in higher education participation could be explained by accounting for the qualifications, subjects, and grades that pupils achieved at KS4.

The authors conclude that amongst pupils with a given set of characteristics and prior attainment, those from non-selective or low-value-added state schools could be regarded as having higher “potential” than those from selective or high-value-added state schools or independent schools. Therefore, they suggest that university entry requirements could be lowered for such pupils. They also recommend that widening participation efforts should focus on ensuring that pupils make the right choices of subjects and qualifications they take at KS4 to maximise their chances of getting good grades at this level.

Source: The Link Between Secondary School Characteristics and University Participation and Outcomes: CAYT Research Report (2014), Department for Education.

“Winners and losers” from selective school system

A new working paper from the Institute of Education investigates the impact of the UK’s selective grammar school system on earnings inequality. Although the comprehensive system now dominates, the value of selective systems remains a policy issue.

The authors used data from the Understanding Society longitudinal panel study, which collected information from people aged 16+ in approximately 40,000 households in the UK beginning in 2009. They found that the wage distribution for individuals who grew up in selective schooling areas is quantitatively and statistically significantly more unequal, with higher earnings at the top and lower earnings at the lower end of the distribution.

The additional difference in earnings between the 90th and 10th percentiles in selective systems accounts for 14% of the total earnings gap, increasing to 18% when the authors controlled for a range of background and personal characteristics. The authors suggest that this inequality may be the result of grammar schools attracting the most effective teachers.

The raw mean and variance statistics for the selective versus non-selective areas showed that overall, average hourly earnings from 2009–2012 were very similar across the two groups (£8.61 versus £8.59).

Source: Selective Schooling Systems Increase Inequality (2014), Institute of Education, University of London.