3. Flexibility within schools and local authorities to develop tailored interventions.
A key feature of the SAC (and ASF) is the flexibility and opportunity offered to schools and local authorities to select, develop and create interventions that best work for children and young people in the local context. This chapter provides an overview of some of the interventions and approaches, looking at literacy, numeracy, health and wellbeing, and family support, developed in different settings.
- More than 9 out of 10 schools reported literacy interventions as part of their school’s approach to closing the attainment gap. After the first year of the ASF, 235 literacy interventions and approaches were reported. These included literacy leaders and champions; innovative reading initiatives; one to one and group support; accelerated reading programmes; initiatives to create a literacy rich environment, and working with specialists including dyslexia support and speech and language therapists.
- 9 out of 10 schools had implemented numeracy interventions by Year 3 of the ASF. Examples included numeracy leaders and champions; new tools and approaches such as SEAL, Big Maths and Sumdog; cooperative learning strategy approaches; linking numeracy to wider STEM; and one to one and group support.
- 90% of headteachers reported that health and wellbeing approaches were part of their approach to closing the attainment gap, with many examples of innovative and collaborative practice. Interventions reported included taking a nurture approach; targeting support at key transition periods; breakfast and afterschool clubs; targeted support for young people with intersecting disadvantages; counsellors and health and wellbeing workers integrated within schools; outdoor learning and community gardens; musical and sport activities; and use of modes such as Neurosequential Model in Education and Growth Mindset.
- Over the period, there has been evidence of a shift in emphasis from individual school interventions towards the development of local authority-wide approaches. Examples of these approaches include whole school nurture approaches related to health and wellbeing, and Cost of the School Day projects which have developed in several Challenge Authorities.
3.1 Literacy interventions
More than 9 out of 10 schools reported literacy interventions as part of their school’s approach to closing the attainment gap.
In Year 1 (2016/17) of the ASF, 235 Literacy interventions and approaches were reported. These included:
- literacy leaders and champions;
- one to one and group support – particularly around early literacy;
- approaches such as reciprocal reading and paired reading;
- new programmes or approaches such as Read Write Inc, POLAAR (Primary One Literacy Assessment and Action Resource), VCOP (Vocabulary, Connectors, Openers and Punctuation), Ready Steady Read, Word Aware, Word Boost, The Literacy Shed and Rainbow Reading;
- accelerated reader (in secondary schools), active literacy, phonics based programmes, metacognitive work and creative vocabulary development;
- encouraging children to become enthusiastic about reading including creating a literacy rich environment, literacy hubs or (in one instance) having a resident author; and
- working with specialists including dyslexia support and speech and language therapists.
One local authority identified the need for an intensive reading intervention to improve young people’s literacy skills. SAC funding enabled the appointment of an Education Support Officer (ESO) to lead, coordinate and evaluate literacy interventions in secondary schools. The ESO supported secondary staff with professional learning, coaching and modelling. A professional network was created and resources to support the reading intervention were also provided. The programme was a success and rolled out to primary pupils subsequently.
Local-authority wide approaches to literacy have developed alongside individual school interventions, with significant resource and innovation invested in supporting schools and practitioners to address the attainment gap in literacy with positive results.
One authority’s innovative approach to improving children’s and young people’s attainment in literacy is supported by extensive professional learning for staff. It successfully empowers schools to prioritise the elements which suit their own context and has had a very positive impact across the authority. This has led to raised attainment in reading and writing, and a narrowing of the gap between the least and most deprived groups. Specialised training for classroom assistants in the literacy approach has improved their understanding, enhanced their roles and increased their job satisfaction. The approach has had a very positive effect on the ethos of schools and is now having a strong influence on other areas of the curriculum. [Challenge Authority Inspection].
3.2 Numeracy interventions
9 out of 10 schools reported numeracy interventions as part of their school’s approach to closing the attainment gap.
Numeracy interventions weren’t as common as those in literacy and health and wellbeing in the first two years of the ASF, with some local authorities and schools saying that numeracy interventions had generally started later. By Year 3, however, almost 9 out of 10 headteachers described numeracy interventions as part of their school’s approach to closing the attainment gap.
Teachers participating in qualitative research felt that the ASF had helped to shift the way that they taught numeracy skills, using new approaches. Numeracy interventions included:
- numeracy leaders and champions;
- new tools or approaches including SEAL (Stages of Early Arithmetic Learning), Nurture Number, Big Maths, Play along Maths, Numberbug, Sumdog, Number Talks and Concrete Pictorial Abstract;
- learning approaches including cooperative learning strategies, problem solving and linking numeracy to wider STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) activities; and
- one to one numeracy support, small group support, extra maths periods (in secondary schools).
