Wednesday, 20 April 2016

After-school clubs 'boost poorer pupils' results

The BBC are reporting today on the findings of recent Nuffield Foundation research showing that After-school Clubs are indeed helping disadvantaged pupils both socially and academically.  This is important research for Temple Grove Schools Trust as part of our charitable work is to provide enrichment funding for such activities.
BBC Report:
After-school clubs and sports can improve the academic performance and social skills of disadvantaged primary school pupils, research finds.
Poorer primary children who had taken part in after-school clubs were found to get better results at age 11 than peers from similar homes who had not.
The Nuffield Foundation says clubs are an "easy vehicle" for enrichment.
The findings come as ministers plan to use money from a sugar tax on fizzy drinks to fund after-school activities.
The researchers analysed information on more than 6,400 children in England taking part in the Millennium Cohort Study, which has been following children born in 2000-01 from birth.
They defined disadvantaged children as those whose family income was below the poverty line - that is below 60% of the average household income.
The study found taking part in activities after the formal school day could play a role in closing the attainment gap between children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and those with more family resources.
The report says: "Compared with disadvantaged children who did not attend after-school club at the age of 11, those who attended after-school club one or two days per week had made significantly more progress than predicted.
"Those who attended after-school club one day per week had, on average, a 1.7 point higher actual Key Stage 2 score than predicted based on their prior attainment and circumstances, while those who attended after-school club two days per week had on average a three point higher actual total point score than predicted."
The research also found poor children who attended after-school clubs developed better social, emotional and behavioural skills than those, also from similar social circumstances, who did not.
The results indicate that after-school clubs also bridged the gap between rich and poor, as children from disadvantaged homes participated to the same extent as those from affluent ones.
Out-of-school activities
However, when assessing the impact of out-of-school activities - such as membership of sports clubs, private tuition or music lessons - the report found inequalities persisted.
It said these were largely driven by cost, including "not just the direct cost of the fees for the activity but also the associated cost of travel to and from the activity, the cost of uniforms, kit or materials eg instruments".
"Another barrier to community-based, as opposed to school-based, activities may also be to do with the scheduling of activities in afternoons and the difficulties getting to and from and the travel time."
The study says the findings have implications for policymakers and practitioners concerned with improving educational enrichment.
It says: "For children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, who have lower take-up of formal out-of-school activities, school-based clubs offer an accessible, lower cost route for learning experiences outside of the school curriculum with potential benefits for social as well as academic development.
"More research is needed to understand the content of the after-school clubs and what it is about the experience that results in improved outcomes."
Lead report author Dr Emily Tanner said: "For children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, who have lower take-up of formal out-of-school activities, school-based clubs appear to offer an affordable and inclusive means of supporting academic attainment.
"The recent Budget announcement to direct money raised by the tax on sugary drinks towards funding sport and after-school activities suggests policymakers are recognising the wide-ranging benefits of these activities.
"After-school clubs, based on school premises, seem to be an easy vehicle for policymakers and educators to ensure that children have access to both the core curriculum and wider enriching activities."

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Toddlers 'need early years teachers in nurseries'

Katherine Sellgren of the BBC writes:
Every nursery in England should have a qualified early years teacher to help toddlers develop skills like speech and language, a children's charity says.
Save the Children says pre-schoolers can be "set back decades" if their brains are not adequately stimulated before they start formal schooling.
'Brain time'
The Save the Children report, Lighting Up Young Brains, is written in conjunction with the Institute of Child Health at University College London and highlights pre-school years as a "critical opportunity" for the brain to develop key skills.
The report suggests the government should make playtime "brain time" under the guidance of a qualified early years teacher. The charity says failure to properly stimulate toddlers' brains during nursery years could set them back for decades.
Save the Children claims government figures show almost 130,000 children in England last year were falling behind with language abilities before they even reached school. This means six children in every reception class struggled with their early language skills, it says.
It warns that failure to develop good language skills can leave children struggling to learn in the classroom and unable to catch up with their peers.  Of the 1,000 parents from England surveyed, 47% said they hoped their child would know 100 words by their third birthday - but this is only half the recommended number.
And 56% of parents did not think they had enough help and advice to understand their child's early learning.
Nursery staff skills
A Department for Education review of early years staff, carried out by Prof Cathy Nutbrown in 2012, found concerns about literacy and numeracy skills among workers in England.
In January 2013, former childcare minister Elizabeth Truss introduced the training of early years teachers, in an attempt to boost their status.
But the measures do not mean early years teachers have qualified teacher status (QTS), like those in primary and secondary schools, instead they have early years teacher status (EYTS).
The DfE says the number of graduates currently in the early years workforce is rising.
"Between 2008 and 2013, the proportion of full day care staff with a degree or higher increased from 5% to 13%," a spokeswoman said.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said while a graduate-led workforce could improve learning, nurseries needed better funding to pay better qualified staff.
"Without the funding needed to enable providers to pay graduate-level wages, this ambition, while admirable, will be impossible to achieve in practice.
"What's more, it's important to remember that being a good early years practitioner is about more than just having certain academic qualifications - experience, a caring disposition and crucially, an in-depth understanding of child development are all vital and these valuable attributes should not be overlooked."
The authors of the Save the Children report say the early years are vital for children's development and should be treated as a priority.
"Toddlers' brains are like sponges, absorbing knowledge and making new connections faster than at any other time in life," said Save the Children's director of UK poverty, Gareth Jenkins.
"To tackle the nation's education gap, we need a new national focus on early learning to give children the best start - not just increasing free childcare hours, but boosting nursery quality to help support children and parents with early learning."
Childcare Minister Sam Gyimah, said: "This government is raising the bar and making a significant investment in the early years sector, working closely with the profession to help improve its status.
"As a result salaries have increased, numbers of qualified staff have risen, the number of graduates in the workforce continues to rise, and a record number of providers are rated good or outstanding.
"We know that 80% of children are achieving the expected communication and language skills by age five - an increase of eight percentage points since 2013. But we are determined to go further."

