Kevin Lowden, Linda Garside and John Hall, The SCRE Centre, Faculty of Education, University of Glasgow.
ISSN 1478-6788 (Print)
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Many schools have a history of providing additional tuition and support for pupils' learning, often concentrated on improving their performance in academic subjects, but in 1999 the Scottish Executive began to provide funding to every local authority in Scotland to enable them to provide consistent programmes of study support. It allocated £59 million between 1999 and 2005 under the Excellence Fund core programme, and latterly the National Priorities Action Fund. Schools have also accessed funding from the New Opportunities Fund ( NOF) and some local authorities and schools have drawn on more diverse sources of funding such as the European Union and local businesses.
The main aim of the Study Support Programme ( SSP) is to help all pupils reach higher standards of achievement and attainment, but together with other out-of-school hours learning ( OSHL) activities, it also addresses social inclusion and targets pupils' health and physical activity. The range of activities that can fall within study support and OSHL has broadened and the distinction between SSP and other forms of OSHL activities has diminished. In short, SSP/ OSHL has evolved to reflect all five National Education Priorities, rather than concentrating on academic attainment (although this still remains an important dimension). This is in line with the government's emerging vision for education ie: to enable each child to become a successful learner, a confident and responsible citizen who can lead a fulfilling life and make an effective contribution to society. Such a vision is evident in recent policy documents: A Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Executive 2004) and Ambitious and Excellent Schools (Scottish Executive 2005).
There have been a number of UK evaluations of study support provision (MacBeath et al, 2001; Mason & Pye, 2003; Mason et al, 2004; New Opportunities Fund, nd; Shah, 2003; Sharp et al, 2001). However, none has focused exclusively on the situation across Scotland.
The Scottish Study Support Network ( SSSN) which is funded by the Scottish Executive has played an important role in the UK evaluation (MacBeath et al, 2001) and has continued to collate information on the range of study support provision in Scotland. It also facilitates links and good practice between local authority Lead Officers and has been instrumental in the development of guidelines for good practice concerning study support.
The aims of the evaluation
In 2004 the Scottish Executive Education Department ( SEED) commissioned the SCRE Centre of the University of Glasgow to conduct a national evaluation of the Study Support Programme. The research had three main aims:
- To provide a strategic mapping of the range of study support activities since 1999.
- To provide an evaluation of how programmes have been implemented in schools.
- To provide an appraisal of the outcomes of the initiative.
The SEED commissioned this evaluation after the introduction of formal funding for SSP in Scotland. Therefore, the evaluation could not gather baseline information on attainment and attendance to compare with data gathered later in the study. Rather, the evaluation approach outlined below gathered information and accounts from local authorities, a sample of Scottish schools, and stakeholders concerning the scope and nature of Study Support and OSHL and its impact.
The evaluation approach had four main strands:
Strand 1: Preliminary phase: initial discussions with the funder, design of surveys and interview topics and interviews with key people who could provide national and local insights on SSP/ OSHL.
Strand 2: Survey of local authority lead officers to map SSP/ OSHL provision and gather their views on impact.
Strand 3: Survey of Scottish schools to examine SSP/ OSHL and assess evidence of its impact.
Strand 4: Qualitative studies of SSP/ OSHL provision in three primary and 6 secondary schools to look in greater detail at how schools provided a range of SSP/ OSHL, and how particular challenges were addressed.
Planning and placing SSP/ OSHL within the wider aims of schools
Since 1999, local authorities have increasingly expected schools to address all five National Priorities for education within their SSP/ OSHL provision and to feature study support in their school development planning. Increasingly, SSP/ OSHL plans have been required to cross-reference with the National Priorities, local objectives and the How Good Is Our School quality indicators (Stationery Office 2002). As a result, SSP/ OSHL is becoming more integrated into schools' overall education provision. Lead Officers saw the overall aim of SSP/ OSHL as helping pupils to reach higher standards of achievement, but also addressing pupils' core skills and self-confidence. This was especially relevant for pupils at risk of underachieving because of disaffection with school. For these pupils, schools sought to reduce exclusion rates, and improve attendance and timekeeping. The aims for SSP/ OSHL have also come to include developing the whole pupil and place an importance on health, relationships and developing pupils' aspirations.
