New EEF findings: some signs of what does/doesn`t raise attainment of disadvantaged pupils

The Education Endowment Foundation has published its first  six reports. These are based on trials with 6,800 pupils at 238 schools and aim to be a major new source of evidence to help schools narrow the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils.

Arguably an important and valuable aspect of these studies is they reveal not only what does seem to work or has promise, but also what doesn`t work or has limitations.

You can read more about the findings of each report by clicking on the links in the text below.

One of the key findings from them is that teaching assistants can improve pupils’ maths and literacy achievement when they are used to teach small groups or deliver interventions. Research to date has suggested that students in a class with a teaching assistant do not, on average, perform better than those in a class with only a teacher.

In a trial of Switch-On Reading, teaching assistants were found to have an impact on literacy. This was a 10-week programme aimed at pupils in their first year of secondary school who did not achieve the expected levels in literacy at the end of primary school. Switch-On Reading consists of one to one reading sessions lasting twenty minutes usually with a teaching assistant.

Catch Up® Numeracy is a one to one intervention for pupils who are struggling with maths. It consists of two 15-minute sessions per week with the help of a teaching assistant. The intervention breaks numeracy down into ten elements which include counting verbally, counting objects, word problems and estimating.

Future Foundations is a four week academic summer school for children in Year 5 and 6. This is a literacy and numeracy catch-up intervention which provides extra schooling in the summer holidays. Attracting pupils to attend was challenging and it may not be cost effective, though there were some potenially promising results in English amongst year 5 pupils from poorer backgrounds.

Grammar for Writing is a literacy intervention aimed at improving writing skills of pupils in Year 6. It was found to be most effective in small groups, even then gains were modest. The intervention encourages pupils to improve their writing by making connections between particular linguistic features and writing.

The pilot project, Anglican Schools Partnership, focused on trying to improve teachers’ understanding and use of effective feedback in their lessons. Teachers reviewed academic literature on effective feedback before developing ways to use it in the classroom. However, they often struggled to interpret, understand and apply findings from academic research.The approach appeared to be most effective when training was communal and when objectives and methods were shared. It was least successful when teachers were unclear about the differences between different types of feedback, and when pupils were unable to set clear success criteria.

Response to Intervention is a targeted programme of support for low achieving pupils aimed at children in Year 6 in the summer term in preparation for secondary school  transfer. There are three approaches – whole class teaching (Tier 1), followed by small group tuition (Tier 2) for those who need more help, and finally one to one tutoring (Tier 3) for those who didn’t work well in the small group sessions.

The Education Endowment Foundation is a charity set up by the Sutton Trust. It is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement, ensuring that children from all backgrounds can fulfil their potential and make the most of their talents.


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