Evaluation of Schools Challenge Cymru

Client: Welsh Government

Schools Challenge Cymru (SCC), launched in June 2014, was a national school improvement programme aimed at supporting the development of pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. SQW was commissioned by the Welsh Government to evaluate the performance of a specific element of the programme, which delivered a tailored intervention in 39 schools in challenging circumstances. The programme ran for three academic years, 2014/15 to 2016/17, and the evaluation covered the first two years.

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 it was these schools that the evaluation focused on. The principal aim  was to assess the extent to which the support made available to PtS schools had been successful in supporting an improvement in performance.

As part of the evaluation, we used contribution analysis and sophisticated statistical modelling techniques to explore the impact of the additional resources. This 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 final report can be downloaded here.