What I Think About What Works in Schools…

We had a great staff meeting in school last week looking at changes to the new SEND Code of Practice and reviewing our approach to interventions within the school. Like on many occasions in school, teachers find themselves with decisions to make about what the right type of learning is they should plan, with a format to fill in and a deadline to have it done by.  It’s one of those crunch points where, in an ideal world, there would be more time available each half term to spend quality time thinking these through, prototyping them with colleagues and resourcing.  Inevitably, the realities of school-life bite and this process becomes another priority in the priority-infested waters of the new term.  I’d like to be writing that I have a transformational solution to this but I don’t.  It’s the way things are.

So one great resource to turn to, as the holiday idealism transforms into term-time pragmatism, is the Education Endowment Foundation Toolkit which gives a wonderfully simplistic analysis of the cost, impact and evidence base of a variety different interventions.  As the toolkit is described on its website:  The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research which provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The Toolkit currently covers 34 topics, each summarised in terms of their average impact on attainment, the strength of the evidence supporting them and their cost.

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Like with anything that appears to be too simplistic to be true, there are health warnings around simply scrolling to the bottom, choosing the top 5 high impact topics and then rewriting the school development plan accordingly.  But then surely there are worse approaches to take when prioritising your time and resources?  What a bit of time spent looking at the toolkit does allow, is a periscope: an opportunity to see from above what you can’t necessarily see from below and, whilst horribly mixing my metaphors, making sure that the ladder is lent against the right wall before spending a frantic half term climbing it, seems sensible to me.

The Toolkit is a simpler (although not dissimilar) resource to the work of John Hattie which has been celebrated widely (and then recently criticised) for its wide influence in education policy across the world.  As Peter Ford  writes in his post, ‘Everything Works’, ‘The most enlightening research of recent years is John Hattie’s finding that 95% of all interventions that take place in schools have a positive effect on achievement. Hattie’s seminal synthesis of over 900 meta-analyses relating to influences on achievement builds a powerful story of the powerful influences on learning exerted by educators. It’s a surprising world where EVERYTHING WORKS!’

So in a world where ‘everything works’, the challenge is for us all to keep evaluating, reading and researching and occasionally putting up the periscope to make sure that what we are doing is high-impact, cost-effective and backed up by a significant body of research.

The EEF Toolkit – a great resource, discussion starter and document to help challenge your practice.  Now you see if you can read it without concluding that feedback and meta-learning are the two baskets you want to load all your eggs into this year.

TR

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