Education Endowment Foundation (2017) Improving Literacy in Key Stage Two, London: Education Endowment Foundation (28th April).

This is part of a series of reports that the EEF is producing on the theme of literacy. It focuses on the teaching of literacy to pupils between the ages of 7 and 11. However, it may also be applicable to older pupils who have fallen behind their peers, or younger pupils who are making rapid progress.

For each of the 7 recommendations, the authors have provided a statement regarding the strength of the evidence underpinning that recommendation, and an ‘evidence summary’ box that describes the supporting evidence. This statement was selected from a series of five possible options, of decreasing strength. The statements range from ‘very extensive’ to ‘very limited’:

Recommendation 1: Develop pupils’ language capability to support their reading and writing

Recommendation 2: Support pupils to develop fluent reading capabilities

Recommendation 3: Teach reading comprehension strategies through modelling and supported practice

Recommendation 4: Teach writing composition strategies through modelling and supported practice

Recommendation 5: Develop pupils’ transcription and sentence construction skills through extensive practice

Recommendation 6: Target teaching and support by accurately assessing pupil needs

Recommendation 7: Use high-quality structured interventions to help pupils who are struggling with their literacy

Acquah et al.,Inter-parental conflict and outcomes for children in the contexts of poverty and economic pressure, 28th April 2017, London: Early Intervention Foundation

This report provides a review of the evidence on discord between parents (inter-parental conflict) in the contexts of poverty and economic pressure, and the link to poor outcomes for children and adolescents across emotional, behavioural, social, academic and future relationship domains.

Key findings

Poverty and economic stress affect the quality of inter-parental relationships, and this in turn impacts on child outcomes

Longitudinal evidence shows that parents in poverty or under economic pressure are more likely to experience relationship conflict, which can affect outcomes for children. Economic pressure impacts on parents’ mental health, which can cause relationship problems and difficulties with parenting. These difficulties can include reduced parental sensitivity and time spent interacting with their child, and can lead to harsher parenting practices, which are linked to future difficulties for children and adolescents. These difficulties include externalising (such as antisocial behaviour) and internalising (such as anxiety) problems, academic and physical health difficulties, and social and interpersonal relationship problems.

There are a range of factors which are associated with resilience to relationship and parenting difficulties in low income families. These include maternal social support, effective coping strategies, communication and problem-solving, community and neighbourhood support.

Stock et al., Interparental relationships, conflict and the impacts of poverty: An overview, 28th April 2017, London: Early Intervention Foundation

DWP analysis shows that 28% of all children living in workless couple-parent families, live with parents who report having a distressed relationship. This is almost three times greater than is reported where both parents are working.

The findings from the current overview show that tackling couple conflict and the quality of parental relationships is an important focus for early intervention activity. The work suggests that families who may benefit most from this support may be least likely to receive it for a range of reasons to do with service availability, cost and barriers such as perceived stigma.

This is an area that needs greater focus, as the evidence suggests that supporting parental relationships and tackling conflict for families who are under economic stress has the potential to improve outcomes for children.

Relationship support services in the UK are currently under-developed. The voluntary sector is the current main provider of services, but has operated in an unstable funding environment for many years. There is a clear need to grow and invest in UK relationship support provision and embed a focus on parental relationships in local systems and services.

There are interventions which have evidence of effectiveness linked to inter-parental relationship issues and parenting in the context of poverty which could be delivered more widely. Embedding relationship support in mainstream services, such as children’s centres and health visiting, or within wider multi-agency early intervention systems offers the potential to overcome access barriers and reach families early.

Callanan et al., Exploring parental relationship support: A qualitative study, 28th April 2017, London: Early Intervention Foundation

This report maps the range of parent relationship support services and provision available in five case-study areas, to explore in depth:

  • The perceived aims of relationship support;
  • The current range of provision available and perceived gaps;
  • How services are currently commissioned and provided;
  • Access and take-up of support, with a particular focus on families in or at risk
    of poverty;
  • Views on effective provision and how services monitor and evaluate their
  • Recommendations for how provision could be improved.

Key findings show that:

Support for relationships is not easily available within existing family services. Respondents describe a patchwork of largely uncoordinated relationship support provision across the country, which appears to be inconsistent in level and availability.

The qualitative work also highlights barriers to increasing the focus on early intervention to support parental relationships within family services.

  • Families in or at risk of poverty experience are felt to be less likely to take up relationship support and experience significant barriers to accessing these services.
  • The perceived stigma attached to seeking help for relationship issues and the limited availability of affordable support are seen as key barriers for parents.
  • There is also a lack of consistent understanding as to what is meant by relationship support services. Current provision takes different forms, ranging from formal relationship support services, such as counselling and mediation, usually offered by specialist organisations, to more generic early help provided by family support workers or health visitors, which may touch on relationship issues.
  • Respondents clearly identify a link between the quality of parental relationships and child outcomes, but are not able to provide evidence of relationship support services being currently commissioned with the primary aim of improving child outcomes.

