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Secondary schools sought for EEF science mentors trial

A trial into whether undergraduate mentors can help boost GCSE science results is recruiting secondary schools to take part.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is launching a trial into whether training undergraduate students to deliver weekly, one-to-one mentoring sessions to students in the lead-up to their GCSE science exams can improve the attainment of Year 11 students.

Secondary schools in London, the South West, the East Midlands and the North of England are being invited to take part.

The intervention, known as the Ascents 121 support for science program, was first run in 2019 but had to be canceled as exams did not go ahead as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the EEF said teachers reported that mentoring sessions improved teacher-pupil relationships and that students developed confidence in seeking extra support from them.

The program was also “very well received by school leaders and mentees, who reported that it appeared to lead to increased understanding and enjoyment of science subjects”, the EEF said.

However, those taking part also said that the main drawback for teachers was the time it took to supervise the sessions and the administrative tasks of organizing them.

The trial comes amid warnings from sector leaders about a shortage of science teachers, and that teacher training numbers for science subjects are facing large shortfalls.

Other programs available for schools to get involved with

The program is one of three new EEF-funded projects announced today, in which schools across England can take part.

For one of them, primary schools can have subsidized access to the Focus4TAPS program, which sees subject leaders and teachers offered professional development, and is proven to successfully boost Year 5 pupils’ science outcomes.

Primary schools are also being invited to take part in a reciprocal reading trial, which targets pupils in Year 5 and Year 6 who are struggling to understand texts.

It aims to develop these pupils’ comprehension skills by teaching them specific strategies – predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarizing – which they can use to make sense of what they read.

An earlier EEF-funded trial found that children in receipt of the intervention made an average of two months’ additional progress in reading comprehension and overall reading, compared to the control group.

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the EEF, said it was “exciting” to resume work on the Ascents program after “years of disruption”.

“It’s more important than ever that schools have assurances that the teaching and learning approaches they are investing resources in are going to have the desired effect on pupil progress”, she added.

Schools can search on the EEF website to find out which opportunities are available to them.

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