Major three-year project involving schools across South Cumbria aims to tackle the attainment gap

Back to: Home
In this section: All updates News Twitter

A major new three-year project involving schools across South Cumbria aims to tackle the attainment gap that exists between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their peers.

Teachers in the region are concerned by the drop-off in progress among children from disadvantaged backgrounds as they move between primary and secondary school. The gap between them and other children only grows wider as they continue through school.

Now, thanks to a grant of £90,000 from education charity SHINE, a dedicated transition officer will lead research into the most effective ways to smooth the journey between schools, which should have a positive impact on academic progress.

A pilot in the first year will involve children joining Walney School, Barrow-in-Furness, from four feeder primary schools. It will focus on raising attainment in science in particular.

The project will then be expanded to other secondary schools within Furness Education Consortium and their feeder primary schools across the Furness Peninsula.

We are thrilled to be working with the Furness Education Consortium on this groundbreaking project, which is sure to have a huge impact on the students with the greatest needs, both across South Cumbria, and in other schools who can learn from this work.

Dr Helen Rafferty Interim CEO, SHINE

Elaine Foylan, Executive Officer at the Furness Education Consortium, said: “We are concerned about the loss of academic and social progress many children experience when transitioning between schools, and how this then continues as they move through education.

“The data shows us that once young children are on this trajectory, their progress and their attendance can drop off at a remarkable rate, and that gap with our disadvantaged students gets worse and worse.

“As a primary teacher, you nurture young people, and you pass them on to the next establishment, you have to trust that they’re going to carry on your work and the children will continue to flourish. And there’s nothing more disheartening than seeing the children falter when they join their new school.”

The project will investigate the differences between the experiences of primary and secondary school children, and their parents, with the aim of making the move to secondary school less of a culture shock.

Teaching styles, how poor behaviour is handled, and what language is used by teachers, can often vary greatly from school to school, making the move up to secondary even more daunting. The aim is to increase consistency in all areas of the school experience.

New strategies, such as introducing elements of the secondary curriculum into Year 6 classrooms and helping parents feel more involved at secondary school, will be tried and tested.

It is hoped that, as well as boosting attainment, the project will lead to improved attendance, and stronger relationships between schools and parents.

Ms Foylan said: “Children often lose motivation when they move school, due to the changes in the school experience and the anxiety and uncertainty this creates. And schools often see a very marked reduction in attendance in Year 7.”

She added: “It’s extremely rare for schools to have the capacity or the funds to be able to carry out research of any kind, so we’re very excited about this project and extremely grateful to SHINE for the opportunity.

“We hope that with this research we’ll be able to learn how we can make the move from primary to secondary school better for our children – particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

By the third year of the project, it is hoped six Furness Peninsula secondary schools, and all their feeder primaries, will be involved, giving it the potential to help hundreds of children across south Cumbria.

“It’s a good number of people who, hopefully, will benefit,” said Ms Foylan. “In each school you only need to have one or two significant changes and it can have a massive impact.”

Ultimately, the plan is to share the findings of the project with other schools, so that many more children can benefit from what has been learned.

“We’ll have a toolkit of things that work, strategies that other schools might want to use,” Ms Foylan explained. “Because that’s what education’s about – it’s about sharing good practice.”

Dr Helen Rafferty, Interim CEO of SHINE, said: “We know that the transition from primary to secondary school can be an exciting but disruptive time for all children, and that children from disadvantaged backgrounds can face greater difficulties if they’re not supported properly.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Furness Education Consortium on this groundbreaking project, which is sure to have a huge impact on the students with the greatest needs, both across South Cumbria, and in other schools who can learn from this work.”