I started my tenth year at St Mary’s this year and my fourth as Head teacher. During this time we have always been focused on innovation and much of our work is based on literature and evidence from across the globe. Over the past 12 months St Mary’s was understandably distracted by two successful inspections and at the start of this year I have been able to shift my focus and the Academy’s back to evidence based approaches. Our work with Curee and research champions; and our recent research school status has certainly sharpened our focus so it was time to dust off Hattie -Visible learning (2008), follow the link to the EEF website and dive back into the evidence.
At a recent SLT meeting we were discussing our forthcoming futures day arrangements; a chance for students to consider their future aspirations and look at some of the possibilities out there. Assistant Head, Phil Brown (@listenleadlearn), reminded us of the EEF research into aspirational education, it has little or no effect on attainment.
Credit: EEF website https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/resources/teaching-learning-toolkit
This is mirrored in Hattie (2008) as well, with careers education producing a d of 0.38, less than the 0.4 required to be considered in the zone of desired effects:
Credit: Hattie (2008) Page 152.
This was one of the most useful challenges of the year so far, resulting in a huge amount of thinking that night. I could see how research evidence was weak in this area, but it felt completely wrong to write off an opportunity for some future aspirational planning for students. Then it occurred to me, Hattie’s work and that of the EEF are focused completely on gains in attainment. Whilst that is certainly our most important measure; is it the main thing?
I wrote my first and only blog (find it here) over a year ago now (interestingly before two inspections loomed on the horizon) about eulogy values versus cv values. Since then we have focused on “Who do people say I am?” This has helped to remind us that our mission as a school is to educate the whole child. This is the main thing and learning and attainment are a huge part of it, but not the only part. Attainment is of huge importance because our students need these cv values as a passport to their future, our role as a catholic academy lies in developing those eulogy values as well. The challenge in our position in Blackpool lies in finding the answer to the Holy Grail, how do you shift attainment in a predominantly white, working class coastal town. We have had some success here, but our attainment remains stuck at around national average, pretty good in a local context but we need to serve our pupils better.
Our focus for the year ahead lies in developing our expertise, through our work as a research school, in adopting an evidence based approach in our decision making; literacy, resilience and knowledge recall are three areas of interest. As a school leader I find myself searching for the levers we haven’t tried pulling yet, that will have the biggest impact, not just on attainment but the development of the whole child. This is followed by the challenge of deciding which things we are we going to stop doing in order to allow the capacity for them to happen. Our research school status will certainly help us to search out the answers it is definitely shaping up to be a thought provoking, research journey for the years to come!
Hattie, J. (2009) Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.