EEF Blog: Nine months progress for a fraction of the Pupil Premium

Peter Henderson, Research Officer at the EEF, comments on today's new evaluation reports.


‘This scheme had a profound impact on the writing attitudes and skills of my Year 6 class … Quite simply, it taught children who wouldn’t normally care, to care deeply, thus significantly raising the lowest common denominator.’Clare Frith, Year 6 teacher and Key Stage 2 Leader, Salterhebble Junior and Infant School

The EEF is excited to publish four evaluation reports today. All four reports will add to our understanding of effective teaching practice, but there is one that stands out: the evaluation of the “Improving Writing Quality”programme delivered by the Calderdale Excellence Partnership (CEP).

The randomised controlled trial was conducted by the Universities of Durham and York, and revealed that the intervention increased pupils’ progress by an average of nine months for a very low cost. This encouraging finding shows that a memorable experience combined with a structured approach to writing can make a difference to struggling writers at the transition from primary to secondary school. Future research could examine whether this effect can be replicated in other contexts with other types of pupil.

The programme provided pupils in their final year of primary school or first year of secondary school with a memorable experience (e.g a visit to a zoo) and then offered them a structured approach to writing about it called “Self-Regulated Strategy Development” (SRSD). Key features of the SRSD approach include:

  • mnemonics to help students structure their writing
  • use of graphic organisers
  • encouraging pupils to assess and evaluate their own writing
  • encouraging pupils to use motivational ‘self-talk’

This finding is particularly promising for three reasons:

  • In 2013, about one in six pupils left primary school without reaching the expected level in English and fewer than a fifth of these pupils go on to achieve a C or above at English GCSE. Improving the attainment of these pupils is a significant challenge for schools. The cost of the programme (approximately £60 per teacher for the initial training and £50 per pupil for the memorable experiences) is small compared to the £1,300 Pupil Premium allocated to each primary school pupil in 2014/15, and our evaluation suggests it could provide a cost effective approach to closing this attainment gap.
  • The existing research on meta-cognition and self-regulation, summarised in our Teaching and Learning Toolkit, suggests that strategies that teach pupils to set goals, monitor and evaluate their own learning are particularly effective. “Improving Writing Quality” appears to be a practical way of improving pupils’ skills in these areas.
  • This programme was developed and managed by a group of schools. It shows that schools can get together and engage in research, and this can lead to impressive results. We hope that this successful trial will prompt many more schools to apply for EEF funding or register to participate in a trial!

Keep watching this space for further information about the programme!

Peter Henderson is Research Officer at the Education Endowment Foundation. Peter joined the EEF in August 2013 as an Administrative Assistant. He moved to the Research Officer position in May 2014 and now works with both the Grants Team and the Dissemination and Impact Team.