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

Homework, attendance, and learning quality predict student success

Time spent on homework in the secondary years is a relatively strong predictor of pupil success in English, maths, and science. That is one of the findings of the latest report from the EPPSE project (the Effective Pre-school, Primary and Secondary Education project), which has followed around 3,000 children since the age of 3 in 1997. Findings also indicate that the ratings given to secondary schools by Ofsted for the quality of pupils’ learning and learners’ attendance were good predictors of better attainment and progress. For example, better progress was made by EPPSE students in the three core subjects when they attended an “outstanding” compared to an “inadequate” school in terms of the Ofsted quality rating.

The report looks at a range of factors that influence children’s success across the following domains: individual student, family, and home; pre-school; primary school; and secondary school. The report concludes that there is no one factor alone which explains achievement and development; rather, it is the combination of factors that make a difference to young people’s long-term life chances.

Source: EPPSE 3 to 14 final report from the key stage 3 phase: influences on students’ development from age 11 to 14 (2012), Department for Education

Key components of successful coaching

Head Start CARES (Classroom-based Approaches and Resources for Emotion and Social Skill Promotion) is a large-scale, US national research demonstration to test a one-year programme to improve pre-kindergarteners’ (age 4–5) social and emotional readiness for school. To facilitate the delivery of the programme, teachers attended training workshops and worked with coaches throughout the school year. In this report from MDRC, researchers present lessons learned from Head Start CARES about coaching social-emotional curricula in a large and complex early childhood education system. Key findings include:

  • Successful coaches exhibited a combination of skills in three important areas: knowledge of the programme, general coaching and consultation skills, and knowledge of and experience in early childhood development and/or teaching.
  • Incorporating coaching into day-to-day practices requires flexibility and is necessary for implementation success.
  • Site-level administrators must be actively engaged in supporting and supervising coaching as well as general implementation processes.

Source: Coaching as a Key Component in Teachers’ Professional Development: Improving Classroom Practices in Head Start Settings (2012), MDRC

What does the latest research say about head teachers?

This research brief from the RAND Corporation presents a summary of research on first-year principals’ (head teachers in the UK) experiences, actions, working conditions, and outcomes. It was created to inform efforts to promote school improvement and principal retention. To complete their study, RAND researchers looked at the experiences of first-year principals in six districts across the US. Findings included:

  • More than a fifth of first-year principals left their school within two years;
  • Schools that lost a principal after one year underperformed the following year;
  • The quality of principals’ actions was more relevant to outcomes than the amount of time devoted to the actions;
  • Greater teacher capacity and cohesiveness were related to better pupil outcomes; and
  • Principals’ personnel management skills are important.

Source: Challenges and opportunities facing principals in the first year at a school (2012), RAND Corporation

Sleep and test scores: Is there a connection?

new study has concluded that there is an optimum amount of time for children and young people to sleep in terms of how well they perform in school, and more is not necessarily better. The research, published in the Eastern Economic Journal, used data from 1,724 primary and secondary pupils to explore the relationship between sleep and performance on standardised tests. 

Findings showed a statistically significant relationship between the two, with the most beneficial amount of time varying by age. This ranged from 9-9.5 hours for 10-year-olds to 7 hours for 16-year-olds.

Source: Sleep and Student Achievement (2012), Eastern Economic Journal,38(33).

UK disappoints on social mobility

A report by the Sutton Trust, which compared social mobility in several countries, found that the UK performs poorly.

The key findings of the report were that:

  • Gaps in school readiness in England between disadvantaged children and their counterparts were wider than in similar countries, such as Canada and Australia, but narrower than the United States.
  • Formal preschool education can have lasting effects in reducing the educational gap between high and low income children.
  • Disparities in early child outcomes persist into adolescence.
  • Unlike other countries, the achievement gap in England actually widens in secondary school.
  • None of the countries in the study reduce the disparity as children age.

The report concludes that addressing the social stratification in secondary schools remains one of the key challenges for improving social mobility in the UK.

Source: Latest research report: what prospects for mobility in the UK? A cross-national study of educational inequalities and their implications for future education and earnings mobility (2011), Sutton Trust