Category Archives: reports

The underrepresentation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils in higher education

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children and young people face significant barriers throughout their education, which results in them being severely underrepresented in HE. Perhaps because there is still an urgent need to address the issues faced by these groups in primary and secondary education, there is limited existing research on Gypsies’, Roma and Travellers’ progression to university. However, to achieve educational equality for these groups they must be given the same choice and opportunity as their peers from other backgrounds. The first step towards increasing equality in HE is to investigate how issues in compulsory education impact on progression to HE to understand and address specific barriers which reduce GRT pupils’ participation in HE.

This report, commissioned by King’s College London, and co-authored with my LKMco colleagues Ellie Mulcahy, Loic Menzies and Kate Bowen-Viner, presents a summary of the current landscape and a review of the barriers to HE faced by Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. We draw on existing literature and our own research with academics, practitioners, members of the GRT communities and pupils to explore:

  • The definition of ‘Gypsy, Roma and Traveller’ and the various sub-groups described by this collective term
  • How these groups are distributed in the national and pupil population
  • Their current progress and attainment throughout primary and secondary education
  • The degree to which they are underrepresented in HE
  • The challenges and barriers they face in compulsory education which may impact on their participation in HE
  • The specific barriers they face in entering HE.

Throughout the report, we point towards potential responses to the challenges and make recommendations for schools, HEIs and for further research.

We launched the report at the 2017 Brilliant Club Annual Conference, and we received coverage on BBC Breakfast and in The Times and Schools Week.

The full report and research brief are available from the LKMco website.

Low-income pupils’ progress at secondary school

One of the great injustices of the British education system is that pupils from low income backgrounds are less likely to make good progress at secondary school compared to better off peers. The gap between low income pupils’ attainment at the end of primary school and the end of secondary school has widened; since 2012 low income pupils have been making less progress year on year compared to their more affluent peers. Even when low income pupils out-perform their more advantaged peers at primary school, they are often overtaken during the next phase of their education. The implications of low income pupils’ poorer progress are most visible as children finish secondary school; when they are often left without the qualifications that might create opportunities for them later in life.

As teachers, school leaders and policy makers, we hope that schools can be engines of social change. However, the stalled progress of pupils from lower income families – especially the most vulnerable; those with SEND or mental health issues, or who are looked after – suggests too few lives are being transformed at a system level. Indeed, in some cases schools may be actively (though unintentionally) perpetuating the injustices that they hope to challenge.

This report, co-authored with Bart Shaw and Loic Menzies at LKMco, and Meena Parameshwaran and Rebecca Allen at Education Datalab, sheds light on the barriers to progress that low income pupils face at secondary school. Part One reveals the magnitude of the gap in progress between low income pupils and their peers at GCSE, and highlights the differing nature of the ‘progress gap’ for pupils with different levels of attainment at the end of primary school. Using data from the National Pupil Database, it goes on to explore how a range of factors influence the progress gap.

Part Two of the report brings together findings from the existing literature to explore the range of causal factors that contribute to the progress gap at secondary school. Throughout the literature review, we draw on eight case studies of secondary schools where low income pupils make varying levels of progress to exemplify how the causal factors identified in the literature create barriers for pupils, as well as the steps schools have taken to reduce the progress gap. These case studies also ensure that we do not overlook any issues or factors not currently explored in the literature.

The report is available to download here.

Ethnicity, gender and social mobility

British families are told that if their children go to school and work hard, they will be rewarded with good jobs and opportunities. But for many groups this promise is being broken. In recent months, the low educational attainment of White British boys has gained significant attention. However, when it comes to the transition from education to employment, this group is less likely to be unemployed and to face social immobility than their female counterparts, black students and young Asian Muslims. Why is this the case?

This report, co-authored with Bart Shaw, Loic Menzies and Eleanor Bernardes at LKMco and Philip Nye and Rebecca Allen at Education Datalab, explores the complexities of adding ethnicity and gender to an analysis of socioeconomic Status (SES) gaps. It considers some of the ways in which gender, ethnicity and SES interact with education to produce or reduce social mobility. It then explores a vast body of research into how young people’s longer term social mobility depends on how educational outcomes at schools translate into participation and achievement in Higher Education and the labour market. For each of our key findings, we recommend questions for future research and areas in urgent need of policy interventions.

