Education Endowment Foundation:ASCENTS 121 Support for Science (2023/24 trial)

ASCENTS 121 Support for Science (2023/24 trial)

University of Roehampton
Project info

Independent Evaluator

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A trial to test the impact of one-to-one mentoring delivered by STEM undergraduates on KS4 Science attainment.

Pupils: 922 Schools: 55 Grant: £861,131
Participating settings: 55

This project was recruiting, but is now full.

ASCENTS 121 Support for Science trains university STEM students to be mentors and pairs them with year 11 pupils. University mentors provide 23 weeks of one-to-one hour-long sessions in science subjects and a revision session in the weeks leading up to the year 11 students’ GCSE exams. Mentors receive training from their University and their allocated school and receive ongoing support from a trained university programme manager.

The programme is being delivered by the University of Roehampton in collaboration with University of Lincoln, University of Liverpool, University of Hull, Northumbria University, Anglia Ruskin University and Plymouth Marjon University.

As part of the Department for Education’s Accelerator Fund, the EEF is commissioning a number of trials of programmes that show promise for increasing pupil attainment.

What is promising about the programme

The EEF funded a multi-site efficacy trial in 2019 in 46 schools with 845 Year 11 pupils that sought to assess the impact on mentee GCSE science attainment. However, while almost the entirety of the programme was delivered, the trial was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and with the consequent changes in GCSE grading, it was not possible to complete an impact assessment.

However, despite complications posed by the pandemic, the programme was delivered largely as intended across settings, and the IPE was able to be completed. This reported several perceived benefits for mentees, mentors, and teachers. For mentees these included a perceived increase in understanding of science, enjoyment, interest, and confidence in science, in addition to perceived enhanced social skills and maturity in interacting with adults. In addition, teachers reported feeling that mentoring sessions improved teacher-pupil relationships, and that pupils developed confidence in seeking extra support from teachers.

Moreover, the project team have previously carried out a small pupil-randomised study to evaluate the programme in four schools with 86 Year 11 pupils (Sharpe, Abrahams & Fotou, 2018). The study found that pupils who were mentored achieved better results in their GCSE science examinations than those who were not, with an effect size of 0.3 standard deviations (which equates to an addition 4 months of progress).

The EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit described one to one tuition has having high impact for moderate cost based on moderate evidence’ and mentoring as having low impact for moderate cost based on moderate evidence’. The ASCENTS programme incorporates both tutoring and mentoring

Using undergraduate students could be an effective way of improving results at reduced cost. They could also act as role models as people who have continued with STEM subjects.

If successful, this is programme could be scalable to other areas with university students willing to support local pupils. It would add to the evidence base on one-to-one tuition, building on the evidence produced by the EEF’s Tutor Trust effectiveness trial (York Trials Unit, 2018).

An independent evaluation of the programme will be carried out by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).

ASCENTS 121 Support for Science is being independently evaluated at an efficacy level. This means that is will be delivered to a number of schools to test whether an intervention can work under developer-led conditions. The evaluation will be a two-armed pupil-randomised controlled trial, with 922 pupils randomly allocated to either receive ASCENTS 121 Support for Science mentoring or act as a business-as-usual comparison group.

The primary outcome for the evaluation is GCSE double Science attainment grades. GCSE Maths and English attainment will be investigated as secondary outcomes. The evaluation will also study the impact of the programme on mentee and mentor aspirations by investigating the proportion of ASCENTS mentees who go on to complete a Level 3 science qualification, and the proportion of mentors who go on to begin teach training.

The evaluation report will be published in Spring 2025.