Evaluation of Schools Challenge Cymru

Launched in June 2014, Schools Challenge Cymru (SCC) represented a concerted effort by the Welsh Government to respond to variability in the performance of different schools across Wales in supporting the development of their pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In total, up to £40 million was allocated to support the delivery of SCC during the first two years of the programme. A proportion of the resources were made available to 40 Pathways to Success (PtS) schools (two of which subsequently merged) and their wider clusters, and funding was made available to the four Regional Education Consortia.

SQW's evaluation focused on the PtS schools, using contribution analysis and sophisticated statistical modelling techniques to explore the impact of the additional resources. It drew on in-depth interviews with Challenge Advisers, staff in Local Authorities and Regional Consortia, the senior leadership teams and staff of all 39 PtS schools, their cluster primary schools and secondary partner schools. Hierarchical modelling and conditional forecasting techniques were used to explore school performance trajectories, as were insights from exploratory pilot surveys conducted with pupils in Years 6, 7 and 9 in 2014/15 and in Years 7, 8 and 10 in 2015/16.

The evaluation provided a rich insight into the complexity of school improvement, demonstrated the value of careful diagnosis of individual schools' trajectories and needs, and highlighted the importance of tailored support that specifically helped to meet those needs. Although school interviewees tended to feel that SCC funding was the main factor in enabling improvements, it was the intelligent and targeted use of funding that most supported impact. Both Challenge Advisers and AIBs had a notable (though not always fully acknowledged) role to play in this.

For more information regarding the evaluation, please contact SQW's Project Director, Marian Morris.

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