The report is available to download here.

What makes an effective middle leader?

This summer, teachers around the country will be preparing to step into new roles. Many will be taking their first step into management as Heads of Department, a role that is often overlooked and which is generally under-researched. Yet as James Toop, Chief Executive of the charity Teaching Leaders argues, ‘no school can be a great school without getting middle leadership right’. So what does it mean to be a great middle leader? That’s what this report, co-authored with Meena Parameshwaran, Loic Menzies and Charleen Chiong on behalf of LKMco, and commissioned by Teaching Leaders, sets out to explore.

You can download the full report here. The report also received coverage in Schools Week and the TES.

Infographic © Impact Wales

The underrepresentation of white working class boys in higher education

Only 10% of the most disadvantaged white British males progress to higher education. Not only is this significantly less than the most advantaged white males, it is also significantly less than the progression to HE of disadvantaged males from all other ethnic backgrounds. Almost twenty years after the Dearing Report highlighted the underrepresentation of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in HE, and emphasised the role of widening participation in addressing the problem, this report, co-authored on behalf of LKMco with Ellie Mulcahy and Eleanor Bernardes, considers:

  • How to define white working class boys
  • Why they are less likely to enter higher education
  • The degree to which they are underrepresented in elite institutions and alternative routes through higher education
  • The challenges and barriers faced by widening participation practitioners in tackling the problem
  • How widening participation practitioners can work best with white working class boys

The report responds to the government’s call, in February 2016, for universities to specifically target white working class boys in order to increase their participation in higher education, as part of a wider drive to improve the social mobility of disadvantaged groups.

The report aims to provide widening participation practitioners with a comprehensive overview of white working class boys’ underrepresentation in higher education, from its causes to its potential solutions. In order to do so the report draws together findings from a literature review, an academic and practitioner roundtable and a set of university case studies, allowing insights from academic research and the perspectives of practitioners from primary through to HE to be brought together in one place.

You can download the full report here. The report received international coverage in Fox News, The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Times, Huffington Post, Schools Week, Times Higher and the TES. I also discussed our findings on Dubai Eye radio:

There’s also a video of our launch presentation at the Brilliant Club Annual Conference, which gives a detailed summary of our findings and recommendations:

Platform 3 for childminders evaluation

In 2015 I authored an evaluation of The Communication Trust‘s pilot of Platform 3 – a model of delivering the Level 3 qualification ‘Supporting Children and Young People’s Speech, Language and Communication’ via e-learning and assessment over two years for early years practitioners, on behalf of LKMco.

The Trust was granted further funding in 2015/16 to tailor the existing delivery mechanisms of the qualification to address the specific needs of childminders, whilst also remaining relevant to the wider workforce and enhancing their ability to identify and support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), including SLCN.

This evaluation, written with my LKMco colleague Eleanor Bernardes, considers the extent to which Platform 3 impacted on the following four outcomes:

  1. The quality of early years speech, language and communication provision
  2. Practitioners’ effectiveness in working with children to support their speech, language and communication
  3. Practitioners’ effectiveness in working with parents to support their child’s speech, language and communication
  4. Early identification of children with delayed speech, language and communication

In addition the evaluation considers the effectiveness of the online delivery model used for Platform 3, in order to identify the factors that have supported and hindered the programme in achieving its outcomes. The report concludes with a set of recommendations arising from these findings.

You can download a copy of the report here.

Platform 3 pilot evaluation

The Communication Trust support everyone who works with children and young people in England to support their speech, language and communication. Their work focuses on supporting children and young people who struggle to communicate because they have speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) as well as supporting all children and young people to communicate to the best of their ability.

In the summer of 2015, on behalf of LKMco, I evaluated the 2013-15 pilot of Platform 3 – an innovative online learning route for the Level 3 accredited qualification Supporting Children and Young People’s Speech, Language and Communication.

You can read the evaluation here.

