Building Blocks of Success: A summary of DfE report

Education, Learning, Politics, Pupil Premium, research, Study Skills, Teacher Resources, Teaching and Learning

The government commissioned NFER (National Foundation for Educational Research) to investigate good practice in raising attainment of disadvantaged students. They specifically looked at features of schools that narrowed the gap successfully and compared it to schools that weren’t doing so well.

It’s a fascinating read but the report, Supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils: articulating success and good practice,” like the title is long and hardly sexy. If you’re anything like me – teaching, being a governor, mentor, and business owner – it’s tough to find time to read research reports like this. Four months later I am celebrating finishing the study with a) a glass of wine b) a summary blog to make other teachers’ lives easier.

1. What makes successful schools successful?

The question on everyones lips and in a nutshell they place an emphasis on;

  • Teaching and learning strategies including emotional/social support
  • Assessment for learning systems so they are straightforward
  • Clear feedback for pupils
  • Improving pupils’ ability to learn through metacognitive strategies

2. What is the magic potion? 

No magic tricks here. There is no one singular approach identified as raising attainment. (That’s important, they repeat that a lot) In fact, the most successful schools had on average 18 different strategies in place to support disadvantaged pupils.

In secondary schools the analysis identified four main groups of strategies used by schools to raise disadvantaged pupils’ attainment. The analysis of relationships between these factors identified one statistically significant relationship; more successful schools were more likely to use the Group S4 strategies.

GroupingThis is backed up by Schools’ Week Alternative GCSE League Table which show the best performing schools in the country for pupils receiving free school meals. We work with 4 out of the top 10 schools who have over 20% FSM pupils on study skills, metacognition, and independent learning strategies as part of our Pupil Premium Project.

3. What can my school do next?

What is clear from the study, is the effectiveness of such strategies relies on them being embedded into a whole – school ethos of aspiration and attainment.

The study identified seven “building blocks” for success for all pupils, including those from disadvantaged pupils.


Building Blocks

The details of the building blocks can be found between pages 73 – 82. You can skip straight to these pages as they are well worth a read and have handy comparisons.

4. The improvement journey 

This visualisation of the “schools’ pathways to success” in raising attainment I found particularly helpful.

Schools' Pathway to Success

(Timescale 3 – 5 years)

5. Conclusion

Tah dah! There is no simple solution or one size fits all solution to closing the attainment gap. Instead, a number of measures are required, including setting a culture of high expectations and looking at evidence based strategies such as, metacognition. It must be tailored to each school’s circumstances and above all, the students.

What do you think makes a school successful in supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils? Comment below!


2014 – 2015 Impact Report

Creativity, Education, Pupil Premium, Study Skills
It is interesting, medical treatment is entirely based on robust evidence. A doctor wouldn’t give us a drug that was proven not work. Nor would the science community declare a new revolutionary gene, for example, without decades of research and evidence. Yet, bringing research and evidence into teaching and learning practice is a relatively new phenomenon.

When my parents started Learning Performance Training 23 years ago, they knew the transformational power learn to learn strategies had on their son. Every day since then we were confident of the impact we had on inspiring and empowering young people.

So when the Education Endowment Foundation launched their toolkit and highlighted meta-cognition and self – regulation (learn to learn skills to you and I) as a key way to raise student achievement, we all did a huge air fist pump. It solidified what we had known for twenty odd years.

I’m a massive advocate for evidence – based teaching. For UK schools to be cutting – edge and relevant in fast changing world we need research, evidence and education as a whole, to be progressive. After all, our children at the very least deserve an education that will allow them to flourish in school and beyond.

That is why, we have bought to you our 2014 – 2015 Impact Report. It is a fascinating and powerful read.

It shows staggering results on how a meta-cognition or learn to learn programme can dramatically raise attainment. Below is a snippet from the Impact Report.
St Thomas Infographic
You can download and read our 2014 – 2015 Impact Report by clicking here
Impact Report