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Evaluation of English Mastery Programme

Teenagers Studying
Published: April 2022

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) commissioned NatCen’s Centre for Children and Families to evaluate English Mastery.

English Mastery provides a knowledge-rich curriculum aiming to help teachers establish students’ progress and effectively plan English lessons throughout Key Stage 3. 

For this evaluation, our Centre for Children and Families drew on surveys and in-depth interviews to understand and explore how English Mastery was delivered and whether there were any barriers or facilitators to delivery.

This efficacy trial, led by NatCen’s Centre for Children and Families, was designed to build on previous findings from an early, small scale evaluation which showed that English Mastery had significant positive impact on students’ English scores, regardless of students’ prior attainment or demographic characteristics. This trial aimed to find out whether similar results could be achieved across a larger number of schools.

Findings

Due to COVID-19, the primary outcome for this evaluation was not collected and so no measure of impact on English attainment was obtained. Key conclusions are based on surveys and qualitative interviews with teachers that formed the implementation and process evaluation.

  • The majority of treatment school teachers (80%) who responded to the endline survey (n=165) said that the use of English Mastery reduced their workload in relation to planning and marking.
  • The majority (75%) of treatment school teachers who responded to the endline survey reported being satisfied with the programme overall. A majority (84%) were also satisfied with the training and support they received to deliver the English Mastery curriculum, found the programme helpful when teaching remotely and said that they would recommend the programme to other schools.
  • The disruption to in-person teaching caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that treatment schools were not able to implement the English Mastery programme as intended.
  • Reduced buy-in from schools led to low compliance of particular components such as the use of summative assessments. Some more experienced teachers reported limited buy-in to the programme, as they felt it was too prescriptive and reduced their opportunity to be creative when planning and delivering lessons.
  • Teachers perceived that there were two key outcomes for students - increased enjoyment of English through curriculum strands which made literature more enjoyable and exploratory, and a higher level of writing accuracy due to better engagement in critical reading and higher-quality teaching of spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG) skills.

Methodology

The evaluation design included an impact evaluation involving a two-armed cluster randomised control trial with 100 schools, with schools split evenly between treatment and control groups. In addition, the design also included an Implementation and Process Evaluation (IPE) which was designed to understand and explore how English Mastery was delivered and whether there were any barriers or facilitators to delivery and the context underpinning programme delivery.

Due to school closures in 2020 and 2021 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact evaluation was cancelled as it was not possible to undertake students’ assessments under the required school-based conditions. It was also unlikely that an impact evaluation would have provided a true reflection of the impact of English Mastery given there was extensive disruption to programme delivery during the evaluation period. IPE activities were able to go ahead, which included three surveys and three waves of case studies that involved in-depth interviews with treatment school teachers, English Mastery Ambassadors, Senior Leadership Team champions and control school teachers.

Read the report here