The alternative should not be inferior: What now for ‘pushed out’ learners?

The latest Department for Education statistics reveal that only 1% of pupils in ‘alternative provision’ and PRUs (pupil referral units) achieved five good GCSEs in 2013-14. Furthermore, of those entered for a GCSE in Maths or English, only one in ten achieved a C or above.

This report, co-authored for Inclusion Trust with my colleague Loic Menzies at LKMco, focuses on these pupils and those that sit on the margins within mainstream schools. We argue these young people are entitled to a high quality education designed around their needs, and that alternative provision is a crucial element of our education system that should be valued and invested in.

In the report, we argue there are three broad but overlapping approaches to catering for the needs of ‘pushed out’ learners:

  1. Bringing ‘pushed out’ learners into the mainstream structure
  2. Innovating within the mainstream structure
  3. Working outside of the mainstream structure

The launch of the report was covered by the TES and the BBC. You can read and download the report here.

Lessons from London schools: investigating the success

Informed commentators both in the UK and internationally increasingly reference the remarkable improvement journey of London’s schools since the turn of the century. If the claims made for educational improvement in London are true they represent an important case study in urban school reform.

This report, co-authored with Centre for London, CfBT and colleagues at LKMco, seeks to investigate the claim that London schools have improved dramatically since 2000. We review the evidence of transformational change and explore possible reasons for the development in London’s schools. The research is guided by three questions:

  1. Is the success of London’s schools as real as has been suggested?
  2. If the success is real, in what ways have schools improved and for what reasons?
  3. What can we learn for the future of school improvement, for London and beyond?

The report provides teachers, school leaders and policymakers with a detailed review of what has happened across London. It provides a comprehensive synthesis of previous evaluations of the London schools’ journey and of the distinctive elements which are perceived as contributing to improvement. Most importantly, it draws conclusions intended to inform current debates on educational policy reform in a very practical sense, providing an agenda for action.

You can download the report here.

The levers of local economic development

In May 2014 I published a report on the levers of local economic development, as part of the Need to Know series commissioned by the Local Government Knowledge Navigator. I also discussed my main findings in an article for the Guardian.

The report explores the existing knowledge base on the levers of local economic development by assessing the findings of international academic research from the past 20 years alongside research and reports from government, think tanks, consultancies and various non-governmental organisations, considering insights from over 100 items of literature in total.

Firstly, the review weighs up the evidence behind broad approaches to local economic development. This first section of the review considers questions such as: is it better to focus on attracting inward investment or on ‘growing your own’? Should areas concentrate on their own performance, or their competitiveness with other areas? Does quality of life affect economic development? This section of the review draws the following broad conclusions:

  • Sensitivity to place matters: there are different routes to economic development in different areas.
  • Local economic development should be focused on growing and nurturing local capital rather than simply attracting inward movements of existing capital from other locations.
  • Competitiveness should not be the guiding narrative behind local economic development strategies.
  • Approaches to local economic development need to be holistic.

Secondly, the review considers the evidence base on specific policies to stimulate local economic development. This second section of the review considers the effectiveness of a range of levers, from apprenticeships to urban design; living wages to procurement. This section of the review draws the following conclusions:

  • Local skills policy is perhaps the most important lever for local economic development.
  • An important but often overlooked set of levers are those relating to community-led development.
  • Local authorities are currently limited in their ability to borrow to invest in housing. However, housing-related levers such as stock upgrades can have significant development outcomes.
  • Local authorities have a central role in realising the developmental potential of planning across a very broad spectrum, from seeking creative approaches to the problem of hollowed-out town centres to ensuring that physical regeneration delivers meaningful benefits to the broadest possible range of people
  • Strong civic leadership is crucial to successful economic development.
  • At a time when local authorities’ spending is being significantly curtailed, procurement still has sizeable potential as a lever for local economic development.

The Knowledge Navigator is a two year initiative funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and steered by ESRC, Local Government Association and Society of Local Authority Chief Executives. It was launched in January 2013 with the aim of helping local government to make better use of existing national investment in research and research-derived knowledge and evidence, and to influence future research agendas, programmes and investment.