Centre For Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning: A Brief Retrospective

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Presentation by John Vorhaus, Institute of Education, University of London

Presentation by John Vorhaus, Institute of Education, University of London

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  • 1.
  • 2. CENTRE FOR RESEARCH ON THE WIDER BENEFITS OF LEARNING A BRIEF RETROSPECTIVE Sub-brand to go here Sub-brand to go here
  • 3. Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning
    • WBL: the context
    • Evidence:
    • Contexts
    • Inequality
    • Crime
    • Health
    • Wellbeing
    • Policy implications
  • 4. Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning
    • Set up in 1999 by the Department of Education and Employment to investigate the non-economic benefits of learning
    • Tradition of research on the economic returns to education – earnings and employability
    • Much less known about the personal and social effects.
  • 5. Early days
    • Established as interdisciplinary centre: quantitative and qualitative; economics, psychology, sociology, social statistics.
    • 1958 National Child Development Study and 1970 British Cohort Study both significant resources for WBL.
    • Also: Longitudinal Study of Young People in England; Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.
    • Domains of research: mental and physical health, crime, parenting, schooling, social cohesion
  • 6. The life-course
    • More recently, Centre’s work extended to life-course as a whole.
    • Encompass not only returns to learning in adulthood but the whole range of benefits from learning as a lifetime experience
    • From pre-school, through primary and secondary schooling and on to further, higher adult and continuing education.
  • 7. Contexts and processes
    • Emphasis on contexts – home, family, school, community, neighbourhood, housing
    • Emphasis on processes – learning and educational, social and psychological
    • Emphasis on (in)equality: understanding the processes and contexts that exacerbate or diminish inequalities
  • 8.
    • Explored impact of four contexts on pupil achievement in England at Key Stage 2.
    • How contexts influence and interact with each other to shape children’s lives.
    • How contexts operate to support, sustain or hinder positive development.
    Interactions between children, family and school contexts
  • 9.
    • The four contexts:
    • Distal: background socio-demographic features, such as income and parental education.
    • Proximal: parental support and parent–child relationships.
    • School-peer: the nature of the school and its population.
    • Child: individual ability, measured primarily in terms of prior attainment .
    Contexts
  • 10.
    • • Pupils with better individual, school and family background and experience have higher scores in Key Stage 2 assessments in English, maths and science.
    • • Child capabilities most significant predictor of Key Stage 2 attainment across all three subjects.
    • Social and economic family background is second-largest influence.
    • Much weaker in predicting attainment are proximal features of the family - family relationships and behaviours.
    • School-peer context has weakest influence.
    Contexts
  • 11.
    • • For girls, social and economic family background is more important for both Key Stage 2 English and maths attainment.
    • For boys, family relationships and behaviours have a greater influence on attainment across all three Key Stage 2 subjects.
    Contexts
  • 12.
    • Analysis of relationship between juvenile conviction rates and educational inequality, based on maths Key Stage 3 scores in English Local Education Authorities (LEAs).
    • Controlled for other variables which might be supposed to have an effect on juvenile crime rates.
    • Relationship between educational inequality and juvenile conviction rates for violent crime within local areas.
    • Relationship between educational inequality and racially motivated crime.
    Youth crime
  • 13.
    • Analysed effect of the Reducing Burglary Initiative in conjunction with the Education Maintenance Allowance programme.
    • Found that in LEAs where the RBI and the EMA were introduced jointly, burglary rates fell between 1.1 and 1.5 offences per 1,000 pupils relative to areas that did not introduce any of these policies.
    • The reduction in areas that introduced only the EMA programme or only the RBI was not significantly different from that in other LEAs.
    Youth crime
  • 14. Health: attitudes to school
    • These may be almost as important to future health outcomes as attainment.
    • Teenagers who do not do well academically yet regularly attend school have better health as adults than truants with the same low level of qualifications.
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  • 15. Smoking
    • The odds of being a smoker at the age of 33 were 4.7 times higher for women who had no GCSE equivalents at 16 and had been disengaged, than for women with no GCSE equivalents who had been engaged.
    • Taking one or two non-accredited courses is estimated to increase the chances of giving up smoking by age 42 - from 24 per cent to 27.3 per cent.
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  • 16. Depression
    • If 10% of women in the UK who obtained no qualifications were to gain a Level 1 qualification (equivalent to five GCSE grades D-G), the predicted reduction in the incidence of depression could lead to savings of up to £34 million per year.
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  • 17.
    • Investigated pupil and school effects on children’s wellbeing between the ages of 8 and 10.
    • Data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.
    • Four dimensions of well being: mental health, pro-social behaviour, anti-social behaviour and achievement.
    • The research involved more than 2,000 children in 242 schools.
    Children’s wellbeing in primary school
  • 18.
    • Most children experience positive well-being during the primary school years.
    • The majority do not engage in bullying and antisocial activities.
    • Most children report liking school and being satisfied by their friendships.
    • Small subset follow a trajectory of increased engagement in antisocial behaviour, such as bullying.
    • One-fifth have declining or lower levels of well-being from 8 to 10 years - most likely to be male, low SES, and low achieving.
    Children’s wellbeing
  • 19.
    • Most of the variation in children’s well-being exists within schools.
    • Individual factors in children’s lives account for most of the variation in their well-being, as compared with attending a specific school.
