The summer holidays are finally here and offer a long awaited break after SATs, GCSEs and A-levels. There has been a raft of changes which have hit schools during the last few months such as examination reforms, new Ofsted frameworks and changes to baseline assessment in primary schools.
Despite all the uncertainty which schools are facing due to these issues, there is some breathing space for teachers to read around recent research and innovations and plan ahead during the holiday.
There is no shortage of summer reading, but it can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Despite this, there are some interesting trends which are worth considering - if only to add them onto a ‘to do list’ for September:
The evidence about early understanding of children’s learning is continuing to mount up.
Reports such as ‘Assessing Young Children: Problems and Solutions’ produced by CEM’s Director of Research, Professor Christine Merrell and iPIPS Director, Professor Peter Tymms, outlines the critical elements of assessment that provide a fair analysis of a child’s proximal development.
Research shows that the more teachers understand what a child knows and can do in reception, the better placed they are to help them.
While the Department for Education decided to take a more cautious approach to specifying what sort of reception assessment should be carried out, it is clear that using impartial assessment at any phase of education can really help professionals when they decide how to support their pupils.
While professional development in education is widely supported, it is only recently that its full potential has become apparent.
Research such as the Sutton Trust’s report ‘What Makes Great Teaching?’, co-authored by Professor Rob Coe, and annual events like the Festival of Education continue to point out the benefits of sustained investment in CPD with real impact happening not with the traditional five inset days-a-year, but with regular, sustained sessions taking place over a longer time.
As Prof Coe states: ‘Studies show that people’s behaviour takes time to change. Sustained continuing professional development, that helps improve teaching, takes time and commitment.’
Less is more
The continuing tough financial conditions have become more and more apparent in schools, with funding failing to keep up with the increase in the number of pupils, and spending per pupil falling as a result.
The challenge now is to find ways of doing more with less.
While this is far from easy there is some research which suggests ways schools might be able to achieve this at least in some areas.
The Education Endowment Fund’s ‘Teaching and Learning Toolkit’ can offer some valuable help and advice. It is written as a summary which allows teachers to scan through different issues and teaching strategies and offers a range of tips about how to make best use of resources, as well as explaining the relative strength of the evidence base supporting particular interventions.
What is worth reading?
There is an ever increasing body of research on shared issues in school improvement, and pedagogy making the best use of resources.
Sadly, the challenge for teachers is often that they lack the time to find what is relevant to them. It is worth checking Professor Rob Coe’s recent CEM blog post, ‘What is Worth Reading for Teachers Interested in Research?’ - it offers a selection of useful and relevant reading at a glance.
Taken together these areas could make a real difference and support excellence in education.