Why is evidence useful?
It is clear there is a consistent gap in children and young people’s attainment linked to economic disadvantage.
There are a range of explanatory factors (family background and circumstances) beyond the control of teachers and senior leaders to affect.
However, one factor – the quality of teaching in formal education – holds huge potential in reducing, and in some cases even eliminating, the attainment gap.
While a good level of funding for schools is important for a range of reasons (and some research suggests is particularly beneficial for disadvantaged students) there does not appear to be a direct and straightforward relationship between increased school funding and increased pupil attainment.
For instance, public spending per pupil in real terms has more than doubled in both primary and secondary schools over the past 40 years. It is much less clear that there has been a similar increase in attainment outcomes for pupils over that period.
We interpret the lack of a clear causal link between general additional spending and learning to mean that it is difficult to spend additional resource effectively to improve learning and to increase attainment, but that there must be some areas which offer better prospects than others.
This is what the Toolkits seek to provide.
We also think that the evidence shows that if schools want to use any additional resource, such as the Pupil Premium, to benefit disadvantaged learners they should not assume that any increased allocation alone will improve learning, but they will need to decide specifically and deliberately how it should be spent, and then evaluate the impact of this for themselves.
What matters most, then, is how schools can effectively and efficiently use the resources they have, both financial and human, for maximum impact.
It is clear that different ways of spending budgets in schools, as well as early years and post-16 settings, can have very different impacts on young people’s learning. Choosing what to prioritise is not easy.
We believe that an evidence-informed approach can help senior leaders and teachers get the maximum 'educational bang for their buck', both in terms of making your initial choice between alternative strategies, and then in implementing a strategy as effectively as possible.
A range of teaching and learning approaches were selected for analysis and inclusion in the Toolkits. The choice of approaches was based on: (i) approaches commonly mentioned in connection with education policy, (ii) suggestions from schools, and (iii) approaches with a strong evidence of effectiveness not covered by either previous criterion.