Published on: 01 Feb 2018

There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a project improve pupils’ potential to succeed. Not all projects will perhaps make huge gains – but every small gain can be life changing

What makes UK education so valued?

By Wendy Sheehan, Business Development Manager, GL Assessment

British cycling coach Sir David Brailsford once said about cycling success: "The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together”.  Similarly in education, often the success of children in school can also be measured in marginal gains.

Last week saw the Bett show in London – and it’s always exciting to see the new products taking education by storm. The event is always packed with schools, ministers and education advisors from around the world; it’s a good reminder than the UK education system is still seen as the best in the world, and delegates from far afield are keen to learn from us how to maximise the potential of each child in their school or country. 

So, what makes UK education so valued? I feel much of it is down to the fact that we are really good at evidencing new ideas - we are able to demonstrate what works. In the world of cycling, they often talk about marginal gains to make that small difference which leads to success, and it’s no different in education. After all, it can be the small gains that can make the difference between a 5 or 4 grade.

This week has reminded me of this in two different ways.

First, the Education Endowment Foundation’s Closing the Attainment Gap report acknowledges that ‘even small improvements in young people’s GCSE qualifications yield significant increases in their lifetime productivity returns and in national wealth – highlighting the importance of continuing to focus on improving results for currently low attaining pupils’. This highlights how using evidence – looking at what has worked and what hasn’t – provides schools with the opportunity to implement what is successful in order to make those marginal gains.

Second, the DfE’s announcement of further funding to projects from the Strategic School Improvement Fund provides an opportunity for schools to make a difference to pupils’ achievements. The projects vary widely from early years, reading and improving the opportunities for disadvantaged pupils to developing senior leadership. But they all have one thing in common; they need to show they are making a difference.  

The term ‘impact’ is often overused but if we are going to show it works, it’s the evidence that will make others stand up and acknowledge it. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a project improve pupils’ potential to succeed. Not all projects will perhaps make huge gains – but every small gain can be life changing.

We at GL Assessment are proud to be actively involved in many of these projects both here in the UK and overseas, helping to measure the impact of these kinds of initiatives. By doing this, we can all learn from projects that work well so the UK can continue to lead the way locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.