Research and Development

R&D is one of the 'BIG 6' Teaching School priorities. Schools with the designation are expected to:

  • build on existing research and contribute to alliance and wider priorities
  • base new initiatives within the alliance on existing evidence and ensure they can be measured
  • work with other teaching schools in their area, or nationally, where appropriate
  • ensure that their staff use existing evidence
  • allow staff the time and support they need take part in research and development activities
  • share learning from research and development work with the wider school system

Closing the Gap - Test and Learn

This project was undertaken across the alliance over a two year period, focusing on school and classroom approaches to improving pupil attainment. As a Teaching school, St Francis Xavier led on the research in partnership with 4 other schools.

NCTL supported the development and research of the project for 'First Class @ Number' and 'Growth Mindsets'.

The teachers were able to attend networks, training & development days as well as cluster meetings to support each other & share good practice. The project has been a trial involving fifty Teaching Schools nationally in designing and implementing small scale classroom based RCT's (randomised controlled trials) to investigate what might help close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils.

1st Class@Number

What is the intervention and its aims?

1st Class@Number is an intervention that supports the teaching of mathematics. The intervention uses a Post Office theme to teach the key aspects of numbers, by using letters, parcels, postcards and house numbers to support pupils' mathematics.

1stClass@Number2 is an intervention aimed at those in key stage 2 who have moderate difficulties in mathematics and are at National Curriculum level 2C, to help them make faster progress and catch up with their peers. It also aims to build pupils' confidence in mathematics.

What has been the impact of 1st Class@Number?

FirstClass@Number2 was used with 891 pupils from Years 3 and 4 in 2012/13, and progress was measured using a standardised test before and after. Their average number age gain was 12.3 months after 28 half-hour lessons in 2.8 months. This was over four times the normal rate of progress.

Since completion of the research, due to the impact on pupil attainment and confidence, St Francis Xavier Teaching School has continued to use the programme in school with continued success in relation to its impact on pupils.

Feedback from staff who have used the intervention.

"It has really lived up to expectations. The teaching assistants who were trained have nothing but good things to say. The children's progress has been outstanding: they are motivated and now see themselves as learners"

"I loved the fact that the children were so eager to come out of the classes. Children learn so much more when it is hands-on and 'fun'. They do not view this as a numeracy lesson - more a treat"

"1stClass@Number has made a real difference to the children's learning, confidence and ability to share their ideas"

"We now have a group of very happy and inspired parents"

Growth Mindsets

What is the intervention and its aims?

The intervention focuses on helping both pupils and staff to develop a 'growth mindset'. It is based on research by Carol Dweck which shows that teacher and pupil beliefs about intelligence impact on learning. Pupils who believed that intelligence is innate (a 'fixed mindset') were less likely to persist in the face of difficulty; where they believed ability in a task could be improved (a 'growth mindset') they saw difficulty as a natural part of learning and persevered with the task.

The intervention supports staff in reflecting on their own mindsets and includes a series of six-sessions (half a day per week) of teacher-led activities which helps pupils to move towards a growth mindset.

The intervention was originally developed for pupils in Years 4, 5 and 6, but it has now been adapted for Early Years through to post-16 learners, with different teacher manuals and pupil materials for each age range. It can be delivered in - and influence performance in-any subject area, but for the Closing the Gap: Test and Learn project it focused on literacy and possibly numeracy attainment.

Overview of the Growth Mindset Intervention

> Introduction to Growth Mindsets

> Language associated with Growth Mindsets

> Strategies for overcoming challenges

> Overcoming stereotypes associated with a fixed mindset

> The value of hard work and practice

> How to be a growing learner

What has been the impact of Growth Mindsets?

Based on Dweck's research, interventions related to mindset have been rolled out widely in the USA and its effectiveness there has been tested widely.

Teaching a growth mindset raises motivation and achievement, especially in traditionally difficult subjects (for example mathematics) and across difficult school transitions. For instance, in one study pupils who received growth mindset training showed significant increases in their mathematics and verbal test scores compared with a control group and the gender gap was narrowed.

Heythrop College

University of London for the Catholic Education Service


1. Vocation

2. Leaders experiences & narrative/policy positions

3. Schools, church and the Church

4. The formation of Leaders

5. The evangelisation of culture

This conference formed part of the bringing together of school leaders, diocesan commissioners, Bishops and representatives of the Catholic Education Service (CES) Academies & other interested individuals to enhance the work of the Heythrop Institute: Religion & Society together with the CES has undertaken on theological, ethical and spiritual capabilities for leadership in Catholic schools.

In light of the research so far, the five themes formed the basis of a 2-day conference with the aim to produce a paper on building capacity for the future.

Current Research

In 2016-17 staff at St Francis Xavier were engaged with research into building their own professional learning. The focus was on how they as teaching staff were delivering guided reading and promoting a love of reading across the school. Staff developed a new approach for delivering reading comprehension instruction,by combining an established strategy for structuring children's response to texts - Answer, Prove, Explain (APE- see Mrs P's blog below) with another available strategy for using different question categories - VIPERS ( see the inspirational blog at the Literacy Shed below). By focusing on Vocabulary, Inference, Prediction,Explanation, Retrieval and Sequencing ( KS1)/Summarising (KS2) over a number of sessions, teachers have felt more confident in their comprehension pedagogy. A twin focus on both child and teacher, where two different tools are used in tandem,is intended to elicit a deeper response from children to a text.

As staff move into 2017-18, they will be seeing how this renewed focus affects children's learning. They are pleased to have found an approach that works for them in their school context and would like to share their experience with other colleagues interested in developing reading comprehension in their school.

The research undertaken on pedagogy for reading comprehension was for a doctoral thesis for a member of staff. The teaching school sees research as part of the professional life of all staff and looks forward to developing more research initiatives with local partners over the coming year. Please contact us if you are interested in pursuing research projects in your school.

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