Commenting on the government’s education recovery plans, Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:
1) Impact of school closures on attainment
At the beginning of February, the EEF published interim findings from a research project with the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) that looked at the impact of the first period of school closures on Year 2 (6 / 7 year olds) pupils’ reading and maths.
The research found that:
- Overall performance in both reading and mathematics in autumn 2020 was found to be significantly lower compared to the 2017 cohort, with pupils, on average, making two months less progress in both subject areas compared to the standardisation sample.
- There is a large and concerning gap between the attainment of disadvantaged pupils and non-disadvantaged pupils. For both reading and maths this gap is estimated to be the equivalent of seven months’ learning.
The Sutton Trust’s Learning in Lockdown report (published Jan 2021) highlighted some of the potential reasons why disadvantaged pupils’ attainment is more likely to be affected by school closures.
According to the report:
Most teachers think the lockdown and associated disruption will increase the attainment gap in their school, and over half feel that the work being completed by students has worsened during closures.
Only 5% of teachers said they had adequate technology for all of their pupils.
Nearly double the number of middle-class children are completing 5 hours of schoolwork per day, compared to their working-class peers.
The report recommended the schools receive a ‘covid premium’ for their disadvantaged pupils of £400 additional per pupil, or £750m in total.
2) Summer schools
There’s a secure evidence base that shows summer schools can bring small positive gains to attainment. However, they are expensive, and trials have highlighted that it can be difficult to get pupils to attend.
On average, the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit suggests that pupils who attend a summer school make approximately two additional months’ progress compared to similar pupils who do not.
However, the effectiveness of summer schools depends on what approach is taken and evidence suggests that summer schools without a clear academic component are not usually associated with learning gains. Summer schools can have other aims and benefits, such as participation in the arts or sporting activities.
Evidence suggests that greater impacts (as much as four additional months’ progress) can be achieved when summer schools are intensive, well-resourced, and involve small group tuition by trained and experienced teachers.
More intensive and well-resourced provision is likely to be expensive and whilst summer schools may not be the most cost-effective approach, under the current circumstances they may be a good bet, worthy of government investment
Key feasibility challenges are likely to include ensuring buy in from teaching and support staff, securing pupil attendance and attracting disadvantaged pupils.
The EEF has funded two summer school trials which found attendance to be a key challenge with less than 50% of target pupils attending the voluntary summer programmes.
Teacher workload will need to be prioritised. There is a risk of increased burnout if staff are asked to work over the holidays.
3) Extending school time
There’s a moderately secure evidence base showing that extending school time can bring small positive learning gains, however it is expensive and can be difficult to staff appropriately. Extending school time is likely to be most effective if used in a targeted way and with a clear purpose.
On average, the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit suggests that extending the school days can lead to learning gains of around two months.
Any extension to learning time needs to have a clear purpose. Additional instruction should be high-quality, for example delivered by teachers or trained teaching assistants.
Given that returns to learning by increasing instructional time are hard to identify beyond a certain threshold of time, a universal extension to the school day would not be cost-effective
Given schools with higher-quality teachers and more effective learning environments are more able to capitalise on increases in school time, a universal extension is likely to increase existing attainment disparities between schools
It may be possible to mitigate against the widening of attainment gaps by targeting additional school time and teacher instruction towards underachieving and disadvantaged pupils
- However, targeting certain pupils comes with risks, as being singled out could impact their confidence and attitude to school, which in turn may mean they are less likely to participate. Using extended hours for fun activities focused on social development could help to mitigate this potential for stigma.
As with summer schools, teacher workload is a key concern.
4) Tutoring / National Tutoring Programme
There is a very strong evidence showing that both one-to-one and small-group tuition can bring positive learning gains.
- On average, the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit suggests that one-to-one tuition can lead to learning gains of around five months.
- There is also strong evidence that small-group tuition (in groups of two or three) can lead to learning gains and is more cost effective.
- Short, regular sessions (about 30 minutes) over a set period (six to 12 weeks) appear to have the biggest impact.
- Evidence also suggests tuition should be additional to, but explicitly linked with, normal teaching, and that teachers should monitor progress to ensure the tutoring is beneficial.
- Tutoring should be delivered in-school where possible, to avoid potential barriers like attendance and the digital divide.
- The EEF has been awarded £76m to deliver National Tutoring Programme Tuition Partners. Since November 2020, over 125,000 pupils in almost 4,000 schools across England have been allocated tutoring through NTP Tuition
- Partners. Over 15,000 tutors have been onboarded. Schools can access high-quality tutoring – subsidised by 75% – for their pupils through 33 approved Tuition partners.