Approaches to professional development that combine coaching or mentoring with new knowledge and opportunities for reflection on practice may be the most effective in improving outcomes in early childhood settings, according to a study published in Review of Education.
Sue Rogers and colleagues conducted the systematic review, which
was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, in order to examine the impact of
professional learning and development. The studies included in the review
identify approaches to professional learning that demonstrate impact on early
childhood education on one or more outcomes across three main areas: literacy
knowledge and skills, maths and science knowledge, and social-emotional and behavioural
The findings from the review suggest that coaching models, and
approaches that help develop pedagogical knowledge, may be the most effective
in improving outcomes in early childhood settings. The evidence on duration,
frequency and intensity of the professional learning, although likely to be
important factors, was inconclusive.
systematic review of the evidence base for professional learning in early years
education (The PLEYE Review) (February 2020), Review of Education, Vol 8, No 1
A report published by the Nuffield Foundation finds that computer use in schools does not on its own boost pupils’ digital literacy or prepare them for the workplace.
The report, written by Angela McFarlane, examines how digital
technologies are used in schools to enhance learning, and identifies research
questions to inform better practice and policy. It examines ten years of
existing evidence on the effect the use of digital technology has on learning
and finds that:
- Putting computers into schools is no guarantee
that there will be a positive impact on learning outcomes as measured in
high-stakes assessments or on the development of digital literacy.
- How digital technologies are used is as
important as whether they are used.
- There is no shared picture of what effective
digital skills teaching looks like.
- Teachers may not have opportunities to develop
the skills they need to make effective use of technology.
- The current use and knowledge of computer-based
technology in schools and at home is leaving many young people unprepared for
the world of work.
Source: Growing up digital: What do we really need to know about educating the digital generation? (July 2019), Nuffield Foundation
The Nuffield Foundation has published a systematic review by researchers at Ulster University that analyses the outcomes of classroom-based mathematical interventions.
The systematic review included studies that assessed the
outcomes of interventions aimed at improving maths achievement in primary
school children. Forty-five randomised controlled trials were included along
with thirty-five quasi-experimental studies. The studies were published between
2000 and 2017, and were mostly conducted in the US and Europe.
The results of the review suggest that there are effective
strategies teachers can use to help with learning maths and being fluent with
mathematical facts. It also found there are many different ways teachers can
support children to have a wide bank of strategies to complete mathematical
problems, and for children to know when is best to apply them. Technology in
the classroom can also be helpful as long as these tools have been developed
with a clear understanding of how children learn.
The report concludes that the evidence base on mathematical
interventions is weak, and recommends that researchers should test how
effective mathematical interventions are in order to help teachers support
to improve mathematical achievement in primary school-aged children. A systematic
review (June 2019), Nuffield Foundation
The Better Schools for All? report, published by the Nuffield Foundation, examines the role that schools play in pupils’ education and suggests that the school reforms in the UK in the past two decades have failed to bridge the gap in pupil achievement.
Researchers from University College London and the National
Institute of Economic and Social Research looked at data from around 3,000
secondary schools in England between 2003 and 2016 and compared pupil outcomes
and teachers’ experiences with those of employees elsewhere.
They found that:
- Attending a “good” secondary school adds only a
small amount more value than attending a “bad” secondary school. Overall,
schools were found to contribute around 10% of variance in pupil achievement.
- State schools are better at managing staff than
private schools. Using Workplace Employment Relations Survey data, the study
shows that state schools were more likely to have rigorous hiring practices and
employee participation programmes than private schools, and the link between
human resource management and effective and high-performing schools was only
apparent in the state sector.
- Performance-related pay and performance
monitoring, which were found to improve workplace performance elsewhere, were
ineffective for teachers.
- Schools with more middle leaders tended to be
rated more highly by Ofsted in terms of leadership and management. However, in
schools which formed part of a multi-academy trust, no significant relationship
Source: Better schools for all? (June 2019), Nuffield Foundation
A new evaluation conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies
considers the overall impacts on children’s health of the Sure Start programme
as a whole between its inception in 1999 and its peak in the late 2000s. Sure
Start is an early intervention programme targeted at parents and children under
the age of four living in the most disadvantaged areas. Sure Start projects
deliver a wide variety of services, which are designed to support children’s
learning skills, health and well-being, and social and emotional development.
They include preschool education; medical, dental, and mental health care;
nutrition services; and efforts to help parents encourage their child’s
The study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, followed children who had access to Sure Start right through to the end of primary school, and found that Sure Start had major health benefits for children living in disadvantaged areas. The main findings of the study include:
- Sure Start reduced hospitalisations among
children by the time they finished primary school, and these effects built over
age 11, greater Sure Start coverage (one more centre per thousand children ages
0–4) prevented around 5,500 hospitalisations per year (18% of the pre-Sure
- Sure Start benefited children living in
disadvantaged areas most. While the probability of any hospitalisation fell by 11% at age 10
and 19% at age 11 for children in the poorest 30% of areas; those in more
affluent areas saw smaller benefits, and those in the richest 30% of areas saw
practically no impact at all.
- At every age in primary school, Sure Start
reduced hospital admissions for injuries. At younger ages, injury-related
hospitalisations fell by around 17% of their pre-Sure Start (1998) baseline; at
ages 10 and 11 they fell by 30%.
The authors suggest that a reason greater benefits were seen
in the poorest neighbourhoods could be because disadvantaged children were more
able to benefit from Sure Start as the types of services the programme offered
in poorer areas were more helpful, or because children in disadvantaged areas were
more likely to attend a centre.
In 2012 the Department for Education published a report on the impact of Sure Start Local Programmes (SSLPs) on seven-year-olds and their families, which found no impact on children’s outcomes.
health effects of Sure Start (June 2019), The
Institute for Fiscal Studies
In England there is currently a shortage of maths teachers; among the factors that might be influencing this shortage are that departments lose 40% of teachers during their first six years in the profession, and there are higher private sector wages for maths graduates. At the same time, demand for maths teachers has increased due to policy measures to increase participation in maths for 16 to 18 year olds. To examine what impact this has had, the Nuffield Foundation commissioned researchers from FFT Education Datalab to look at how secondary schools have responded to the shortage.
Rebecca Allen and Sam Sims used data from England’s School Workforce Census and found that schools are using their most experienced and well-qualified maths teachers for year groups taking high-stakes exams (GCSEs, A-levels, and GCSE retakes), and using inexperienced maths teachers and teachers who trained in other subjects to fill staffing gaps elsewhere.
In the most disadvantaged schools (those with more pupils eligible for free school meals), pupils across all year groups are more likely to be taught by an inexperienced teacher. At Key Stage 5 (age 16-18) pupils in the most disadvantaged schools are almost twice as likely to have an inexperienced teacher as in the least disadvantaged schools (9.5% versus 5.3%).
Source: How do shortages of maths teachers affect the within-school allocation of maths teachers to pupils? (June 2018), Nuffield Foundation