Schools can provide a more varied SSP/ OSHL provision that is responsive to pupils' needs when they work in partnership with other agencies such as social work, community education, physical activity co-ordinators, local businesses etc. Such partnerships appear to promote joint planning and sustainability of programmes and activities.
Schools are increasingly putting in place coordinators to facilitate SSP, but this is more typical of secondary and larger schools. This is seen as promoting the effective planning and implementation of SSP/ OSHL. The evaluation found that these personnel have a key role in situations where schools have numerous supporting partners and networks to negotiate with.
1. Who should be involved in the planning, organisation, and management of SSP/ OSHL?
Since 1999 there has been an increase in schools involving young people in the implementation of SSP activities, but less of an increase in their involvement with planning these activities. The evaluation indicates that where consultation with pupils and parents in the design of SSP/ OSHL had occurred, pupils reported being particularly satisfied with the content and approaches of their SSP/ OSHL. Such consultation had also promoted greater rapport between staff and pupils of all abilities and dispositions, and more productive links with their parents. This then was seen as enhancing the overall ethos of the school and quality of school life. Involving pupils in the planning and delivery of SSP/ OSHL not only helps to identify and address their needs but can also be used to develop their leadership and other key skills and promote ownership of activities.
Monitoring of SSP/ OSHL
Twenty-four of the 30 participating local authorities, and 80% of schools, reported that they monitored SSP/ OSHL. However, relatively few schools reported presenting data in annual reviews and other planning documents. This raises the possibility that useful data are not being fully utilised to inform policy and practice at authority and school level.
The most commonly used criteria in schools' monitoring of SSP/ OSHL were: the views of young people (96%), local objectives (91%), the National Priorities (84%), and targets for improvement as part of the school's annual review of progress (82%). Indicators and measures used to assess certain SSP/ OSHL outcomes vary from school to school and many of the potential affective outcomes from SSP/ OSHL, such as self-confidence and motivation to learn, were difficult to measure. These issues have implications for what claims can be made concerning the impact of SSP/ OSHL at national level.
2. How should SSP/ OSHL be monitored and evaluated? What criteria should be used?
Even with robust monitoring in place it could be difficult to attribute positive outcomes solely to SSP/ OSHL because other initiatives with similar aims are present in schools. Monitoring of SSP/ OSHL should be flexible to reflect the various contexts in which it is provided. However, such monitoring and evaluation should take into account overarching national principles and criteria such as the How Good Is Our School quality indicators and the Study Support Code of Practice ( DfES 2004) and its associated evaluation criteria. Monitoring of SSP/ OSHL must also be realistic, feasible and manageable within a school setting, avoiding unnecessary additional work for staff. Schools would appreciate guidance on how to do this in a feasible and sustainable way.
The extent and nature of SSP/ OSHL since 1999
Almost all secondary schools and over three quarters of primary schools currently provide SSP/ OSHL in some form.
The evaluation sought to assess whether the provision of SSP/ OSHL had changed over time since the introduction of SEED funding, therefore, 1999 to 2004 was seen as an appropriate period for schools to provide information about the nature of their SSP/ OSHL activities. The evaluation surveys of local authorities and schools reveal modest increases in the types of SSP/ OSHL activities provided since 1999. Table 1 provides an overview of SSP/ OSHL provision based on local authority survey data.
Table 1 Summary of the types of SSP/ OSHL provision since 1999
(source: local authority survey)
Numbers of local authorities providing type of SSP/ OSHL activities
(1999-2001 figures in brackets)
Provided during Easter
Provided during summer
Help with key skills
Support for course work
Particular interest opportunities
Learning about learning
Residential (personal skills)
Currently, the most commonly provided forms of SSP/ OSHL are support for specific subject/course work, followed by a spectrum of activities focusing on study skills and then programmes that include physical activity as well as other activities aimed to promote social and cultural development. Seventy-six percent of responding teachers said their school targeted specific SSP/ OSHL activities; 67% said that the school targeted specific pupil groups.
