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Will we have a Beveridge Report for ending the attainment gap?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital12 May 2021

IOE Events.

Just as one can’t out-exercise a bad diet, education policy and the efforts of schools and teachers can’t out-run societal inequalities.  But they can serve to exacerbate or  alleviate those inequalities.

The socio-economic attainment gap has been a long-standing focal point of education policy and debate, albeit not as long-standing as the attainment gap itself. It’s a gap that seems in some respects inevitable and intractable (and on that point it is sobering to remind ourselves that 14m people in the UK, around a fifth, live in relative poverty; that’s a third of children).  It is an aspect of education systems that leaves optimists fatalistic, and new teachers surprised to find themselves defending elements they never thought they would, such as high-stakes exams.

For our debate What if… we really want to close the attainment gap ‘post-Covid’? we were (more…)

The pupil premium is not working (part I): do not measure attainment gaps

Blog Editor, IOE Digital18 September 2018

On Saturday 8 September 2018 I gave a talk to researchED London about the pupil premium. It was too long for my 40-minute slot, and the written version is similarly far too long for one post. So I am posting my argument in three parts [pt II is here and pt III is here]. The IOE London Blog is re-posting Part 1 and recommends following the links to the other two on rebeccaallen.co.uk for the full analysis.
Every education researcher I have met shares a desire to work out how we can support students from disadvantaged backgrounds as they navigate the education system. I wrote my PhD thesis about why school admissions help middle class families get ahead. No politician is crazy enough to do anything about that; but they have been brave enough to put their money where their mouth is, using cash to try to close the attainment gap. This series of blog posts explains why I think the pupil premium hasn’t worked and why it diverts the education system away from things that might work somewhat better. I suggest it is time to re-focus our energies on constructing classrooms that give the greatest chance of success to those most likely to (more…)

Reading Recovery: deprived 11-year-olds don't have to face a bleak future

Blog Editor, IOE Digital7 July 2014

Julia Douëtil

The latest paper from the Education Endowment Foundation highlights the 25% of 11-year-olds in poverty each year who fail to reach national curriculum level 4, and the devastating impact that is likely to have on each of those children’s future. What if we could reduce that 25% failure rate to, say 7% – in other words, recover three out of four of those potential failures?
The good news is we can.
In 2012 we traced more than 1200 children who, at the age of six, had been identified as being in the very lowest attaining 20% of the age cohort and who had received Reading Recovery to enable them to catch up with their peers. Those children had just completed Key Stage 2 National Assessments and three out of four of them had achieved national curriculum level 4 in reading, and two out of three in writing (page 32).
In the EEF report, Professor Steve Higgins and his Durham University colleagues demonstrate the gap in attainment for children in poverty, and we see the same at entry to Reading Recovery: children entitled to free school meals are typically twice as likely to be among the lowest attaining identified for the programme at age six. At age 11, the gap between those in poverty and their peers attaining National Curriculum Level 4 had reduced to just 7%. At National Curriculum Level 3 the gap was just over 1% as 19 out of 20 of the previously lowest attaining children, those most likely to fail to reach level 3, reached level 3 or above.
The EEF report shows a grudging respect for one-to-one support over group teaching, but the evidence for intensive, high quality early intervention is compelling.
I would go further. If support offered to the lowest attaining six-year-olds is not enabling them to make four or five times the normal rate of progress, to catch up and stay caught up with their peers, we are not trying hard enough.