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

DfE Miss Teacher Recruitment Targets

The DfE are under heavy fire from the National Audit Office for failing to reach targets in teacher recruitment.  Something that most people working in the industry already knew.
Schools Week have helpfully published the top 15 key points from the report, they make interesting reading:

1.The NAO says the main reason why more more teachers are needed is because existing ones leave the profession.
Schools rely on a constant supply of newly-qualified teachers to replace those leaving the workforce. But that pressure is getting bigger – the number of teachers leaving the profession rose by 11 per cent between 2011 and 2014.

2. Reported vacancy rates in the profession have rocketed – although the NAO says the overall number is still “low”
They increased from 350 (0.1 per cent of the workforce) in 2011 to 3,210 (0.9 per cent) in 2014.   However the data is collected in November, when vacancy rates are comparatively low anyway, so the DfE accepts this doesn’t show the full picture.

3. Teachers without a degree in their subject is rising. (It’s more than 40 per cent in Spanish)

The proportion of of lessons in secondary schools taught by teachers without relevant post-A-level qualifications has grown. This was most prevalent in computer science (44 per cent), Spanish (43 per cent), religious education (30 per cent) and physics (28 per cent). In English and maths – one fifth of lessons are taught by teachers without further qualifications.

4. It is extremely hard to predict the right number of teachers needed each year, and the DfE isn’t doing a great job to ensure it gets things right

The NAO found that, while the DfE uses the best data available, the risk that it comes up with the incorrect number of needed trainee teachers remains “significant”.
That’s because:
– Many decisions are matters of judgement
– The DfE’s model is based on “inherently uncertain circumstances”
– There are gaps in the data
– The DfE has yet to independently verify its model’s accuracy.

5. The DfE is not doing a good job at meeting its own recruitment targets
This year, 547 trainees were recruited for every 100,000 pupils in the North West, compared to just 294 in the East of England. The NAO says the DfE needs to do more to understand the important local and regional issues – and not just rely on schools to resolve it.

6. The number of teacher trainees varies massively by region – and the DfE has a weak understanding of them

7. The DfE has handed out £620 million on bursaries to attract people to teaching in five years – without knowing whether it aids recruitment
The NAO said the DfE’s analysis of the longer-term impact has been “insufficient” given the level of investment.  The DfE has said it will now investigate the impact of its new £30,000 grants.

8. University trainees lag behind their peers in getting a teaching job within six months of qualifying

9. The drive in school-led training has not put off university providers
Many more schools now train teachers compared to five years ago. But only five of 75 higher-education institutions stopped offering training in the same time period.

10. The number of routes into teaching has been described as confusing and could put off potential applicants
The NAO found there is not “enough good information” available for potential applicants to make informed choices about where to train. They also found the number of providers available depends where they live.
11. It costs the Department for Education more than four times as much to train a teacher via Teach First as opposed to School Direct…
But it is worth noting that there are no loans or grants for Teach First participants, and these are a cost to the government also. So a comparison cost of £16,000 vs £25,000 is a more reasonable comparison.

12 … And the NAO said a “significant” amount of Teach Firsters leave the profession after two years.
This graphic is important as it is the first time we have seen longitudinal numbers for all Teach First cohorts.

13. The DfE’s constant changes to its recruitment model is really annoying providers.

14. So, is the DfE offering value for money?

15. What happens now?The NAO says it means providers do not have a clear and stable basis to plan for the long term.
It’s a big “no” from the NAO.

The NAO has drawn up four recommendations for the DfE.
1. It needs to demonstrate how it is improving recruitment and retention of teachers, and also at what cost. This includes examining the cost-benefits of different training routes and investigate whether bursaries are working.
2. The DfE should work with school leaders to develop a better understanding of local demand and assess whether its models are accurate
3. Prospective applicants need clearer and more accessible information – akin to a “good university guide”
4. Providers need greater certainty to help them plan long term.