It should be noted that Local Authority Lead Officers and teachers reported difficulty in retrieving precise figures on how often activities were provided or how many pupils were attending the activities for given intervals since 1999. This makes it difficult to assess the scale or extent of participation across these activities. However, with this caveat in mind, Table 2 presents data from schools on this topic.
Table 2: Pupil participation in SSP/ OSHL activities based on school survey data
Type of SSP activities
Number in 2003-04
Number compared with 2002-03
Number compared with Pre-2002
Help with key skills
Support for course work
Particular interest opportunities
Learning about learning
Residential (personal skills)
These findings indicate the proportion of pupils participating in all types of SSP/ OSHL learning has increased compared with pre-2002 figures, but most notably for physical activity sessions, support for course work and homework clubs.
Written comments from local authorities and schools in questionnaires and information gathered from the qualitative phase of the research indicated that schools had been providing subject or academic-focused study support before the introduction of SEED funding in 1999. However, schools' capacity to expand their SSP/ OSHL provision was considerably enhanced following the availability of the SEED funding. Prior to 1999 some schools, particularly those in the former Strathclyde Region, had funded certain activities with support from the Prince's Trust (this funding ended in 1999).
Those types of activities that have seen the greatest increase have addressed pupils' broader development, promoted physical activity, and facilitated transition from primary to secondary school. These developments correspond with an increasing policy emphasis on the National Priorities and on developments to increase the profile of physical activity among young people (for example the Active Schools Agenda).
When consulting pupils and parents about the type and format of SSP/ OSHL provision they would like, schools found that the strongest demand was for subject specific activities that would promote academic performance. Teachers reported that this sometimes limited the extent to which innovative SSP/ OSHL could be introduced and suggested the need to raise awareness among pupils and their parents that learning and achievement can be promoted via a range of SSP/ OSHL approaches. Teachers thought that this would help allay pupil and parent concerns over the usefulness of alternative approaches and allow more informed choice by pupils and parents.
Most SSP/ OSHL is delivered mainly by teachers and partner organisations with some support from volunteers and parents. In some schools, librarians, classroom assistants, art workers, and sports coaches are also involved, thus reflecting the current diverse nature of SSP/ OSHL. In just under half (48%) of the responding local authorities most teaching staff involved with SSP/ OSHL were paid for this work and in 38% of authorities all staff involved received payment. This varied widely between authorities and between schools within authorities.
Priorities for SSP/ OSHL reflect the National Priorities for education, local authority objectives, and local needs and context, including available skills and resources. Historical factors, such as the existence of previous partnerships and support for pupils, have also influenced some schools. Overall, SSP/ OSHL is becoming increasingly embedded in schools, it is seen as having a positive impact, and teachers appear eager to maintain this provision.
3. What should be the main aims of SSP/ OSHL? How should these differ between schools?
There are indications from local authority data and their policy documents of a move towards placing SSP/ OSHL within a more holistic model of education provision and the development of the young person. Some local authorities state their SSP/ OSHL is placing a greater emphasis on promoting generic learning skills, targeting pupils, and providing transition programmes rather than specific subject-focused study support. However, the school survey data collected by this evaluation suggests that, while many secondary schools are sympathetic to these ideals, they maintain a strong focus on subject-specific study support tailored to helping pupils to do well in their SQA examinations. The pressure for schools to perform in terms of SQA examinations can inhibit schools from introducing more innovative SSP/ OSHL approaches, particularly when pupils and their parents see exam performance as being influenced by intensive subject specific support. In contrast, primary schools are more likely than secondary schools to focus on developing pupils' broader skills, physical activity levels and promoting wellbeing.
SSP/ OSHL provision should continue to be framed by the National Priorities for education and local authority objectives, yet be flexible in terms of content and focus in order to address pupils' needs and local context. Schools and local authorities should be encouraged to assess whether their provision is meeting the needs of all pupils, including those that are usually difficult to attract, or who face barriers to participation.
The role of funding in the scope of SSP/ OSHL
Central funding per annum for SSP/ OSHL has increased from £37 million over the years 1999-2003 (4 years) to £34 million over 2003-2006 (3 years). Over this period, the other sources of funding schools have used to provide SSP/ OSHL, particularly the various forms of NOF/lottery funding, have changed or ended. However, this latter type of funding was not intended to be a continuing source of funding.
