Research Questions About Education

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Research Questions Department for Education


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What questions are the Department for Education currently researching about education in our schools?

I last blogged in May 2018 sharing what research projects the Department for Education had commissioned in England. This March 2019 update is part of a broader engagement between the department and the research community and sets out areas where the DfE is interested in more research and new evidence.

The purpose of this Areas of Research Interest (ARI) is to raise awareness amongst the external research community of the main DfE research priorities. I’ve re-posted some of the questions highlighted in this document. It is important to look at this document for the full set of research questions.

Research Questions

The topics discussed in the paper are:

  • Evaluation of the Leadership Coaching Pledge one-year pilot
  • Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund
  • Measuring resilience to extremism in schools
  • Promoting integration in schools
  • Designated senior lead for Mental Health
  • Holiday activities and food literature review
  • Increasing EBacc entry rates.

I would like to focus on two research projects close to my heart: Holiday activities and the EBacc curriculum.

Holiday activities and food literature review

This research was commissioned by the Department for Education in July 2018 with a view to understanding the evidence about the impact of school holidays on pupils, especially those from disadvantaged homes, focusing on two areas:

  1. Where children and families are unable to afford sufficient nutritious food during school holidays
  2. Where pupils potentially lose academic skills and knowledge over the summer holidays.
Key findings
  1. There is no conclusive evidence on the extent of holiday hunger or holiday learning loss in England. However, much of the evidence has been drawn from the international literature, especially evidence from the USA!
  2. Only a few UK providers of holiday activities with food had sufficient records to draw any substantive conclusions about best practice or value for money in holiday food and activity delivery.
  3. There is no conclusive evidence on the extent of holiday hunger in England.

In 2017 UNICEF published a global review of childhood food insecurity data that found find that 4 per cent of children in the UK aged under 15 did not receive 3 meals a day, compared with 1 per cent in Poland and 2 per cent in Portugal.

Increasing EBacc entry rates

This research, commissioned in December 2017, was to find out how some schools have increased their EBacc entry rates and the lessons that can be learnt by other schools from these. The fieldwork involved two strands:

  1. Six schools with low EBacc entry rates were asked what advice or lessons they wanted to learn from schools who had increased their EBacc entry rates.
  2. Thirty schools across England, with a range of characteristics, all rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, that had increased their EBacc entry rates by 40 percentage points or more.
Key findings
  1. Schools said they supported pupils who found EBacc subjects more difficult by giving them more time on those subjects.
  2. Schools who had increased their EBacc entry rates were routing pupils into an EBacc pathways in one of three ways:
    1. Making the study of EBacc subjects compulsory for almost all pupils.
    2. Selecting certain pupils to enter into an EBacc pathway at Key Stage 4.
    3. Allowing a free choice of options but strongly encouraging the take up of EBacc subjects.

The key feature shared by all of the schools interviewed who had increased their EBacc entry rates was that they had introduced a pathway where pupils studied all EBacc subjects at Key Stage 4 and were routing more pupils into this pathway  – well, there’s a surprise!

What research questions would you ask?

If I could pose any research questions, I would add the following questions to the government’s list:

  1. Why are so many qualified teachers, not teaching?
  2. Could a cross-political party be created to protect education policy? If so, how could it operate?
  3. Will Ofsted’s proposed framework (2019) improve school standards?

Download the full paper here.

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