EEF announces new grants to test different teaching and learning strategies

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A low-cost philosophy programme that was found to improve the reading and maths skills of primary school pupils will be tested on a large scale in English primary schools, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has announced.

In SAPERE’s Philosophy 4 Children (P4C) sessions, teacher use a stimulus like a short video clip or story to prompt structured discussions around topics such as ‘truth’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘fairness’. The aim of P4C is to help children to become more willing and able to ask questions, construct arguments, and engage in reasoned discussion.

An earlier and smaller EEF-funded randomised trial of P4C found it had a positive impact on primary school pupils’ maths and reading attainment by two additional months over the course of a year. Low-income pupils benefited even more, with their maths results improving by three months and their writing ability by two months.

The new EEF grant of £1.2m will allow the programme to be tested in 200 English primary schools and with 9,000 Year 4 and 5 pupils. The independent evaluation will find out if the intervention can produce similarly good results when delivered across many different schools.

The grant to P4C is one of six new randomised controlled trials announced by the EEF, all designed to assess the impact of different teaching and learning programmes on pupil attainment. The new grants will fund independent evaluations of:

  • The British Science Association’s CREST Awards, which promote a ‘hands-on’ approach to science by supporting pupils to run their own research projects in a range of settings, including at science enrichment clubs. The EEF grant of £284,000 will fund an evaluation of the after-school clubs running CREST Silver Awards in 200 schools and with 2,000 11- to 14-year-olds taking part. The aim will be to find out if taking a CREST Silver Award improves science results.
  • A parental engagement approach in the Early Years that aims to boost literacy and language skills in three- and four-year-olds. In Peeple’s Learning Together programme, parents and children attend one-hour sessions designed to equip parents with the skills and confidence to support their child’s learning at home. One-hundred-and-fifty nursery settings will take part in the trial thanks to a £689,000 grant.
  • Digital Feedback in Primary Maths, a programme developed by St Margaret’s CE Primary and Kyra Teaching School Alliance that aims to improve teachers’ feedback to pupils by training teachers to record videos of themselves explaining problems, instead of written comments. The aim is to make teachers’ feedback more specific and relevant; by being able to replay the teacher’s comments, it is hoped that pupils will find it easier to understand and respond to the feedback. The trial, which will be supported with a grant of £175,000, will involve 3,000 Year 4 and 5 pupils in 60 schools.
  • The Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants (MITA) project, a programme that aims to improve schools’ deployment of teaching assistants. The innovative approach combines the UCL Institute of Education’s MITA programme for school leaders with training for teachers and teaching assistants developed by the University of East London, and on-going school-based support via the London Leadership Strategy. This trial will involve 100 primary schools and has received a £546,000 grant.
  • Reciprocal Reading, a structured approach to teaching developed by FFT Literacy to improve reading comprehension. Teachers support pupils to guide group discussions using four strategies: questioning, clarifying, summarising and predicting. The £147,000 EEF grant will fund a trial to test this approach in 100 primary schools to find out if it improves reading ability.

The EEF is recruiting schools to take part in all six new trials. The results will be available for free and used to inform the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit and its Early Years companion, an accessible summary of international educational research. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research developed by the EEF in collaboration with the Sutton Trust and a team of academics at Durham University led by Professor Steve Higgins. The expanded Toolkit covers 34 topics and summarises research from over 10,000 studies.

Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of EEF, said:

Evidence is teachers’ greatest ally when it comes to deciding between different programmes or interventions. The evaluations of these six programmes will add to the EEF’s growing source of robust and reliable evidence that teachers and school leaders can use.

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