Portsmouth’s primary school pupils are the first in England to benefit from an innovative project designed to raise academic achievement after the city won £368,000 funding from the Education Endowment Foundation.
The charity the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is awarding £3.7 million to nine projects across the country to raise the educational attainment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth City Council, Pompey Study Centre and Portsmouth and SE Hants Education Business Partnership joined forces to bid for funding to pilot the ‘Changing Mindsets’ project in primary schools in the city.
The two-year project will pilot techniques aimed at developing a ‘growth mindset’ in primary school pupils in general and Year 5 pupils (aged 9 – 10) in particular. Thirty-six primary and junior schools – predominately from Portsmouth – will participate in the project from January 2013.
For the first time anywhere in the world, their teachers will also be trained in growth mindset techniques in a bid to raise children’s sights and build their belief in their abilities.
Children who have a ‘fixed mindset’ believe that (“I’m no good at this and never will be”) do less well than those who believe that improvement is possible through effort (“I can develop my ability in this subject and I can succeed”). The project is underpinned by 20 years of research pioneered by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, which has found that children who are taught to believe that intelligence can be grown and developed, rather than that their intelligence is fixed, gain confidence in their abilities and achieve better results. They also then develop a ‘growth mindset’ enabling them to overcome difficulties in learning and persevere in the face of challenges that they might otherwise avoid.
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth will be helped deliver the project to schools by about 60 of the university’s students who have ambitions to become teachers when they graduate.
The University of Portsmouth’s Head of Psychology, Dr Sherria Hoskins, is an expert in how children’s own assessment of their intelligence affects their learning. She said: “This is an exciting project for all of us involved in delivering it and, crucially, for the children taking part. The Changing Mindsets project has the potential to have a significant and positive impact in Portsmouth.
“Research has shown that if you can change the mindset of someone to see themselves as capable of growth, they do then grow.
“We are excited to see the outcome of this project and the effect it could have on how well the children taking part do at school after we have worked with them.
“The project also has a wonderful legacy because it will involve training teachers in how to respond to and praise children’s work. And our own students taking part, many of whom will go on to become school teachers, will also help spread the message that attainment at school and in life is flexible and can be changed.
“It is a privilege for us to be able to contribute to our community in this way.”
If successful, the project will raise the educational attainment of the pupils involved and also give them skills that will help them as they make the transition to secondary school. If the results are well-evaluated by the University’s team and the Education Endowment Foundation, the project could be rolled out to other year groups and schools in Portsmouth and other cities across the country.
Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Rob Wood said, “We are delighted that we have been successful in our bid for this funding. Portsmouth will be the first city in England to pioneer this innovative approach and if the pilot is successful then all schools could benefit from this approach. We are determined to raise attainment levels of all our pupils.”
This project forms part of wider work to raise educational attainment in the city and a vision and strategy to deliver effective learning for every pupil is currently being developed with schools and other partners across Portsmouth.