EEF to fund four new trials to test different teaching and learning strategies

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The UK charity the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has announced grants totalling £1.66 million to fund four new trials to test different teaching and learning strategies that aim to help break the link between family income and educational achievement.

The largest grant — £721,000 — will fund a matched study of the Education Development Trust’s (EDT) Schools Partnership Programme. This will test how a partnership-based approach to rigorous peer review and school-to-school support can lead to improved outcomes for pupils.

The matched study will involve 110,000 pupils in 300 schools. Based around clusters of three to seven schools, the programme trains and supports leaders at all levels to develop the capacity and culture needed for challenging, supportive and mutually accountable relationships both within and between schools.

Working with their partners, schools will identify and address individual and cluster priorities for improvement, with a focus on closing the attainment gap.

A second trial will receive £360,000 to find out if EasyPeasy — a low-cost smartphone app that sends activities and tips on child development to parents — can help improve toddlers’ language and communication skills.

There is good evidence that engaged parents and a vibrant home learning environment are major influences on children’s development.

Content on the EasyPeasy app covers all areas of the early years curriculum and aims to encourage positive interaction with children at home.

Parents and carers of 8,840 children will be sent short video clips that give them ideas of games to play with their child, along with brief written instructions and a series of text reminders encouraging them to try out the games.

There is good evidence that engaged parents and a vibrant home learning environment are major influences on children’s development, yet little is known about how to better support families who are struggling to provide this.

A smaller trial of EasyPeasy — funded through the Sutton Trust’s Parental Engagement Network — found promising evidence that it improved children’s concentration and their willingness to complete difficult tasks. This trial will see if gains can be replicated with a larger group of families.

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the EEF, said:

We know that the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest pupils begins before they’ve even started school. Tackling this disparity early on is critical to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and improving social mobility.

But it can be difficult to get parents involved in their child’s learning. EasyPeasy is an inexpensive app that encourages positive play and interaction with children at home. After early promising results, our trial will find out if this could be an effective way of improving parental engagement.

A third trial will test onebillion — a digital maths app that acts as a virtual teacher. It will receive a grant of £227,000 and involve 1,200 five- and six-year-olds.

Subject leads can see how effective teachers are at developing particular skills, meaning that peer support and additional training can be targeted effectively.

The children will use the app to work through exercises at their own pace while their knowledge is assessed through a quiz at the end of each topic. Teaching assistants will monitor progress to identify any areas that individual pupils might find particularly challenging.

The fourth and final trial will be of FLASH Marking, developed and delivered by Meols Cop High School in Southport. With a grant of £355,000 it will explore if removing grades in marked schoolwork and replacing them with targeted and actionable feedback can help boost English GCSE results and reduce teacher workload. The trial will involve 12,500 pupils in 100 secondary schools.

Sarah Cunliffe, subject leader for English, said:

The programme translates the skills required to access top band grades at GCSE English and English Literature into codes. Teachers are trained to use them when assessing pupils’ work. The codes are also used in lessons to help pupils to understand the skills they’re good at and those they need to improve.

Subject leads can see how effective teachers are at developing particular skills, meaning that peer support and additional training can be targeted effectively. It is hoped that the programme will reduce teacher workload by making marking more focused.

The trial follows a review of the evidence on marking by the EEF that highlighted a critical lack of evidence to show which written marking strategies have a positive effect on pupil progress and which will not. However, the report did find some evidence that grading work can reduce the impact of marking, particularly if pupils become preoccupied with grades and don’t take on board teacher feedback.

All four of newly funded trials are recruiting schools to take part. More information can be found on the individual project pages on the EEF’s website.

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