‘The 7 things 100 RCTs tell us about the attainment gap’

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) will shortly publish the findings from our 100th randomised controlled trial (RCT). 

The scale of the EEF’s programme of practical research – funding 200 high-potential projects involving more than half of all schools in England (as well as many early years and post-16 settings) and reaching 1.5 million young people – is unprecedented anywhere in the world.

The EEF's new chief executive, Professor Becky Francis, has written for the TES with just seven messages about closing the attainment gap, drawn from these first hundred published evaluations. Here's an excerpt:

We have to start early, before the attainment gap truly takes hold

The EEF’s evaluation of Nuffield Early Language Intervention, involving 350 children across 34 schools, shows the prize on offer for improving the quality of early years provision. Delivered by teaching assistants, it used targeted sessions in listening, narrative and vocabulary skills to improve the spoken language ability of children with low language skills. The evaluators found it improved learning by an additional +4 months.

Teaching assistants can have a real impact, but schools have to use them well

When teaching assistants are well-trained and deployed, they have huge potential to improve pupil outcomes. Our trial of 1stClass@Number, involving 532 children across 130 schools, was one of a group of projects funded as part of the EEF’s £5 million campaign to support schools to maximise the impact of support staff, a resource which costs £5 billion nationally.

Teachers shouldn’t underestimate the power of feedback, but getting it right is key

Feedback and formative assessment have rightly been the focus of multiple trials. The Embedding Formative Assessment project, involving 140 schools and 25,000 pupils, shows why. The project, developed by a team including Professor Dylan Wiliam, improved GCSE outcomes by +2 additional months' progress, and had a particularly positive impact on low-attaining pupils.

You can read the other four lessons, and the rest of Prof. Francis's TES article, here.