The newly released (and clumsily titled) The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit has highlighted what actually works in schools when it comes to raising achievement, cross-referenced with value for money. What it shows is that interventions based on well-researched and well-implemented practice are better than, er, making stuff up based on what you think worked for you when you went to school.

 

Good, reflective, research-led practitioners 1: Regressive government policies – A little above 0 but not much.

 

See what you think…

 

 

Ability Grouping

 

What the government says:

 

‘I want to see setting in every single school. Parents know it works. Teachers know it works’ – David Cameron, Prime Minister

 

What the research says:

 

‘The evidence consistently shows that while there may be some benefits for higher attaining pupils in particular subjects… these benefits are largely outweighed by the direct and indirect negative effects for mid-range and lower performing learners, with low attaining learners falling behind by on average one or two months a year compared with their progress in a class without segregation. In addition, research shows a clear longer term negative effect on the attitudes and engagement of low attaining and disadvantaged pupils.’

 

School Uniform

 

What the government says:
‘…schools can encourage good behaviour by… having traditional blazer and tie uniforms.’ The Importance of Teaching: Schools White Paper

 

What the research says:

 

‘…there is no robust evidence that introducing a school uniform will, by itself, improve academic performance, behaviour or attendance.’

 

Performance Pay

 

What the government says:

 

‘It is vital that teachers can be paid more without having to leave the classroom. This will be particularly important to schools in the most disadvantaged areas as it will empower them to attract and recruit the best teachers.’ Michael Gove, Education Secretary

 

What the research says:

 

‘investing in performance pay would not appear to be a good investment without further study’

 

Extended School Time

 

What the government says:

 

‘We are all in favour of longer school days, and potentially shorter summer holidays.’ Michael Gove, Education Secretary

 

What the research says:

 

‘Evidence suggests that it is likely to be cheaper and more efficient to focus on using existing school time more effectively before considering extending school time.’

 

Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning

 

What the government says:

 

‘This kind of stuff is ghastly. Schools have really got to focus on the core subjects of academic education and teaching children how to learn.’ Nick Gibb, former Schools Minister

 

What the research says:

 

‘SEAL interventions have an identifiable and significant impact on attitudes to learning, social relationships in school, and attainment itself.’

 

Phonics

 

What the government says:

 

‘…research shows that systematic phonics is the most successful way to teach early reading. Synthetic phonics is equally effective for children of all abilities, from all backgrounds, and for boys and girls alike’ Nick Gibb, former Schools Minister.

 

What the research says:

 

‘…effective phonics techniques are usually embedded in a rich literacy environment for early readers and only one part of a successful literacy teaching. For older readers (above Year 5) who are struggling, phonics approaches may be less successful, producing less or no impact and other approaches such as comprehension focused methods may be more effective.’

 

Collaborative Learning

 

What the government says:

 

‘Most parents would rather their children had a traditional education, with children sitting in rows… That’s the best training for the mind and that’s how children will be able to compete.’ Michael Gove, Education Secretary

 

What the research says:

 

‘The impact of collaborative approaches on learning is consistently positive… Approaches which promote talk and interaction between learners tend to promote the best gains.’

 

One-to-One Tuition

 

What the government says:

 

‘Ringfences were being removed’ Michael Gove, Education Secretary in BBC news article, ‘Pupils’ right to one-to-one catch-up tuition ended’

 

What the research says:

 

‘Evidence indicates that in areas like reading and mathematics one-to-one tuition can enable learners to catch up with their peers. Research has been focused on children who are falling behind their peers, though one-to-one tuition reliably provides benefit.’

 

Early Years Intervention

 

What the government says:

 

‘Many might think that Sure Start would be a good candidate for more money. But I am afraid that would be to perpetuate the kind of lazy sentimentalism that has seen so much taxpayers’ money wasted over the last decade’  Nick Boles, Conservative MP and Planning Minister, Department for Communities and Local Government

 

What the research says:

 

‘…early years and pre-school intervention is beneficial with above average levels of impact’

 

Peer Tutoring

 

What the government says:

 

See ‘Collaborative Learning’

 

What the research says:

 

‘The evidence of impact is relatively high (typically equating to
about a GCSE grade). The benefits are apparent for both tutor and tutee (particularly in cross-age tutoring)… There is some evidence that children from disadvantaged backgrounds and low attaining pupils make the biggest gains.’

Meta-Cognition and Self-Regulation

What the government says:

‘memorisation is a necessary precondition of understanding. Only when facts and concepts are committed securely to the working memory, so that it is no effort to recall them and no effort is required to work things out from first principles, do we really have a secure hold on knowledge.’ Michael Gove, Education Secretary in Guardian article ‘Tough exams and learning by rote are the kets to success, says Michael Gove’.

What the research says:

‘Meta-cognitive and self-regulation approaches have consistently high levels of impact… Encouragingly the evidence suggests that teaching meta-cognitive and self-regulation strategies tends to be particularly effective with lower achieving pupils, as well as with older students. Most studies have looked at the impact on English or mathematics, though there is some evidence from other areas such as science, suggesting benefits are likely to be widely applicable.’

What Happens Next?

With all the evidence stacked up against Gove, will he change his mind? In a nutshell, no. Why not? Well, maybe a better education system for all is not his goal. Maybe it’s about making education a free market, regardless of the facts that would get in his way if he listened to them. As the educational writer and academic Michael W. Apple writes, ‘The religion of the market (and it does function like a religion, since it does not seem to be amenable to empirical critiques) coupled with very different versions of what the state can and should do can be summarized in one word – neo-liberalism’. And as his, ahem, allies the Lib Dems point out ‘In truth, the Government (education) reforms are not grounded on a balanced overview of evidence, but are instead pervaded by naked anti-state neo-liberal ideological conviction’. Neo-liberalism is about a) reducing the size and influence of the state by b) turning everything over to the ‘free market’ which seems to involve c) giving state-controlled assets and influence to friends and party donors who then can d) make lots of money from the process.

So, what can you do outside the classroom? Speak up, shout up, Tweet up, blog up, join up, stand up, do what you can.

And, what can you do in the classroom? Just ignore Gove as ‘garnish’ (as Vic Goddard calls him – the bit on the plate that’s not actually that important) and teach the way you  – and the evidence – know is best for the young people in your care.

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