Formative evaluation of the North East primary literacy scale-up campaign

Julie Nelson, Jennie Harland, Kerry Martin, Caroline Sharp and Palak Roy

19 July 2019

Research report on the EEF website

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)’s North East (NE) primary-literacy scale-up Campaign aims to boost pupil literacy. It has three strands: 1) Practical evidence-based guidance; 2) Local practice-support provided by eight ‘advocates’; and 3) Evidence-based literacy interventions. The Campaign aims to reach all 880 primary schools in the NE over five years (2016-2021).

NFER conducted a formative evaluation of the first two years. During this time, advocates worked with just under half (389) of NE schools. The evaluation found:

 

 

Key Findings

  • Some evidence of a ‘NE effect’. The Campaign had a positive impact on NE schools’: adoption of evidence-based literacy practices; propensity to support good practice in literacy; and use of research evidence to inform literacy teaching (relative to similar schools in England). We found insufficient evidence to support the theory that advocacy accounted for this difference.
  • Advocacy support was ‘feasible’, with advocates recruiting schools serving high proportions of disadvantaged pupils, as intended. Participation varied by advocate, and there was a falling-off in participation across all advocates over the two years.
  • Different advocacy approaches held variable ‘promise’. Facilitated learning approaches that used modelling and demonstration showed most promise. Advocate-led ‘training’, while strong on expertise, lacked capacity to support school self-improvement. Distributed advocacy, while maximising peer-to-peer learning, struggled to adhere to the evidence base. Approaches capturing elements of expertise and capacity building support were most successful.
  • Prospects for sustainability were highest where support utilised existing school networks with capacity to self-improve. Facilitated and distributed approaches appeared more sustainable than advocate-led approaches, though advocate-led and facilitated approaches were most faithful to the evidence.