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An upset looking boy. Find out how to support struggling Year 7 students.

How to support struggling Year 7 students

3 min read
  • Stress management & well-being
  • The science of learning

What is the best way to support struggling Year 7 students who are struggling? The Department for Education has allocated £500 for each pupil who has achieved less than Level 4 in Maths or English to help them catch up with their peers.

Catch up premium

The DfE states that “you should only select programmes and approaches that you know are effective.” Four possible options to support struggling year 7 students include:

  • Individual tuition
  • Intensive small-group tuition
  • External materials and services
  • Summer schools

Literacy and numeracy intervention programmes have effectively targeted the academic development of Catch Up Premium students in the areas of Maths and English. Clearly, extra time teaching these subjects (especially in small groups or in one-on-one settings) helped raise students’ ability. Are other types of interventions also effective? Can mindset and communication strategies also help?

The importance of mindset

“Students tend to have more of a fixed view of maths skills than of other intellectual skills.”

– Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck conducted an interesting study on the relationship between maths attainment and Growth Mindset. Dweck studied a group of year 7 students’ maths progress over two years. Although they all started with similar levels of attainment, she found that the students with a growth mindset went on to achieve much higher grades, had a far greater belief in the power of effort, and a very positive attitude towards setbacks.

David Scott Yeager, in partnership with Dweck, also conducted a study into how a Growth Mindset can promote and develop social resilience along with academic achievement. They found that students who believed that social attributes can be developed, had lower stress and achieved higher maths and verbal test scores. For more information about how help someone develop a growth mindset, check out our blog on which behaviours to praise.

It is worth noting that growth mindset interventions on their own are not a magic cure. The Education Endowment Fund found that young students receiving a brief growth mindset intervention made 2 months progress in English and Maths (though the results were not statistically significant, meaning that the authors couldn’t rule out that this improvement wasn’t due to chance).

Recent research suggests combining growth mindset and a ‘sense of purpose’ intervention may be particularly effective for underachieving students. Combining both of these types of mindset interventions, along with individual or small group subject tuition, could be a powerful strategy for helping struggling year 7 students.

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Communicate with struggling year 7 students

Ofsted and the DfE champion the concept of Collaborative Learning. The idea is that one of the greatest learning resources a student has is their classmates. Several studies have found that effective literacy and numeracy interventions have collaborative learning themes at their core. These strategies put an emphasis on interactive classrooms. They motivate the students into taking more responsibility for their own learning by working towards solutions with their classmates. Most importantly, they encourage pupils to support each other.

These sorts of social skills are not fixed and can be taught. Furthermore, research indicates that these skills can have a significant effect on student attitude, social behaviour, emotional management and academic achievement.

Creating and facilitating an environment where there is good communication between the teacher and students, and amongst the students themselves, is a good way to help student motivation. This increase in internal motivation can lead to more satisfying learning experiences and greater academic achievement.

Final thoughts

So what’s the Catch Up Premium goal? To take students who are struggling in Maths and English, and help them catch up with their peers. When working with Catch Up students, focusing on the Maths and English curriculum content is clearly an effective intervention. Small groups and one-on-one work have been reported to be particularly effective. Psychological interventions are not a miracle quick fix cure; however, as part of other targeted strategies, helping students develop a successful mindset and good communication skills should be beneficial. 

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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