Ninety percent (90%) of responding teachers believed that the funding from the Scottish Executive for SSP/ OSHL had enabled them to offer activities that otherwise would not have been provided. However, a smaller number of respondents (60%) thought that the funding was sufficient to meet all of their school's priorities for SSP/ OSHL.
It is clear that any substantial cut in funding for SSP/ OSHL would hamper schools' ability to offer such provision (this would be the case with any substantial reduction in funding in any policy area). However, to date there has been no indication that central funding for SSP/ OSHL will decrease.
4. What mixture of funding should be available for SSP/ OSHL? How can this be facilitated?
In recent years, local authorities have stressed that bids for SSP/ OSHL programmes should involve whole community, multi-agency approaches, and sources of funding other than the authority itself (for example, The Prince's Trust, business sponsorships and local associations). This is seen as both addressing the need to involve the wider community and the need to increase the sustainability of SSP/ OSHL programmes, but is dependent on the availability and continuation of such funding. Teachers, particularly primary school headteachers, stress that the bidding process for funding SSP/ OSHL can be time consuming. Therefore, some thought should be given to how the bidding process could be simplified and made more accessible for teachers.
In rural and remote authorities, a considerable amount of funding for SSP/ OSHL had to be used for transport. In rural areas, while the number of SSP/ OSHL activities has increased proportionately more than in urban areas, the diversity of provision has not increased. This could also be due to the range of available partners being more limited in rural areas.
Partnership working in SSP/ OSHL activities
Schools have worked as partners with culture/leisure/recreation departments, social work services, community education services, charitable organisations, local businesses, other community organisations, and parents. Most Lead Officers and teachers reported that these partnerships had been productive.
5. How can partnerships between schools and other groups and organisations be encouraged?
There was consensus amongst teachers and Lead Officers that supportive partnerships enhanced the flexibility and effectiveness of schools' SSP/ OSHL in addressing the needs of disaffected pupils and accessing funding, resources, specialist personnel and relevant services. Schools will benefit from exploring potential partnerships with agencies, organisations and providers that can help them address their SSP/ OSHL priorities. Guidance and support may be necessary to help schools identify such partners.
Lead Officers have a key role in assessing which departments and contacts within their councils can assist schools in the planning and implementation of their SSP/ OSHL. Partnerships require effective coordination. Local Lead Officers and teachers do not always have the time to fulfil this role and to liaise with relevant agencies. Therefore, there is a need to support the provision of skilled and enthusiastic personnel who can fulfil the role of coordinator, located within schools or a partner organisation.
The outcomes of SSP/ OSHL
Previous UK research has demonstrated a clear association between study support, increased motivation to learn, self-esteem, and academic performance, (eg MacBeath et al, 2001).
In this evaluation, the majority of teachers and local authority Lead Officers also strongly believed that SSP/ OSHL provision had positively influenced pupils' attainment, self-confidence, study skills, motivation to learn, and wellbeing. According to local authority Lead Officers, one of the clearest recent outcomes was on pupils' level of physical activity. Teachers and pupils supported these claims.
6. Does SSP/ OSHL make a difference?
Such reports of the impact of SSP/ OSHL have to take into account the caveat that other factors could be contributing to these outcomes and also that different schools and authorities will have used different indicators and measures for some variables particularly, motivation, self-esteem and social inclusion. Nevertheless, teachers' comments on the most notable outcomes of their SSP/ OSHL provision generally reflected the views of lead officers on this topic and included:
- SSP/ OSHL has been increasingly embedded into school provision and so is making 'a significant contribution across a wide range of subjects to enhance curricular provision'. This has also reportedly enhanced good learning and teaching at all stages, helped to increase attainment of pupils across the ability ranges, improved pupils' broader skills and outlook and encouraged pupils on stay on to S5 and S6.
