This is a series of occasional blogs by BESA members and is part of their paid membership service. These views are not necessarily those of BESA and a published blog does not constitute an endorsement. 

Tassomai founder Murray Morrison on PiXL Build Up and why initiatives like this one are essential to close the disadvantage gap and reduce educational inequality.

Next year, tens of thousands of children are expected to fail their GCSEs in key subjects. The toughest word in that sentence is “expected”… it’s a killer. The implication is that the schools don’t believe they will pass – and the likelihood is that the students themselves don’t believe that they can pass. Research we’ve done with teachers confirmed what we hear so often: “we try, and we put in the extra work because we care, but we have little confidence that it will make a difference for these students”. With schools judged on their outcomes and with resources limited, it’s all too easy to see some students ‘given up on’.

But if we are to close the gap for disadvantaged students, the place to start is with those predicted to fail: they will disproportionately come from disadvantaged backgrounds and they will have, with the right support, the greatest opportunity to beat those expectations. 

Reversing expectations

The latest annual report on the state of education in England by the Education Policy Institute in partnership with The Fair Education Alliance showed that disadvantaged students in secondary schools are 18 months behind their peers, and that gap is increasing. If we are to reverse this trend, then what is needed first of all is the confidence that the system believes that these students can achieve better outcomes, and the provision and structure in schools to support this change in approach.

This is why, when PiXL approached Tassomai about supporting their new Build Up initiative, we leapt at the chance: Build Up has been put together with PiXL partners to provide free academic support for students in over 1000 secondary schools. Most importantly, these students are from that group identified as likeliest to fail. 

What are we doing?

Currently we have signed up 5,000 students to have free access to Tassomai through the PiXL Build Up and we expect that number to grow. We have irrefutable evidence that by using Tassomai for a few minutes each day, we have a significant positive impact on grades, and we have every expectation that this work with PiXL schools can have a major impact on closing the disadvantage gap in English schools.

A commitment to effective implementation

Our condition for supplying Tassomai for the Build Up, however, was that every participating school committed to an implementation plan that would ensure its good use. We’ve all seen, far too often, edtech tools being introduced to schools and getting scant use. Tassomai is no different – if it’s not built into the school’s system it will have limited impact, especially for disengaged students.

What we have to get right first is the expectation – we have to show these students that we expect they can do well, and that our approach is geared towards making that success a reality. If we do that, then we will see the students start to believe in themselves and the changes will follow.

Monitoring the impact on attainment

Our Build Up schools are introducing Tassomai to their students with provision of dedicated Tassomai sessions every week, leader-boards, rewards and teacher support. For our part, we will be monitoring activity – usage and changes in attainment – and working with PiXL so that we can support these schools in supporting their students.

We’re hugely excited about the impact we expect to see from the Build Up – especially given that when we change outcomes with this project, we will be doing something towards levelling the playing field in education and helping those most in need of support.

Keep an eye on our blog and our social media channels for updates through the year (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn) and let us know what you think.