    • The between-school effects were greater for children’s achievement than for their psychological and social well-being.
    Variation in wellbeing
  • 20.
    • What are the strongest predictors of decreases in positive well-being?
      • Bullying
      • Peer victimization
      • Engagement in antisocial activities
    Predictors of wellbeing
  • 21.
    • What are the strongest predictors of increases in positive well-being?
      • English KS1 scores predict fewer antisocial behaviours and more pro-social behaviours
      • Maths KS1 scores predict better mental health
      • Liking school predicts more scholastic competence and less engagement in antisocial activities.
    Predictors of wellbeing
  • 22.
    • Proportion of FSM has negative effects on achievement and children’s well-being.
    • School ethos (eg. parental involvement and head-teacher/parent disputes) has significant associations with well-being.
    • Resource variables (such as teacher/student ratios) are not significant.
    School effects
  • 23.
    • Focus on children’s psycho-social wellbeing. Four aspects:
            • emotional
            • behavioural
            • social
            • subjective school wellbeing.
    • What accounts for changes in these outcomes?
    Change in wellbeing from childhood to adolescence
  • 24.
    • Examined changes in wellbeing within framework of risk and resilience
    • Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)
    • Looked at trajectories and drivers of change – positive and negative – across two time periods: mid-childhood (7.5 years to 10.5 years) and adolescence (10.5 years to 13.8 years).
    • Also looked at children with a large number of risks to wellbeing in their lives, identifying factors which may help protect their wellbeing.
    Change in wellbeing
  • 25.
    • For most dimensions of wellbeing around 50 to 60 percent of children experience stability
    • Around half of the remainder experiencing an increase and half a decline in wellbeing.
    • The exception to this pattern is school wellbeing, where fewer children experience stability and more experience decline, particularly in mid-childhood.
    Change in wellbeing
  • 26.
    • Children with special educational needs (SEN) are more likely than others to experience poor and declining wellbeing through middle childhood and adolescence.
    • Emotional and behavioural difficulties, followed by specific learning difficulties, are the most frequent predictors of relatively worsening outcomes.
    • Children with speech and language difficulties do not experience a decline in wellbeing relative to their peers.
    Predictors
  • 27.
    • Child-parent relationships are particularly important to sustaining and improving wellbeing.
    • Children who report positive relationships with their parents are more likely to experience improvements in behavioural and social wellbeing, and less likely to experience decline in subjective school wellbeing.
    • Similarly where parents report positive feelings about their child, children are more likely to experience improvements in wellbeing than those whose parents report negative feelings.
    Predictors
  • 28.
    • Girls more likely to experience slightly lower levels of and greater declines in their emotional wellbeing.
    • Boys have lower behavioural, school and social wellbeing than girls, although the gender gap in social wellbeing narrows from mid-childhood to adolescence.
    • Boys tend to experience a greater decline in wellbeing where there is maternal alcoholism (paternal alcoholism not included in our measures for technical reasons) and stressful life events, whereas girls do not.
    Gender differences
  • 29.
    • Parents’ feelings about their child seem to protect against declining wellbeing for girls with multiple risks in their lives, but did not seem to have the same protective power for boys at high risk.
    Gender differences
  • 30.
    • Interventions have effects that extend beyond educational and economic outcomes - the ‘wider’ effects WBL has focussed on.
    • Research highlights complex interactions between individuals and contexts - personal, educational, social (eg. interactions between levels of wellbeing and attainment). 
    • Effects not always as expected, or work to either reinforce or cancel each other out, or work in opposition to each other.
    • Policy makers increasingly aware of complexity, the need for integrated approaches and the consequences for policy design.
    Implications for policy
  • 31.
    • WBL research shows potential for effective school and education-based interventions, particularly to support people at disadvantage.
    • ‘ One size does not fit all’; different groups have different needs and respond in different ways to similar interventions.
    • Need to understand differences in order to design effective policy and communication strategies. 
    • Need for policy to be targeted at specific groups or differentially applied. 
    Implications for policy
  • 32.
    • Lifecourse approach highlights lifelong consequences of early experience. 
    • Hence need for early intervention and support – eg. evidence from research on parenting and early development; studies of early development and school readiness. 
    • Longitudinal research develops understanding of change across the lifecourse, including adulthood. 
    • WBL research illuminates the processes whereby advantage and disadvantage is passed across generations. 
    Implications for policy
  • 33.
    • WBL research recently informed DCSF input to the National Equality Panel, SEU approach to tackling low aspiration neighbourhoods, and strategic thinking within DCSF.
    • Informed Departmental Strategic Objectives 1 (Secure the wellbeing and health of children and young people) and 4 (Close the gap in educational achievement for children from disadvantaged backgrounds).
    • Rather than immediate practical application, the effect is largely to ‘drip-feed’ evidence and messages into the DCSF and beyond, through briefings, reports, meetings, etc. 
    Implications for policy
  • 34.
    • Balancing scholarship and academic rigour with need for timeliness, accessibility and policy relevance.
    • Managing expectations: ‘by Monday’, demonstrating causality, bullet-proof answers to critical policy questions.
    • Communication and liaison: knowledgeable , constructively critical colleagues at both ends of the policy/research relationship.
    Challenges
  • 35. More information
    • Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL
    • email: [email_address] web: www.learningbenefits.net
    Institute of Education University of London 20 Bedford Way London WC1H 0AL Tel +44 (0)20 7612 6000 Fax +44 (0)20 7612 6126 Email info@ioe.ac.uk Web www.ioe.ac.uk