Disadvantaged pupils close the achievement gap
Disadvantaged pupils are closing the achievement gap, for All supported schools, with their peers in reading, writing and maths, according to an independent review by PwC of English schools supported by the Achievement for All programme.
A review of 25 schools supported by the Achievement for All Achieving Schools programme between 2011 and 2015, indicated that pupils with special educational needs (SEN), those eligible for Pupil Premium funding and low attainers consistently made progress at a higher rate than expected for their year groups. One school reported that it had moved out of the bottom cohort in the country for maths into the top 25 per cent.
Achievement for All is focused on raising the aspirations, access and achievement of vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.
The charity’s Achieving Schools programme aims to create better life chances for children and young people, and provide a solution to break intergenerational poverty. Achieving Schools is a two-year whole school improvement framework aimed at helping the one in five children who are falling behind at school. The programme is delivered directly into schools by Achievement for All coaches - education specialists who have an extensive background in the sector.
PwC’s review shows that the Achieving Schools programme has reached 2,547 schools since the charity began five years ago, with nearly 100,000 children directly benefitting from the programme.
Until 2015, when Ofsted Data Dashboard closed, Achievement for All collected average point score (APS) data each term from participating schools, as a measure of attainment across schools’ target groups. Although no longer collected in DfE reporting measures, APS values for target groups in reading, writing and maths have been a key source of evidence regarding pupil progression and attainment up until the end of the 2014-15 school year. Drawing on data collected between autumn 2011 and spring 2015, annual increases in reading, writing and maths amongst schools participating in the Achievement for All programme were notably above the expected level of progress (equivalent to 3.0 APS for KS2, and 3.6 APS for secondary schools – see notes to editors).
The 25 schools scored themselves out of 10 across different factors relating to educational changes, such as pupil behaviour, attitude and participation in extra-curricular activity. Since working with Achievement for All, all schools rated their school’s progress as 8 or higher.
The charity contends that the achievement gap between pupils in England in receipt of free school meals (FSM) and Department for Education targets is actually widening. It says that, measured against the new curriculum for kay stage 1, the gap between FSM pupils and DoE targets have actually widened over the past 12 months, whereas schools where Achievement for All has been active, have seen the gap narrowing.
The independent report, from advisors PwC found that general pupil attendance has improved across all Achievement for All-supported schools, with schools reporting an even greater impact in the area of persistent pupil absenteeism. School Champions reported an average rating of 5 before involvement compared to 9 at the time of the independent review.
Professor Sonia Blandford, founder and CEO of education charity Achievement for All, which developed and delivers the programme, said:
“The UK has one of the widest attainment gaps in education anywhere in the developed world with one-in-five children currently underachieving at school. Educational inequality starts early, widens throughout school and the effects can last a lifetime in terms of job prospects, health and overall contribution to society. The majority of those worst affected come from a disadvantaged background or have a special educational need or disability.
“This year’s report demonstrates the impact of Achieving Schools as a solution to this problem, helping to achieve longer-term, higher-level outcomes for pupils, their families and wider society. Ultimately, the Achieving All programme could help every underperforming child to achieve.”
However, it is not just the academic development which has been successful. This year’s research began to investigate the wider impact of Achieving Schools on emotional intelligence and social skills.
Dr David Armstrong, PwC partner and one of the authors of the independent report said the review provided evidence that the activities of the Achieving Schools programme were effective:
“If we focus on wider outcomes, such as improving self-esteem and confidence, and interventions that seek to address poor behaviour, these can contribute to achieving emotional intelligence in children and young people.
“The Achieving Schools programme is focused on developing social skills by enabling children and young people to become more involved and engaged with wider activities in the school, such as after-school clubs and community involvement activities, and by engaging with parents in order to improve behaviour, attendance and engagement.”
The report noted that poor literacy is prevalent among many young offenders and the prison population. Offenders in their mid-teens have poor reading skills, with over half of these having literacy skills below the expected level of an 11-year-old. Low literacy rates’ association with crime extends to factors which are most visible at school – low attainment, negative experiences, exclusion and truancy.
David Armstrong continued:
“Identifying two indicators - emotional intelligence and social skills - and mapping these to the Achieving Schools Theory of Change, is an important first step in measuring the longer term outcomes of the programme, such as reduced risk of antisocial behaviour and spending time in prison and reduced risk of mental ill-health and long-term illness.
“There are clear indications that the Achieving Schools programme is having an impact and our review of the 25 schools suggests that the impact goes beyond the merely academic and has the potential to address other important social issues. Further investigation into these linkages could uncover some valuable measures that could inform future policy in these areas.”