- Targeted SSP/ OSHL to engage with disaffected and vulnerable young people including summer and Easter schools (including that with a focus on physical activity) have led to 'the least able pupils maintaining commitment to learning, reducing exclusions, completing internal assessments and attending final exams'. Other outcomes of such programmes were seen as improving the overall quality of pupils' education and promoting inclusion. Such impacts were believed to be particularly evident where SSP/ OSHL received input from integrated support teams working with pupils most at risk.
- SSP/ OSHL was seen as contributing to a culture of study beyond the school day.
- Increases in staff morale and improved pupil/teacher relationships are reported because of the quality of interaction afforded by SSP/ OSHL activities.
- Joint primary-secondary school SSP/ OSHL programmes are seen as improving transition from primary to secondary for pupils and developing transmission of knowledge and skills for teachers.
- SSP/ OSHL has promoted pupils' opportunity to access a range of physical activities and cultural events that are reported to contribute to their broader development, physical activity and enthusiasm to learn.
- Despite particular challenges facing rural schools in providing a diverse SSP/ OSHL programme, such activities have allowed pupils in rural areas to access a range of stimulating experiences that they would not have otherwise been able to do. Teachers have linked such experiences to curricular themes and, in some cases, have used these activities to involve the wider community and so provide learning benefits for pupils and local adults.
Teachers' comments highlight the need for appropriate, flexible and targeted SSP/ OSHL for disaffected and vulnerable young people, and both pupils and teachers found this valuable. However, many schools found it difficult to attract disaffected young people and those identified as at 'marginal risk' into SSP/ OSHL programmes and activities. These pupils are more likely to be subject to pressure from peers not to attend after school activities.
7. How can SSP/ OSHL best be implemented to impact upon disaffected young people?
SSP/ OSHL for disaffected groups was seen as most effective when it was flexible and involved stimulating methods that were an alternative to those used in 'standard' lessons. Teachers also placed great importance on establishing a rapport with, and
one-to-one support for, those children who were alienated from learning. Such approaches were expensive in terms of staff time but the support of partner agencies helped make them more sustainable.
The qualitative part of the evaluation found examples of creativity and adaptability in encouraging participation. Lunchtime study support allowed pupils to attend sessions in comfortable, informal settings that are conducive to learning, where they have access to ICT equipment and appropriate staff and other resources. For the young people, the appeal of getting help with work during the day rather than struggling on their own at home was an important motivator. Other effective strategies involved one-to-one approaches, multi-agency work, residential and outdoor activities and incentive/reward schemes. Lead Officers, SEED, and others such as SSSN can provide guidance on how these approaches can be implemented, resourced and sustained in different contexts, and provide resources where required. Wider benefits and impacts may now be emerging as a result of the broadening of SSP/ OSHL priorities (eg positive impact on the local community and parents). There is a need to identify and measure such complex outcomes using appropriate evaluation indicators, perhaps based on How Good Is Our School or the Code of Practice.
Factors influencing SSP/ OSHL
As with any education activity or programme there are a range of factors that can influence the implementation and effectiveness of SSP/ OSHL.
8. What makes SSP/ OSHL Work?
There was a striking consensus between local authority Lead Officers and teachers concerning the main factors that could influence effectiveness of SSP/ OSHL. These were seen as:
- Having clear and effective planning in place at school and local authority levels, which in turn often depends on effective partnership working.
- Relating SSP/ OSHL provision and priorities to authorities' objectives and the National Priorities.
- Having flexible SSP/ OSHL provision based on pupils' views, and local needs but set within a central framework or priorities and standards.
- The presence of appropriate resources and the availability of adequate, ring-fenced funding for specific activities that took into account those schools with higher deprivation indicators. Also, the imaginative use and interpretation of such funding and resources.
- Having a commitment from pupils to participate beyond the 'formal' level of education, and encouragement from their parents.
- Having key people at various levels: local authority and school management, teachers and support staff, who are committed to SSP/ OSHL and who work to promote and 'embed SSP/ OSHL in schools'.
- Having sufficient effective Lead Officers with time to devote to SSP/ OSHL and designated staff in schools with time to manage activities.
- Having regular monitoring in place with findings informing school planning.
- The presence of effective supporting networks, agencies and organisations and cross-sectional links (eg Integrated Education, Children's Services, and Cultural and Community Services).
