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Durham University

Durham University News


Why the best teachers should be in reception classes

(15 December 2017)

Primary schools should consider putting their best teachers into Reception classes according to researchers at Durham University, who found that children who were taught well in their first year went on to achieve better GCSE results in English and Maths. 

The study of 40,000 children in England provides evidence that a boost in development from an effective first year of school remains with children right through to the end of compulsory education at age 16.

Effective classes

A team of researchers from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at Durham University, led by Professor Peter Tymms, measured children’s early reading and maths development at the start of school, age four, with an assessment called Performance Indicators in Primary Schools (PIPS). They were assessed again at the end of the first Reception year and later, at ages 7, 11 and 16.

By assessing children at the beginning and end of the Reception year, the team was able to identify classes where children made significantly more progress than average.

Strong progress

It was possible to follow the children through their education and track the impact of an effective first year of school. Similarly, the team identified schools in which children made particularly strong progress in Key Stages 1 and 2 and explored their long-term impacts.

The researchers took account of a range of social and economic factors that could have skewed the results including children’s age, term of starting school, sex, ethnicity, special needs, English as an additional language, deprivation and school/class membership.

The research paper, The Long Term Impact of Effective Teaching, is published in the journal, School Effectiveness and School Improvement today.

The research paper concludes thatthe first year of school presents an opportunity to positively impact on children’s long-term academic outcomes.

High-quality teachers

Commenting on the findings, Professor Peter Tymms said: “Good-quality educational provision in this phase of a child’s school career seems to have lasting benefits.

 “Boosts in attainment from effective classes in Key Stages 1 and 2 also had long-term benefits but not as large as those seen in the first year of school.

“There should be a focus on the placement of high-quality teachers to ensure that all children experience an effective first year of school.”

Tackling attainment gap

The research team also investigated whether or not effective schools were able to reduce the gap in attainment seen between children from affluent and poor backgrounds.

By analysing data of each child’s home background and comparing it with attainment at school, the research team concluded that there was no significant evidence that schools in England were reducing the attainment gap between children from affluent backgrounds and their less affluent peers.

This gap remains a persistent problem not just in England but in many other countries too. The complex interactions of all of factors involving the child’s home background and environment are, to a large extent, beyond the direct influence of schools. As seen from other research, this is a difficult problem to overcome.