Celebrating the first birthday of the IES Trials Unit

IES News

27 Apr 2023

It has been a whole year since we launched the IES Trials Unit and there has been a lot of activity that we wanted to update you on. We have continued to work on our Flexible Phonics RCT project looking at an intervention to support teachers/ TAs with teaching phonics to 4-5 year olds; and we are also working with a FTSE 100 employer to support on the development, trialling and evaluation of a workplace health and wellbeing intervention in sites across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

New projects

We recently published a blog detailing a selection of our new Early Years projects working with the Education Endowment Foundation. The projects include an efficacy trial evaluation of the Early Talk Boost programme by Speech and Language UK, which is an intervention with 3- to 4-year-olds designed to improve the early language skills of children experiencing delays in their communication and language abilities. We will also be exploring the Tales Toolkit programme in a pilot evaluation based in the Thames Valley. The Tales Toolkit programme uses child-led storytelling to support early language and social development in 3- to 5-year-olds. In addition, we have also won work as follows:

  • A feasibility study to understand the impact of the additional learning hours policy in post 16 learning in England. This feasibility study will explore options for evaluating the Department for Education's policy on funding 40 additional hours for 16-19 learners on a band 5 study programme (A levels, T-levels and vocational programmes) as part of its Covid recovery strategy. Given the universal nature of the policy on targeted learners, IES is exploring the potential to conduct a quasi-experimental analysis using administrative datasets and comparing the outcomes of band 5 learners with similar learners under previous policy or outside the geographic scope of the policy.
  • A feasibility study for assessing the impact of the First Steps to a Sustainable Future intervention led by Cumbria Youth Alliance. IES is leading a feasibility study to determine best options to assess the impact of this intervention which targets marginalised young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with holistic support to achieve better employment outcomes. The work will be underpinned by theory of change development alongside assessment of options – including randomised controlled trial, quasi-experimental designs or theory- informed approaches to understand the difference made.

There are more projects in the pipeline that we can’t talk about just yet including a large government funded RCT and an effectiveness RCT in education, so keep a look out for future blogs and email bulletins for more details.

New Publications

In Summer 2022, we published the report on the evaluation of the Tips By Text Intervention for the Education Endowment Foundation (working with NIESR). This was an individual level RCT looking at a parental text intervention to help improve child outcomes in literacy, numeracy and social development. The trial was targeted at parents of children aged 4-5 and involved sending them text messages three times a week with tips on activities to try with children at home. The trial was affected by the Covid- 19 pandemic so attrition was quite high, but we were still able to continue both the impact as well as implementation and process evaluations which found the intervention had no impact on the outcome measures, but this should be interpreted under the context.

We have also just published the evaluation study of the Health-led Employment Trials on behalf of  the Department for Work and Pensions alongside the Department of Health and Social Care. The evaluation tested the provision of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) – a well-evidenced voluntary employment support programme for people living with severe and enduring mental illness in secondary care – with a group experiencing mild/moderate mental and/or physical health conditions in primary and community care settings. IES Director Becci Newton has written a summary blog highlighting a number of key achievements from leading the largest trial to date of IPS, the culmination of over five years of research for IES and partners.

Another project report on a efficacy RCT in education is due to be published in early May so watch this space!

New Staff

We have two new additions to our Trials Unit team, Dr Seemanti Ghosh and Dr Susie Bamford. Seemanti is a Principal Research Fellow and she leads our team of economists. Seemanti joins us from NESTA and has vast experience in RCTs and quasi experimental designs both in the UK and internationally. Susie is a Senior Research Fellow and has experience of working as an independent quantitative researcher as well as working for the National Foundation for Education Research across diverse education projects and as a postdoctoral researcher at Southampton and Bangor universities. We are delighted to have them both on our team and they have both been working across multiple trials since joining IES in autumn 2022.

Are you interested in finding out more about ways the IES Trials Unit could work with your organisation? Please contact Anneka Dawson, Head of the Trials Unit, to talk through potential requirements.