The Education Endowment Foundation has published an evaluation of a programme that trains early years teachers to improve children’s language outcomes. The Using Research Tools to Improve Language in the Early Years (URLEY) intervention is an evidence-based professional development programme for early years teachers. It is designed to improve teacher’s knowledge of how children learn and develop oral language skills, and how to support that learning through evidence-based practice.
Teachers take part in five day-long
professional development workshops in which they are introduced to
evidence-based learning principles and research tools to evaluate and refine
pedagogy and practice. In particular, teachers are taught to use Environment
Rating Scales (ERS) – research-validated observational rating scales known to
predict aspects of children’s development, with higher scores linked to
improved maths and English achievement. Teachers watched videos of effective
practice and were supported to use the language principles and ERS to “tune in”
to language-supporting practice.
Nearly 2,000 children from 120 schools from the West Midlands,
Liverpool and Manchester participated in the study from October 2016 to July
2018. The programme was evaluated using a randomised controlled trial, testing
the impact of the URLEY programme on children’s language development over two
years, compared to business as usual in control schools.
The results of the trial found that children in schools receiving
URLEY did not make additional progress in language development compared to
children in control schools, as measured by a composite language score (effect
size = -0.08). However, the programme did show a positive impact on the quality
of teaching (as measured by ERS), with effect sizes in the range of +0.5 to +0.7.
evaluation report (February 2020), Education
A study published in The Curriculum Journal presents the findings of a randomised controlled trial that evaluated the efficacy of the Bug Club programme on the reading, spelling and vocabulary skills of pupils in the first two years of primary school compared to pupils in a control group.
Bug Club is a whole-school reading programme based on the
principles of guided reading and synthetic phonics. It is offered as part of,
rather than in addition to, standard literacy lessons. This study analysed data
from 1,273 pupils in Years 1 and 2 from 30 schools in the UK (15 intervention,
15 control). Pupils were tested at baseline and again at 6 months, 12 months,
and 18 months, using the InCAS reading assessment for 5- to 11-year-olds.
At the 6- and 12-month tests, pupils in the Bug Club schools showed
more progress on the standardised reading measure than pupils in control
schools (effect size = +0.18 and +0.16). For disadvantaged pupils, the picture
was mixed. After six months, there was a greater impact on reading gains in
schools with high levels of pupils eligible for free school meals than those in
control schools. After twelve months, this effect had disappeared, but pupils
eligible for pupil premium were found to have improved more on reading gains
than those in control schools.
of Bug Club: a randomised control trial of a whole school primary aged reading
programme (February 2020), The Curriculum
Journal. DOI: 10.1002/curj.29
A report published by the Sutton Trust suggests that recent
changes to GCSEs – including tougher exams and a new grading system – have led
to a slight widening of the achievement gap in England, but the overall impact
Making the Grade uses Key Stage 4 data from the National Pupil Database from before and after the GCSE reforms were introduced. Simon Burgess and Dave Thomson looked at the results and entry rates for disadvantaged pupils (pupils eligible for free school meals at any point in the six years up to and including the year in which they reached the end of Key Stage 4) and non-disadvantaged pupils to explore the impact on disadvantaged pupils and the achievement gap.
Their findings suggest that during the period that the
reforms were introduced, test scores for disadvantaged pupils fell slightly
compared to their classmates. Under the previous system, 2% of disadvantaged pupils
achieved the top grade of A*, whereas just 1% now achieve a 9 (the re-designated
top grade). The drop is less for non-disadvantaged pupils, falling from 8%
achieving A* to 5% achieving a 9.
the grade: The impact of GCSE reforms on the attainment gap between
disadvantaged pupils and their peers (December 2019), the Sutton Trust
A paper published in Educational Research and Evaluation presents the findings of a one-year efficacy trial of Maths Counts – an intensive, individualised programme to support children who struggle with basic maths skills at Key Stage 2 (age 7 to 11).
The participants were 291 pupils in Years 3 to 6 from 35
primary schools in England. Pupils were randomised within school and allocated
to an intervention (Maths Counts) or control (business-as-usual) group. The
programme was delivered to intervention pupils by specially trained teaching
assistants three times per week, for 10 weeks, during curriculum time but
outside the regular classroom. The first ten minutes of each session focused on
revision of prior learning, and the next 20 minutes introduced new knowledge
The results of the trial suggest that Maths Counts is effective for pupils who struggle with basic maths skills (effect size = +0.12 for general maths skills, and +0.18 for maths attitude). However, there was no evidence that it was effective for pupils eligible for free school meals (effect size = -0.14 for general maths skills, and +0.07 for maths attitude).
of the impact of Maths Counts delivered by teaching assistants on primary
school pupils’ attainment in maths (November 2019), Educational Research and Evaluation, 25:3-4
The Education Endowment Foundation has published a review of the current evidence on approaches to behaviour in schools.
The review, which was carried out by researchers at the University
of Exeter, synthesises the best available international evidence on approaches
to behaviour in schools. The goal is to:
explain why pupils may misbehave
review what types of classroom management
approaches are most effective
review what types of school-wide management
approaches are most effective.
The report, which offers schools some recommendations for
improving behaviour, suggests that universal systems are unlikely to work for
all pupils, and for those pupils who need more intensive support with their behaviour,
a personalised approach is likely to be better.
behaviour in schools: evidence review (December 2019), Education Endowment Foundation
A study published in Public Health Research reports on an evaluation of the Learning Together intervention, which aims to reduce bullying and aggression and to promote pupil health and well-being.
Forty secondary schools in southeast England participated in
the trial, with 20 schools randomly assigned to deliver the intervention over
three years, and 20 schools continuing with existing practices. In the
intervention schools, staff and pupils collaborated in an “action group” to
change school rules and policies, with the goal of making it a healthier environment.
This included focusing on improving relationships rather than merely punishment-based
approaches to discipline, and using a classroom curriculum aimed at encouraging
All pupils completed a questionnaire at the start of the trial, and this was repeated three years later. Results showed that self-reported experiences of bullying victimisation were lower in intervention schools than in control schools (adjusted effect size = –0.08). There was no evidence of a reduction in pupil reports of aggression. Pupils in intervention schools also had higher scores on quality of life and psychological well-being measures, and lower scores on a psychological difficulties measure. They also reported lower rates of having smoked, drunk alcohol, been offered or tried illicit drugs, or been in contact with the police in the previous 12 months.
Source: Modifying the secondary school environment to
reduce bullying and aggression: the INCLUSIVE cluster RCT. (November
2019). Public Health Research Volume:
7, Issue: 18