Why research has a crucial role in improving education for disadvantaged pupils

Policy attention must focus on the large numbers of disadvantaged pupils in poorer quality schools, according to research in a new publication highlighting breakthroughs that have improved student achievement, teaching and school quality.

Included in the booklet is research conducted by Professor Becky Francis, Director of UCL Institute of Education. Her study looked at ways to narrow the socio-economic gap in educational attainment. She found that the 16% of schools graded “satisfactory” by Ofsted seemed to be “coasting”, with inconsistencies in efforts to improve standards and teaching practices. Professor Francis’ research led to the replacement of the ‘satisfactory’ rating with ‘requires improvement’, while redirecting policy attention to address the disproportionate number of disadvantaged pupils in under-performing schools.

The booklet is the 12th in the Academy of Social Sciences and its Campaign for Social Science’s ‘Making the Case for the Social Sciences’ series, and is co-published by the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. These booklets are produced by the Academy of Social Sciences and its Campaign for Social Science to demonstrate the power of social science research to improve lives, and are brought together by expert groups led by Academy Fellows.

Mike Kane MP, MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, and Shadow Minister for Education with responsibility for Schools, said: “Education is fundamental to overcoming inequality, improving attainment and promoting social mobility. This booklet illustrates the invaluable contribution of social science research in achieving these goals, both in responding to the challenges of the classroom, as well as in outlining strategies for equipping students both young and old with the tools they need to succeed at every stage in life.”

The booklet will be introduced by Mr Kane, a former schoolteacher, at a launch event in Portcullis House, Westminster, on Wednesday December 7.

Neil Carmichael MP, MP for Stroud and Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, said: “The stories in ‘Making the Case for the Social Sciences 12 – Education’ demonstrate the vital importance of sound, evidence-based research in policymaking. It shows the crucial role of the social sciences in addressing the educational challenges this country faces, as well as its continued impact in leading to improvements in educational policy and practice.”

The issues highlighted through the research include the need to change legislation to overcome the ‘summer-born’ penalty where children born in summer months are less likely to reach expected attainment levels, improving reading comprehension teaching methods and outcomes, and strategies for overcoming gaps in higher education participation rates. 

Other research topics include:

• How skills strategies are reshaping the global economy and the impact on education
• Identifying policy and practice barriers to close the poverty-related attainment gap
• Helping parents support children’s learning in a digital world
• Teaching about diversity and the plurality of groups that make up contemporary British identity and values.

Other speakers and panellists at the launch will include: Professor Dame Alison Peacock DBE DL, Executive Headteacher, The Wroxham School, Professor David James FAcSS, Director, ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Centre and chair of booklet advisory group, Professor Paul Connolly, Queen’s University Belfast, and Professor Lorraine Dearden FAcSS, UCL IoE. 

Notes to editors:

Read 'Making the Case for the Social Sciences 12 – Education' in full. 

The launch will take place on Wednesday, December 7 from 1-2.30pm in the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House. More information can be found here.

About BERA
Founded in 1974, BERA is a membership association committed to working for the public good by sustaining a strong and high quality educational research community, dedicated to advancing knowledge of education.