- The presence of effective guidance on SSP/ OSHL and opportunities to share good practice.
- Having adequate opportunities for training of SSP/ OSHL personnel.
- Consulting with stakeholders including young people and their families.
- Schools in rural areas can be affected by limited or expensive local transport and limited local opportunities, services and facilities. However, there are examples of schools overcoming such factors by drawing on existing close community networks and groups to help develop and support their SSP/ OSHL provision.
Almost all secondary schools and over three quarters of primary schools currently provide a range of SSP/ OSHL programmes and activities. This provision has increased since 1999. Currently, physical activity and transition programmes feature strongly.
SSP/ OSHL has become embedded into the life of the school and is viewed positively by teachers and pupils. However, further investigation is needed to assess the impact of certain innovative programmes such as those that aim to address the needs of disaffected young people.
The great diversity of SSP/ OSHL programmes gives them the potential to meet the varied needs of pupils. However, this diversity makes it difficult to develop meaningful criteria and methods to assess their impact. There is a need to balance this variety with standards that guide practice and include feasible monitoring and evaluation approaches. Such developments are in progress and, like SSP/ OSHL provision, require continued support.
Department for Education and Skills (2004) The Study Support Code of Practice: A Guide for Schools. London (Produced on behalf of DfES by Wilson, D., and Gammie, H. and Moore., J. from the original by MacBeath).
MacBeath J, Kirwan, T, Myers K et al (2001) The Impact of Study Support. A report of a longitudinal study into the impact of participation in out-of-school-hours learning on the academic attainment attitudes and school attendance of secondary school students. Research Report RR273. Nottingham: DfES
Mason, K and Pye, D (2003) New Opportunity Summer School Schemes 2000-2002. An evaluation of 30 schemes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Slough: NFER
Mason, K, Pye, D and Easton, C (January 2004) New Opportunities Fund Summer and Term-time Schemes, 2000-2003: An Evaluation of 69 Schemes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Executive Summary. Slough: NFER
New Opportunities Fund (nd) Achievements and challenges in developing out of school hours learning. Research Summary. London: New Opportunities Fund.
Shah, A (2003) Out of school hours learning the views and opinions of New Opportunities Fund Staff. London: New Opportunities Fund.
Sharp, C et alNFER (2001) Playing for Success. An evaluation of the Second Year. Research Report RR291. Nottingham: DfES.
The Stationery Office Books (2002) How Good Is Our School?: Self Evaluation Using Performance Indicators (2nd ed)
Scottish Executive (2004) A Curriculum for Excellence: A Ministerial Response. Edinburgh
Scottish Executive (2005 ) Ambitious and Excellent Schools: Leadership - a discussion paper. Edinburgh
The Insight Series
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2. The Impact of ICT Initiatives in Scottish Schools
3. Moving On to Primary 1: An Exploratory Study of the Experience of Transition from Pre-School to Primary
4. Accelerating Reading and Spelling with Synthetic Phonics: A Five Year Follow Up
5. Assessment of Benefits and Costs of Out of School Care
6. Meeting the Needs of Children from Birth to Three: Research Evidence and Implications for Out-of-Home Provision
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8. Scottish Qualification for Headship: Key Issues from the Evaluation
9. The Sitter Service in Scotland: A Study of the Costs and Benefits
10. Awards in Early Education, Childcare and Playwork: A Qualifications Framework for the Future
11. An Evaluation of the Higher Still Reforms
12. The Management of Supply Cover in the Teaching Profession
13. Parents' Demand for and Access to Childcare in Scotland
14. Evaluation of Personalised Laptop Provision in Schools
15. Teachers' Perceptions of Discipline in Scottish Schools
16. Minority Ethnic Pupils' Experiences of School in Scotland ( MEPESS)
17. A Seven Year Study of the Effects of Synthetic Phonics Teaching on Reading and Spelling Attainment
18. An Assessment of the Support and Information for Victims of Youth Crime ( SIVYC) Pilot Scheme
19. Child Death and Significant Case Reviews: International Approaches
20. The Impact of Information and Communication Technology in Scottish Schools: Phase 3
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