Wednesday, 30 April 2014


The RSA has produced a report which everyone, who cares about getting the best results for all young people, should read. The report "Everone Starts with an 'A'" looks at applying behavioural insights to narrow the achievement gap in education.

Importantly, the report stresses that there are two important points to keep in mind about applying behavioural insights to the challenge of improving outcomes for the most disadvantaged young people in education. The first is that behavioural approaches do replace other approaches that place more direct emphasis on pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. The point is to create among teachers, school leaders, and policy makers an awareness about behavioural insights so that it can be used to complement, inform or strengthen the existing approaches to tackling educational disadvantage. As with all things the important word is AND, because we need both.

The second point is why the authors think such an approach could help to close the attainment gap, rather than improve outcomes generally, or even make matters worse if, as with many interventions, more advantaged students derive more benefit from these approaches than the students they are designed for. The authors are very clear that these proposed practical steps can and should be applied to an entire class rather than to specific individuals and while there is good reason to believe that most of them could benefit all students to some extent, the authors have carefully selected the interventions that are likely to have larger effects on those who are relatively socioeconomically disadvantaged, with a view to narrowing the attainment gap and focus on mindset, cognitive biases and surroundings.

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