Graduate Coaching Programme

The Perry Beeches Coaching Programme aimed to improve the reading and writing skills of Year 7 pupils with low levels of attainment in four English secondary schools. Across the project, 16 coaches were employed to provide academic support to pupils who had not reached level 4c in English at the end of Key Stage 2. Originally it had been intended that pupils would only receive one to one support, and that all coaches would be graduates. However, in practice pupils received a range of targeted support that varied between schools and most, but not all, coaches were graduates.

The programme built on a successful pilot in Perry Beeches Academy in Birmingham, and the school co-ordinated the project across participating schools. The approach was based on a one to one coaching programme used in Match Charter School in Boston, USA.

This project sought to assess the impact of the programme on the academic outcomes of 186 students who were offered support during the 2013–2014 school year.

The study was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation as one of 24 projects in a themed round on literacy catch-up at the primary–secondary transition. Projects funded within this round aimed to identify effective ways to support pupils not achieving level 4 in English at the end of Key Stage 2.

Key Conclusions

The following conclusions summarise the project outcome

  1. The programme had a positive impact on pupils’ attainment in reading, spelling and grammar, equivalent to approximately five additional months’ progress. The evaluation did not seek to prove that the approach would work in all schools, but did identify strong evidence of promise.

  2. The programme had a similar effect for pupils eligible for free school meals as for their peers.

  3. There was considerable variation in the way that the initiative was delivered across the four schools. Pupils received a mixture of one to one and small group support, but the frequency and duration of sessions ranged widely between schools and students. There was also variation in the training and supervision coaches received.

  4. Coaches felt that pupils engaged well with the variety of sessions and that both one to one and small group work was beneficial. However, it was not possible to identify the precise contribution of one to one sessions and greater definition of the approach may be required were the approach to be trialled in a larger number of schools.

  5. The cost of the programme was high compared to other literacy catch-up approaches—including those delivered one to one—due to the salary costs of coaches and the intensity of support provided.

What is the impact?

  • On average, the programme had a positive impact on reading and writing outcomes across all groups of pupils. The average impact for all pupils was roughly equivalent to five additional months’ progress. It is possible to say with a high degree of confidence that the pupils who experienced the intervention in this trial benefited from it.
  • The average impact on pupils from low income families was also five additional months’ progress; the differences in effect between students who had been eligible for free school meals at any point in the previous six years and their peers was less than one mark.
  • This impact is consistent with existing evidence on the effects of one to one tuition and small group tuition. However, to date, there have been few studies of one to one or small group tuition approaches in English secondary schools, which made this study worthwhile.
  • Observations and interviews with coaching staff suggested that pupils generally engaged well with the variety of coaching sessions, and that they found all types of sessions beneficial. However, limitations in the data recorded in coaching logs meant that is not possible to say with confidence how much of each type of coaching was provided across the whole sample, and it is not possible to assess quantitatively the impact of the one to one sessions only.
  • Given the nature of this initiative—using tutors for reasonably intensive tuition over a whole academic year—we might have expected to have seen even greater impact on literacy outcomes. However, variations in delivery, including 14 pupils who received coaching in maths but no additional support in English, may have diluted its potential.

There was a clear positive relationship between the total amount of contact time pupils received (whether individually or in group sessions) and their outcomes

All pupils+0.36 +5 months
FSM-eligible+0.40 +5 monthsN/A

How secure is the finding?

Overall, the findings are rated as moderate. This assessment takes into account a number of factors, including implementation fidelity, and level of drop-out.

Impact was assessed through a randomised controlled trial in four schools. The trial was classified as an ‘efficacy trial’, meaning that it sought to test whether the approach can work under ideal conditions, but did not seek to demonstrate that the approach would work in all types of schools.

Due to the number of pupils who took part in the project and the size of the observed effect, it is highly unlikely that the observed effect occurred due to chance. However, security was weakened by 22% of randomised pupils not completing tests at the end of the project. 

How much does it cost?

The cost of the approach as delivered in the trial is estimated at £1,400 per pupil. This estimate includes the annual salaries for each coach employed, one day per fortnight of administrative personnel support time, training materials, and training time. Additional costs could include purchasing laptops and other materials for graduate coaches. Costs associated with the trial itself, such as testing and senior leadership time, are not included in this estimate.

There are clearly economies of scale in training and equipping groups of coaches (for example the cost of training just one or two coaches in a school would be more expensive than linking with other schools to co-train five or six coaches). The minimum core cost for a school to train and equip five coaches to deliver the intervention to 60 pupils for a year is estimated as £76,300 (£1,272 per pupil). The maximum cost (core costs plus higher coach salary and additional training and resource costs) is estimated at £87,100 (£1,452 per pupil).