Online games will test ways for teaching assistants to improve pupils’ maths skills

A new trial using teaching assistants and internet games to help improve primary school pupils’ mental arithmetic is one of three launched today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) that will evaluate different ways for teaching assistants to support primary school pupils struggling with their numeracy skills.

These trials form part of the EEF’s £5m campaign to help schools make the best use of the country’s 240,000 teaching assistants:

  • Delivered by the University of Oxford, a trial of Improving Working Memory will find out if teaching memory strategies to Year 3 pupils can improve their results. Led by teaching assistants, the intervention will utilise internet games to help Year 3 pupils improve their working memories, a cognitive skill that has a significant impact on number understanding and arithmetic.
  • In Edge Hill University’s 1stClass@Number, teaching assistants will be given six half-days of training and detailed lesson plans to deliver a Post Office themed small-group intervention to Year 2 pupils. The children will use letters, parcels and house numbers to support their maths and write postcards to tell their class teachers about their achievements.
  • Catch Up Numeracy, a one-to-one teaching assistant-led intervention that breaks numeracy down into ten components, was previously trialled by the EEF with positive results. This trial will find out if the programme is as effective when delivered at a larger scale.

​The numeracy projects are among 13 new trials announced today which will test different ways to improve grades for disadvantaged pupils. The trials, funded by the EEF, will reach over 45,000 pupils in 1,100 schools.

Delivered by Cornwall College, Retain will help teachers in the first three years of their career understand the impact of disadvantage on schools and students through a three-module course. With 10% of teachers leaving the state sector in 2014, the programme could offer a potential solution to the teacher shortage crisis by increasing the knowledge, skills and confidence of young teachers to teach in and stay in schools with high levels of deprivation.

Also announced today are six projects, match-funded by the Department for Education, that support Education Secretary Nicky Morgan’s drive to encourage schools development of character traits like motivation, grit and resilience.

Zippy’s Friends, delivered by Partnership for Children, is an intervention designed to improve Year 2 pupils’ ability to cope with everyday difficulties and reduce their chance of developing mental health problems later in life. Teachers will be trained and provided with the resources to deliver 24 weekly sessions built around stories about a stick insect (Zippy) and his friends. The stories will cover issues like friendship, conflict and change and the children will be encouraged to discuss the issues they raise. It is based on strong academic evidence that students with better coping strategies are better placed to cope with academic struggles.

Other character-based projects that will be trialled and evaluated by the EEF are:

  • Positive Action, delivered by Lady Joanna Thornhill Primary School, a school-led programme designed to develop good behaviour and character. The curriculum consists of 140 lessons per year, delivered in 15-20 minutes activities 2-3 times a week.
  • FRIENDS, delivered by Project Salus, a 10 week programme to help Year 5 pupils reduce anxiety by teaching them how to solve problems and understand new ideas better.
  • Improving Oracy Framework, delivered by School 21, will help students develop their speaking and listening skills through a school-wide oracy curriculum.

Changing Mindsets, delivered by the University of Portsmouth, will test whether teacher-led sessions can improve pupil attainment and resilience by encouraging Year 6 pupils to believe that their grades can be improved through dedication and hard work.

  • A project delivered by the University of Sussex that will test the impact of short creative writing exercises on young people’s attainment.

The other three new trials are: Maths Champions, delivered by National Day Nurseries Association; Mathematical Reasoning, delivered by the University of Oxford; and The Visible Classroom, delivered by the University of Melbourne.

All 13 trials will be independently evaluated and the results used to inform the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit, an accessible summary of educational research.

Commenting on the new character-based projects, Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today:

“We know that traits such as motivation and perseverance can have a positive effect on academic outcomes yet we know very little about how best to instill these in our young people. The six new trials that the EEF have announced today will provide much-needed evidence on which methods genuinely add value.”

Commenting on the new teaching assistant-led projects, Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today:

“Teaching assistants play such an important role in our classrooms, especially in supporting disadvantaged pupils. But we know that they are often used in ways that don’t have a positive impact on young people’s attainment. The evidence we gain from evaluating these three teaching assistant-led trials will give schools a much clearer picture of how they can use their support staff to improve numeracy.”

For further information or case studies from schools, please contact Hilary Cornwell on / 020 7802 1676

Notes to editors

  1. The Education Endowment Foundation is a charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust, with a Department for Education grant of £125m. It is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £57 million to 100 projects working with over 620,000 pupils in over 4,900 schools across England.
  2. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research developed by the EEF in collaboration with the Sutton Trust and a team of academics at Durham University led by Professor Steve Higgins. The expanded Toolkit covers 34 topics and summarises research from over 10,000 studies. The Toolkit is a live resource which is regularly updated as new findings are published.

View all new projects here; Projects, October 2015