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Tackling Low Educational Achievement . A report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation With additional support from the Sutton Trust Robert Cassen (LSE) and Geeta Kingdon (IoE) www.jrf.org.uk. How big is the problem Who are the low achievers What accounts for low achievement

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Tackling low educational achievement l.jpg

Tackling Low Educational Achievement

A report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

With additional support from the Sutton Trust

Robert Cassen (LSE) and Geeta Kingdon (IoE)


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Four Measures of Low AchievementGCSE

No passes No passes >D No passes Not 5 passes All KS4 E or M incl. E & M students


% 5.5 25.0 8.6 13.4

Numbers 32,000 144,000 50,000 77,000 577,000


% 4.7 24.6 9.3 12.2

Numbers 28,000 146,000 56,000 73,000 597,000

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Distribution of students by low achievement status and FSM, First language and SEN

All 16-yr-olds in data-base: FSM 14%, EFL 90%, SEN 16%

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Further features First language and SEN

  • Early years

    -Other research shows the importance of the home learning environment: parenting and social and economic status affect pre-school children’s outcomes. Male-female gaps are apparent at very young ages.

  • Literacy

    - Poor reading and writing in primary school is common for low achievers, but especially for White British and Caribbean pupils, girls as well as boys.

  • Public care

    - Looked-after children were less than 1% of KS4 students in 2006, but 24% of them had ‘No passes’, five times the average proportion, and 48%, four times the average, did not have ‘5 Passes including E & M’

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What accounts for low achievement First language and SEN

  • Disadvantage

    - The main measure of disadvantage in our data is Free School Meals. FSM after other factors are allowed for has a stronger association with low achievement for White British students than other groups.

    - But when we include census area data, we find the unemployment rate, the percentage of single-parent households and the percentage of parents with low educational qualifications, as measured in each student’s immediate area, all have statistically significant associations with low achievement at 16.

    - Other studies show significant relations with social class; among OECD countries we have among the highest associations of social class with educational outcomes.

  • But disadvantage is not the only factor; girls come from the same families and mostly go to the same schools as boys, but do much better. And several ethnic groups do better than average, while their average social and economic status is lower.

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The educational system and its First language and SENshortcomings for low achievers

(1) Preschool

  • The disadvantaged child is educationally behind before entering primary school.

    - Cognitive deficit at age 3 associated with low SES and with later low achievement (1970 birth cohort data)

    - Language: professional-class child hears 1500 different words a day, manual-class child 500

    - Boys’ deficits apparent in pre-school years

    - Children of poor parents up to one year behind educationally at age 3 (Millennium cohort data, i.e. born in 2000)

    - But evaluations suggest Sure Start may not be reaching the most disadvantaged.

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(2) Primary school First language and SEN

  • In 2006, 21% of boys and 13% of girls (17% of all pupils) did not obtain Level 4 in reading; for writing it was 41% of boys and 25% of girls (33% of all pupils) But two-thirds of those not achieving Level 3 in reading are boys.

  • We found Level 4 reading scores strongly associated with low achievement at 16 in our data: as a risk factor for low achievement, poor reading by this standard was nearly half as strong as FSM; poor writing more than half as strong, after allowing for all other factors

  • The National Literacy Strategy showed sizeable gains up to 2000 but for reading it plateaued after 2000; modest gains in writing have continued

  • Other evidence shows poor reading and writing in primary school often not identified and addressed. OFSTED study shows best practice in tackling boys’ reading problems by no means universally followed

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Source: DfES data First language and SEN

Memo: 2007 Reading 84% (Girls 87%, Boys 81%) Writing No change

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(3) Secondary school First language and SEN

  • Disadvantaged students more likely to attend lower quality schools

  • SEN and looked-after children do not receive the support policy prescribes

    - Additional effect of going to poorer quality school relatively modest statistically for FSM pupils in general, but considerable for SEN pupils and ethnic minorities

    - Parliamentary report in 2006 says whether a pupil gets support for special educational needs is a ‘postcode lottery’

  • In school, lower-achieving pupils can miss out on the best teaching if they are considered unlikely to contribute to their school’s league-table position

  • School quality, measured as school’s capacity to reduce low achievement, shows considerable variation across Local Authorities; funding varies by £1,000 per pupil or more

  • We can only ‘explain’ statistically about 30% of school quality, but find resources are a significant component, especially for some categories of low-achievers

  • Government funding formula provides for additional resources according to extent of disadvantage in school, but so far LAs have not been able to follow the formula.

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Main policy implications First language and SEN

  • Improve early-years provision to reach the most disadvantaged, especially in parenting and early learning

    - Government does not have detailed data on extent and quality of early-years child development

  • Bring intensive reading help to those behind in learning to read in primary school

    - Government has announced rolling out ‘Every Child a Reader’, but only to 4,000 children initially, reaching 30,000 in 2010

  • Reform features of the secondary school system which contribute to low achievement, particularly

    - league tables and selection

    - Government has offered discussion paper on league tables but no sign of it yet; new selection policy will help but several aspects of selection will remain

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Policy implications (continued) First language and SEN

- and curriculum

- Last schools White Paper said National Curriculum ‘fails to engage’ many pupils but doubts about Specialised Diplomas, main proposal for reform: academic, not practical; do not promise much for low achievers; serving employers and universities rather than pupils. (Various reports of Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training.)

  • Give proper support to those who most need help:children in public care and those with special educational needs

  • Fund schools more adequately in relation to disadvantage

    - Government document suggests LA disadvantage formula will begin to be implemented but only by 2008/9 and not clear how far it will go. Welcome proposed ‘progression premium’ to reward schools for success with low achievers

    • Further measures

    - School collaborations

    - “Schools within schools”

    Contacts: r.cassen@lse.ac.uk; g.kingdon@ioe.ac.uk