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New scheme launched to improve science attainment among disadvantaged pupils

11/12/2017 Joanna

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has launched a new fund to support efforts to deliver better science teaching for disadvantaged pupils.

Administered by the EEF and Wellcome, the scheme aims to evaluate potentially promising interventions, programmes and approaches that will help to improve science results for those from poorer backgrounds. The trials will be conducted across a large numbers of schools throughout the UK, with applications from interested organisations to be filed by April 2018.

This project launch follows a recent literature review by the EEF and the Royal Society that highlighted the scale of the current gap in science attainment between disadvantaged pupils and their better-off peers, with this discrepancy reflected at every stage of the education system.

The gulf was shown to first become apparent at key stage 1, growing wider throughout primary and secondary school and on to A-level. This problem is as prevalent in science as it is for English and maths, and grows particularly strongly between the ages of five to 11 and 11 to 16.

A further analysis of international research suggested that there is a current lack of evidence surrounding the interventions and approaches thought to have a positive impact on disadvantaged students' learning outcomes - an issue that the new research project aims to address.

The EEF has already funded a number of projects that aim to improve science results, including the Thinking, Doing, Talking Science programme, which trains teachers on new strategies aimed at encouraging pupils to employ higher-order thinking skills.

This can include asking students broad-ranging questions - such as how it is known that the earth is round - and using them to stimulate discussion about scientific topics and the principles of scientific enquiry. Year 5 pupils using this approach have been shown to make approximately three additional months of progress, with a particularly positive effect for disadvantaged pupils, which means the method could be a useful topic for additional research.

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