EEF announces first three trials in the post-16 sector in partnership with J.P.Morgan

A new study will find out if texting teenagers details about their course, deadlines and exam dates can help them to pass their GCSE maths and English resits, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and J.P. Morgan announced today.

3,750 teenagers in 30 further education (FE) colleges will take part in the trial of the low-cost programme, developed and delivered by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). Each student and their ‘study supporter’ – a peer, family member or mentor that helps to keep them on track – will receive around 35 texts over the course of a year. The messages will give them information about course content and academic resources, notifications about deadlines, details of extra tutorial sessions, and exam dates.

Several studies in the USA and UK have shown that text messages to parents, high school graduates, and university students can have impacts on behaviour, including attainment, college enrolment and persistence. A previous EEF trial found that texting parents of secondary school pupils had a positive impact on attendance rates and mathematics scores.

Texting students and study supporters is one of three new trials funded by the EEF and J.P. Morgan as part of a joint £5 million initiative to find the best ways to support the hundreds of thousands of young people who leave formal education each year without having achieved at least a C grade in English or mathematics at GCSE. Since 2014 it has been compulsory for this group to carry on studying these subjects after Year 11 but the latest figures show that just one in four go on to pass after resitting their GCSE / Level 2 exams for the second time.

The initiative is the UK strand of JPMorgan Chase’s global $75 million New Skills for Youth project. The global programme, a $75 million five-year commitment to expanding technical and professional education for young people worldwide and launched in 2016, aims to expand their access economic opportunity.

Maths-for-Life, delivered by the Centre for Research in Mathematics Education of the University of Nottingham, aims to improve attainment by supporting teachers to deliver GCSE resit classes in ways that are more student-centred and focused on problem solving and discussion. For example, students could be given a set of cards with different objects on (a tall skyscraper, the length of a fly, the distance to the moon) and asked to match each object to their corresponding measurement.

Embedding contextualisation in English and Maths re-sit GCSE teaching, delivered by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers with partners MEI, aims to improve students’ motivation and understanding of English and maths by teaching them through real-life contexts involving the vocational subjects the students have chosen to study overall. Following a pilot year, 100 post-16 settings will be recruited to test the impact of the programme more fully.

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

In 2016, only one in four teenagers made the grade in English and Maths after sitting their GCSE exam a second time. It’s clear that simply keeping those teenagers in compulsory education for another year – putting extra pressure on an already squeezed sector - is just not enough.

We have to get more and better evidence of which teaching and learning strategies work for 16-18 year olds if we want to give all young people the skills they need to thrive in life. The three trials we’ve announced today will involve over 200 settings across England. They’ll give us crucial insights into how effective different approaches are, from texting students to teaching maths in real-life contexts.

Michael Sanders, Chief Scientist at the Behavioural Insights Team, said:

We're really excited to be collaborating with the EEF on this project. Thanks to them, we're going to be able to take the research we've done with dozens of colleges in the last three years and test whether it works for GCSE resits at a large scale.

Hang Ho, Head of Philanthropy for Europe, Middle-East and Africa at J.P. Morgan said:

We firmly believe that young peoples’ success in maths and English at GCSE level is fundamental to achieving the credentials for quality career pathways to the employment market. We are delighted to be supporting these three trials and we believe their concepts could be truly innovative in boosting success for GCSE maths and English resits.

Today’s announcement signals the first investment as part of our New Skills for Youth’s UK programme and we are delighted to be embarking on this journey with EEF. Globally, New Skills for Youth is dedicated to helping support young people from all backgrounds access economic opportunity as we believe every young person deserves a pathway to success.

This initiative expands the bank’s existing commitment to workforce development through its global $250 million New Skills at Work programme. This aims to identify strategies and support data-driven solutions that help improve labour market infrastructure and develop the skilled workforce globally.”

  1. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a grant-making charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust (now part of Impetus–The Private Equity Foundation), with a £125m founding grant from the Department for Education. The EEF is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £82.4 million to 133 projects working with over 850,000 pupils in over 8,300 schools across England. The EEF and Sutton Trust are, together, the government-designated What Works Centre for Education.
  2. A trial of Texting Parents, also funded by the EEF, found that texting parents of Years 7, 9 and 11 pupils had a small impact on maths results. Absenteeism was reduced too.
  3. The three new grants have been awarded to:
GRANTEEPROJECTGRANT AWARDEDNUMBER OF POST-16 SETTINGS (LEARNERS)
Association of Employment and Learning ProvidersEmbedding contextualisation in English and Maths re-sit GCSE teaching£606,350100 (at least 1,500)
Behavioural Insights Team (BIT)Texting students and study supporters£206,00030 (3,750)
University of NottinghamMaths-for-Life£641,115100 (8,000)