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EEF launches new trial to see if undergraduate mentors can help boost GCSE pupils’ science results

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Secondary schools can sign-up to take part in a new trial, launched by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) today, that will find out if undergraduate mentors can help boost GCSE science results.

Ascents 121 aims to improve Year 11 pupils’ science attainment by training undergraduate students to deliver weekly, one-to-one mentoring sessions to pupils in the lead up to their GCSE science exam. The EEF is looking for secondary schools in London, the Southwest, East Midlands, and North of England to take part in the trial, which will be independently evaluated by NatCen.  

The EEF previously funded a trial of Ascents 121 in 2019, but disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent changes in GCSE grading meant that it was not possible to complete an impact assessment. However, the programme was very well received by school leaders and mentees, who reported that it appeared to lead to increased understanding and enjoyment of science subjects.

This is one of three new EEF-funded projects that schools across England can take part in.

  • The EEF is offering primary schools subsidised access to Focus4Taps, a programme proven to successfully boost Year 5 pupils’ (nine and 10-year-olds) science outcomes. The Focus4TAPS programme aims to raise scientific attainment by providing high quality professional development for science subject leaders and teachers over the course of an academic year. Children who received the programme as part of the EEF’s previous trial of the approach made an average of 2 months’ additional progress compared to a control group. The evaluation, led by a team from Institute of Education – UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society – also found a similarly positive impact for children eligible for free school meals.
  • Primary schools across England can take part in our upcoming trial of FFT Reciprocal Reading. This programme is a structured, targeted, 12-week intervention, delivered to support pupils in Years 5 and 6 (9-11 year-olds) who are struggling to understand texts. It aims to develop these pupils’ comprehension skills by teaching them specific strategies – predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarising, which they can use to make sense of what they read. An earlier EEF-funded trial found that children in receipt of the intervention made an average of two months’ additional progress in reading comprehension and overall reading, compared to the control group.

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“After years of disruption, it’s really exciting that we are able to resume the important work of testing the impact of education programmes, so that leaders are able to make informed decisions about the strategies they choose to implement.

“It’s more important than ever that schools have assurances that the teaching and learning approaches they are investing resources in are going to have the desired effect on pupil progress.”

Schools can search their school on the EEF website to find out which opportunities are available to them. 

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