In 2010, The Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) showed that an achievement gap between rich and poor pupils existed in all OECD countries. Sadly, in 2016, this is still the case. While it is widely accepted that a child’s educational development has external influencers, such as socio-economic factors, it’s also important not to underestimate the significant difference that quality teaching and support can have in closing the attainment gap.
With this in mind, in October 2013, the Department for Education (DfE) announced that a new accountability system would be implemented from 2016. Schools now have to show they are supporting the growth of all their pupils, with one of the measures, ‘Progress 8’, capturing the progress a pupil makes from the end of primary school to the end of secondary school.
The DfE describes Progress 8 as ‘a type of value added measure, which means that pupils’ results are compared to the actual achievements of other pupils with the same prior attainment.’ It encourages schools to offer a broad and balanced curriculum with a focus on an academic core at Key Stage 4, and ‘reward schools for the teaching of all their pupils, measuring performance across eight qualifications. Every increase in every grade a pupil achieves will attract additional points in the performance tables.’ Progress 8 will be calculated for individual pupils solely in order to calculate a school’s score.
So what does this mean for schools, and particularly, for teachers? These changes are designed to combat the challenge of bridging the attainment gap, however making this into a reality in the most effective way possible will be a trial in and of itself. Fortunately, however, there are ways in which teachers can help students make progress in their own learning journeys. Introducing resources and initiatives that are proven to make a difference, is a great way of getting started. Here are some tips…
Bitesize is the BBC’s free online study support resource, which provides learner guides for students, and clips for teachers. It is designed to aid students in both school work and exams. The Key Stage 1 and 2 sections cover 18 subjects, with the Key Stage 3 section containing 33 subjects, and the GCSE section containing 37 subjects, so the needs of your students for most core curriculum subjects should be met.
Another is Get Revising, which is part of The Student Room Group. Its aim is to involve students actively in their own learning and to provide an outlet for creativity; it does this by providing interactive revision tools. It also provides a resource bank where notes and resources can be shared with other students. Get Revising is free, with an upgrade service that allows users to further personalise the site.
Companies are working on a whole range of innovative resources to incorporate the influence of Progress 8 on teaching, learning and assessement. For example, at SAM Learning we have recently developed a new programme, Switch On, which combines bespoke, targeted support with time saving, advanced reporting and in-depth development plans to raise attainment, re-engage and close the gap between disadvantaged students and other students in the school. By supporting schools with the Progress 8 measure, it will ensure that teachers are able to add value, increase aspirations and raise attainment.
After school clubs are a really good way for students who need additional support to get it in an inclusive way. Research carried out by independent social research agency, NatCen, and a team from Newcastle University indicated that such opportunities are an effective way of helping to bridge the academic divide. At secondary level, there is often a diverse range of extracurricular activities which students can participate in, from sports to choirs and school papers. Encouraging those lower attaining students to engage in these, or working to identify hobbies which interest them and broaden their horizons, is a great way to boost their engagement with school life.
While the attainment gap is still prevalent in the UK, it’s encouraging to know that there are measures in place that are working towards eradicating it, and schools and teachers are no small part of this movement. Academic achievement is not reserved solely for the privileged; it should be attainable by all. By collectively working at closing the attainment gap and by identifying key resources which enable schools to target those lower achieving pupils, we are enabling all students to reach their full potential.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gareth Mellor is marketing manager at SAM Learning (samlearning.com).