Closing the  attainment gap by encouraging more school based research


In our last report we mentioned the growing importance attached in education to Randomised Control Trials, (RCTs) and  the work of Dr Ben Goldacre which are   all part of the drive to spread and  embed evidence led practice in schools. There are also initiatives in place to encourage teachers to become more involved in research, particularly as so much more data is being generated within the system and within individual schools as part of the accountability framework. There has been  a tradition of some  support for  in-school practical research conducted by practicing teachers (and school leaders).  But there is a growing belief that this can and should be extended and up-scaled. If teachers can collaborate effectively in research they can  help improve their own teaching practice  but   also  help spread it across the self-improving school system. The work of John Hattie has focused on how crucial it is that teachers use up to date research on what interventions work best  in the classroom, to improve student outcomes.  The goal is to help close the attainment gaps whilst improving the evidence-base, stimulating robust research and development in and across  schools.

CfBT Education Trust  is  involved in an  NCTL programme, in partnership with CUREE and Oxford and Durham Universities, training schools to conduct their own small scale randomised controlled trials as  part of the school improvement approach in  Closing the Gap: Test and Learn.  This represents a major shift in teacher-led research approaches.

So what actually  is ‘Closing the Gap: Test and Learn’ :

The purpose of the Closing the Gap: Test and Learn programme is to provide opportunities for schools to undertake rigorous research, so that:

  • successful approaches to supporting the academic success of the most disadvantaged children are identified and spread
  • stronger links are created between the teaching profession and universities, helping to develop the academic standing of the teaching profession overall

By the end of the programme around 200 participating teaching schools will have led randomised controlled trials in over 700 trial site schools as part of their role as local development and improvement hubs.

The vision for the programme is to:

  • further embed changes so that engagement in research is reinforced as an important part of teachers’ practice
  • support and enable teachers to inform own practice through use of robust evidence, with a direct impact on educational outcomes for their pupils
  • complement work supported by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and wider efforts to develop an evidence-informed teaching profession

Research development and networking events are training schools to use small-scale RCTs and in November 2014 early adopters of an RCT approach to teacher-led research will be able to apply for a grant to conduct research.

The  interventions that are part of the large-scale trials (preliminary results will be available in September 2014 for 5 of these) are:


1stClass@Number is delivered by trained teaching assistants to small groups of pupils in Year 3 who have fallen behind in mathematics. Teaching assistants (TAs) work with pupils for eight weeks using detailed lesson plans and adapting them according to information gained from structured assessments.

Growth Mindsets

Approaches to teaching and learning aimed at creating ‘growth mindsets’ have developed from the research by Carol Dweck which shows that teacher and student beliefs about intelligence impact on learning.

Inference Training

Inference training helps students make meaning as they read. This involves learning vocabulary, using their background knowledge, making inferences and building up meaning.


The Numicon approach is built on the work of Catherine Stern, using multi-disciplinary/multi-sensory approaches, making use of apparatus and focusing on action, imagery and conversation.

Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of pupils from Years 6 to 8 with learning and behaviour needs who are not achieving the age-expected level in literacy.

Research Lesson Study

Lesson Study is a structured professional development process in which teachers systematically examine their practice and work together to improve it. Teachers work collaboratively on a small number of ‘study lessons’, in a plan-teach-observe-critique cycle.  This intervention was developed in year 1 of the programme and is being trialled in year 2.

(Source-Acknowledgement to Richard Churches of CFBT Education Trust) and




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