Lynch, S. and Worth, J. (2017). Keeping Your Head: NFER Analysis of Headteacher Retention. Slough: NFER, 28th April 2017

Research carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has found that headteacher retention rates have fallen since 2012, giving cause for concern.

This study investigates the issue at senior leader level. Researchers found that, although more than 90 per cent of headteachers are retained in headship each year, retention rates have fallen between 2012 and 2015, particularly in secondary schools.

Findings show that retention rates for primary headteachers fell from 94 per cent in 2012 to 92 per cent in 2015 and for secondary headteachers, retention fell from 91 per cent in 2012 to 87 per cent in 2015.

The report, a combination of a quantitative analysis of School Workforce Census (SWC) data over a five-year period from 2011-2015(1) and in-depth qualitative telephone interviews with headteachers, also looks at the factors which may influence the retention rate, such as Ofsted ratings, academisation, school context and other influences.

Key Findings:

  • More than 90 per cent of headteachers below retirement age are retained in headship each year. But, retention rates have fallen since 2012. Changes in headteacher or school characteristics over that time did not explain this downward trend in retention.

Higher retention is seen in:

  • Primary schools
  • Schools rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted
  • Converter academies
  • Single academy trusts
  • Schools with higher attainment.

Lower retention is seen in:

  • Secondary schools
  • Schools rated as Inadequate by Ofsted (particularly in the first year following downgrade and if the head has been in post for two years or more at the time of downgrade)
  • Sponsored academies (again particularly at the point of sponsorship and if the head has been in post two years or more at the time of sponsorship)
  • Larger Multi-Academy Trusts
  • Schools with low levels of attainment.

More needs to be understood about why different school contexts are more or less likely to retain leaders in headship.

DIETRICHSON et al. (2017), Academic Interventions for Elementary and Middle School Students With Low Socioeconomic Status: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Review of Educational Research, Vol 87, Issue 2.

This systematic review and meta-analysis seeks to identify effective academic interventions for elementary and middle school students with low socioeconomic status. Included studies have used a treatment-control group design, were performed in OECD and EU countries, and measured achievement by standardized tests in mathematics or reading. The analysis included 101 studies performed during 2000 to 2014, 76% of which were randomized controlled trials. The effect sizes (ES) of many interventions indicate that it is possible to substantially improve educational achievement for the target group. Intervention components such as tutoring (ES = 0.36), feedback and progress monitoring (ES = 0.32), and cooperative learning (ES = 0.22) have average ES that are educationally important, statistically significant, and robust. There is also substantial variation in effect sizes, within and between components, which cannot be fully explained by observable study characteristics.

Making inclusion work: How work-based learning can bring excluded groups closer to the workplace, 25th April: IPPR

This report looked at seven case studies documenting initiatives in five European countries- focused on inclusivity through work based learning. Helping marginalised groups into stable, rewarding, productive jobs is a key priority for European governments, and work-based learning can and should be a significant element of any successful pursuit of this goal. To address skills shortages and reduce unemployment among groups such as young people (particularly NEETs), disabled people and immigrants, labour markets must become more inclusive, which means providing relevant training alongside support tailored to the specific needs of the target groups. Work-based learning initiatives, if they are focussed, flexible and in receipt of adequate public and private backing, can meet these requirements whilst also bringing tangible and intangible benefits to businesses and giving participants valuable real-world work experience.

Although the case studies show different examples they have the following key themes in common:

Work-based learning initiatives must foster commitment and motivation at all levels and stages.

Employer engagement is vital and can take many forms.

A personalised and holistic approach focusses on the needs of the learner, encourages involvement among participants, and increases the probability of successfully matching candidates to vacancies.

An appreciation of the importance of career journeys and recognition helps to create an explicit connection between work-based learning and continuing progress in the labour market.

Sustainability and scalability are of increasing concern as a project matures.


Action urged on school holiday hunger, 25th April 2017: BBC

According to the he All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger, children at risk of holiday hunger include an estimated:

  • One million growing up in poverty who receive free school meals during term time
  • Two million whose parents are on low wages but do not qualify for free school meals

For both groups, school holidays place extra burdens on family budgets in terms of food, fuel, activities and childcare.

The report says this is sometimes "compounded" by a shortage of skills to cook and shop on a budget. It claims the loss of free school meals adds between £30 and £40 per week to parents' outgoings for one child.