A Schools Programme local authority described a numeracy intervention menu created to support schools in selecting relevant interventions, as well as a numeracy ‘equity and excellence’ group which is supporting driving up numeracy attainment through focusing on pedagogical themes identified in research as raising numeracy attainment, linking this to professional learning and the development and roll out of a Closing the Numeracy Gap intervention.
As has been the case in literacy, councils have developed local authority wide approaches to addressing the attainment gap in numeracy. These approaches provide significant additional resource to schools, helping to develop skills and increase collaboration, and complementing school approaches.
In one local authority, two teachers in every primary and secondary school are trained in Maths Mastery. Feedback from teachers attending the training is that it has made them think differently about the methodology used to teach identified concepts and provided them with increased knowledge and understanding of how children learn. A Local Learning Community collaborative programme is developing maths/numeracy assessment and moderation approach, and teachers at key stages have engaged in visits to colleagues in other schools to review approaches and conduct assessments. [Challenge Authority Progress Report]
3.3 Health and wellbeing interventions
Teachers taking part in qualitative research felt that good health and wellbeing was critical in providing the foundation for learning and improved attainment.
In 2018, 90% of headteachers mentioned health and wellbeing approaches as being part of their school’s approach to closing the attainment gap. Most responses referred to specific approaches or initiatives, and the staff training and engagement with external agencies to support these. This includes reference to nurture-based approaches, outdoor learning, play-based approaches, counselling and therapist services, and family support and engagement.
Many teachers taking part in qualitative research felt that good health and wellbeing was critical in that it provided the foundation for learning and improved attainment. This included addressing social and emotional needs, to ensure that children were able to attend school, enjoy school and be ready to learn.
Health and wellbeing interventions included:
- taking a nurture approach (with many mentioning learning from the model used in Glasgow);
- support at key transitions – between nursery, primary and secondary;
- breakfast and afterschool clubs, homework clubs and supported study;
- targeted support for young people including looked after children, children with English as an additional language and refugees;
- counsellors and health and wellbeing assistants integrated within the school, with early intervention for pupils with social or emotional behaviour issues;
- outdoor learning, Green Gyms and community gardens;
- approaches using music, dance, sport, physical activity, massage, relaxation, mindfulness and other techniques to provide positive experiences for pupils;
- use of models such as Neurosequential Model in Education, the ICE Pack training resource, growth mindset; and
- in secondary schools, support moving into positive destinations.
A local authority has developed extremely successful approaches and interventions to support health and wellbeing. Children’s and young people’s health and wellbeing have been significantly enhanced in schools where nurture principles have been embedded. In partnership with Barnardo’s, the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PAThS) programme is being delivered in 28 primary schools to develop the emotional literacy and resilience of learners. In-class coaching and professional learning is significantly improving the confidence of teachers and support staff in teaching and supporting this area of health and wellbeing. [Challenge Authority Inspection]
A local authority described its approach to using play in pedagogical approaches. 52 schools are taking part in the programme, with training and school support visits taking place. Schools are expanding their approaches to the use of environments and sensory learning, and reducing the use of plastic resources in the classrooms. Staff report that children are achieving well in a wide range of areas. Many staff are delighted and surprised to see how confident, capable and imaginative children are and how they are seeing children in a way they never did in the past. They believe they know children better as individuals and as learners.
'Playful pedagogy has allowed our learners to develop confidence in taking ownership of their own learning. There are high levels of engagement in our classroom with children working both independently and collaboratively.' P1 teacher
Most teachers interviewed used a wide range of data and evidence to target their interventions, including:
- health and wellbeing data including Boxall profiles, wellbeing assessment plans, social, emotional and behavioural needs, care settings, child vulnerability, GIRFEC and SHANARRI indicators.
In one school, teachers evaluate health and wellbeing three times a year using SHANARRI indicators. Pupils self-evaluate using traffic lights to indicate how they are feeling each day. Teachers pick up on any amber or red lights, and meet with parents to address any issues. Teachers have noticed a change from red to amber, which is going in the right direction. [Challenge Authority Progress Report]
A local authority has established a wellbeing service whereby 12 schools have access to a Wellbeing Worker. 120 young people have been accessing the service on a weekly basis. Data analysis at the start of 2020 highlighted that, of pupils from SIMD 1 and 2 in all establishments, almost all remain “on track” or “have made “some progress” in identified learning outcomes/targets across literacy and numeracy. A review of the wellbeing tool used in the intervention showed that all young people accessing the service show improvements in social and emotional wellbeing. During the period of school building closures, all wellbeing workers transitioned to online support and telephone consultations, while three provided additional regular home visits to targeted families. [Challenge Authority Progress Report]