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This conference assessed next steps for raising educational attainment and addressing key factors contributing to the attainment gap across England’s schools.
It took place in the context of the Schools White Paper in 2022, which set out the Government’s ambitions for 90% of primary school children to achieve the expected standards in reading, writing and maths by 2030, and for the average national GCSE grade in secondary schools in English and Maths to increase from 4.5 to 5.
Delegates assessed the rollout of the 55 Education Investment Areas (EIA) announced in the White Paper, with a focus on school improvement and what has been effective so far in terms of attainment and provision. They also evaluated recommendations to reform the Pupil Premium, and proposals from the Education Endowment Foundation to boost educational recovery from the pandemic, as well as discussing the progress and effectiveness of the National Tutoring Programme.
Attendees considered the impact of social factors on aims to raise attainment and educational standards, including case studies on tackling education disparities in marginalised groups, and challenges posed by wider concerns over living costs.
The conference also included discussion on disadvantage in early years following recent statistics published by the Department for Education, which found a wide attainment gap in early years education between children on free school meals and their peers.
We are pleased to have been able to include keynote sessions with John Craven, Director, Social Mobility Commission; Professor Sandra McNally, University of Surrey; and Director of Education and Skills Programme, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics and Political Science; Dr Graham Sigley, Deputy Director, Catch Up®; and Dr Ben Styles, Head of Classroom Practice and Workforce, NFER.
Overall, sessions in the agenda brought out discussion on areas including:
- school standards: developing a broad curriculum with high standards of core-content learning - quality of assessment and qualifications - the role of extra-curricular tutoring in supporting attainment
- literacy and numeracy levels: introducing strategies to improve core pupil skills - implementing statutory curriculum standards in early years - reception-level teaching - building positive learning environments - the impact of Maths and English hubs so far
- tackling disadvantage: additional support for students - assessing proposals for reform of Pupil Premium funding - targeting investment in school infrastructure and staffing to tackle disparities - improving resources for parents and carers to enable learning beyond the classroom
- education recovery from the pandemic: challenges for implementation of the National Tutoring Programme - tutoring and academic interventions for pupils at risk of falling behind
- case studies: interventions in key areas for improving educational attainment, including black pupils, free school meals recipients, and those from Gypsy, Roma and Irish Traveller backgrounds
- workforce: delivering high-quality teaching - supporting workforce training and development opportunities - teacher retention - tackling shortages - the impact of staff wellbeing on teaching standards
The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who attended from the DfE; HMPPS; MOJ; NAO; Ofsted; and the Welsh Government.