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POOR MENTORING CAN BE WORSE THAN NO MENTORING, NEW TEACHERS' TOOLKIT REVEALS

25 January 2013

Poor mentoring can be worse than no mentoring for vulnerable young people. That’s one of the insights for teachers provided by the revamped Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit launched today.

The updated Toolkit, developed by a team of academics at Durham University led by Professor Steve Higgins, shows how schools can best use their resources to provide the biggest possible increases in pupils’ learning.

The interactive guide has been revamped and now summarises over 3,000 studies on the impact of a range of interventions including improved behaviour strategies, a school’s physical environment, collaborative learning and extending the school day.

Thousands of schools have already been introduced to the research-led approach as a way of using the £623 per pupil they receive for each disadvantaged youngster on their roll through the Pupil Premium. The Premium is set to rise to £900 next year, and is likely in to increase again in 2014-15.

On mentoring, the Toolkit collates research from both sides of the Atlantic to show the importance of having mentors whom young people can trust – perhaps successful people from a similar background – who have been given training and support.

The Toolkit says: “The impact of mentoring is variable, but on average it has tended to be low in terms of direct effect on academic outcomes. There is some evidence that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to benefit more (nearly double the impact). Other positive benefits have been reported in terms of attitudes to school, attendance and behaviour.

“However, there are also risks associated with unsuccessful mentor pairings which may have a detrimental effect on the mentee, and the negative overall impacts seen in some studies should prompt caution.”

Programmes where mentors drop out soon after establishing contact with a young person can damage the student’s chances.

The new Toolkit adds to the list of approaches that research shows are effective at boosting attainment, while comparing their relative cost effectiveness. Each of the following can be worth the equivalent of four months’ learning time to a school:

  • Improved behaviour strategies, particularly those targeted at individual young people who are persistently misbehaving
  • Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning programmes, which focus on improving student behaviour and attitudes, and on the ethos of the school
  • Small group tuition, which can be nearly as effective as individual tuition, but at a lower cost

The Toolkit also notes that there is little evidence that investment in school buildings or environment has a direct impact on results with one strong exception: better air quality can help improve learning. Schools that leave their windows closed end up re-circulating too much carbon dioxide, which has been shown has a detrimental effect on learning.

The new Toolkit has links for schools to providers of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses via the Teacher Development Trust’s GoodCPDGuide, an easier facility for downloading evidence and a new Pupil Premium calculator to help teachers plan the most effective use of those funds.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chair of the Education Endowment Foundation and of the Sutton Trust, said today: “Too often English education has been bedevilled by initiatives without evidence. The Toolkit helps teachers make the most of their resources to have the maximum impact on student results. It provides cautionary tales about the importance of getting programmes like mentoring right and positive suggestions on which strategies do most to boost attainment.”

Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, added: “Educational improvement is about applying the knowledge we have and committing to learning more. The new Toolkit helps teachers and school leaders by providing clear information about a wide variety of potential strategies to improve learning.  At a time when Ofsted and the Government are holding schools more accountable for the Pupil Premium, it will also help schools to ensure that they are making the most of their funding at a time of scarce public resources.”

Professor Steve Higgins, School of Education, Durham University, said: “Our research aims to help schools decide how to spend their money and time effectively to help disadvantaged pupils using the best evidence available. It show what has, and importantly what has not, been effective in the past so will support schools making more effective choices.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

  1. The Education Endowment Foundation is a charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead charity in partnership with Impetus Trust, with a Department for Education endowment of £125m. It is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement. Since its launch the EEF has awarded £24.4 million to 45 projects working with over 275,000 pupils in over 1,300 schools across England.
  2. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 120 research studies and funded and evaluated hundreds of programmes for young people of all ages, from early years through to Access to the Professions. 
  3. Durham University’s School of Education is one of the leading departments for education in the UK.  Durham is ranked in the top 5 UK universities in the Sunday Times University Guide 2013 and is 26th in the world for the impact of its research (THE citations ratings).
  4. The Sutton Trust-EEF Toolkit provides a guide for teachers to 30 different approaches to improving attainment in schools, with links to the evidence, case studies and training opportunities. It is based on work by Durham University. To access the Toolkit please visit: http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/.
  5. The most effective approaches to improving attainment identified by the Toolkit remain feedback, metacognition and self-regulation and peer tutoring. The Toolkit provides the average gains shown by the research for particular programmes, and these gains will vary in different schools and among different pupil cohorts.