Last Updated: Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Action enquiry research focussing on closing the poverty-related attainment gap centred on raising attainment in numeracy and mental health

What is this?

​In June 2016 educational psychologists (EPs) from across Scotland attended a two-day symposium to launch an innovative new programme of action enquiry research focused on closing the poverty-related attainment gap. The poverty-related attainment gap incudes rural poverty. The Scottish research presented here was undertaken in schools by Scottish educational psychologists in partnership with Scottish teachers, children and young people.

The programme is supported by Education Scotland as part of the Scottish Attainment Challenge, in partnership with the Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists and the British Psychological Society: Scottish Division of Educational Psychology.

The aim is that the work started by educational psychology services across Scotland will not end with these summary reports. In fact, almost all of the research initiatives will continue to be developed by EPs in their own services and schools and across other services in Scotland.

Who is this for?

​This research is relevant to practitioners, teachers, headteachers, local authority staff and others, interested in evidence based approaches to closing the poverty-related attainment gap in numeracy and mental health.

Improvement questions

A sample of questions posed are:

  • What are the current attainment levels in numeracy in North Lanarkshire?
  • Is there a poverty related attainment gap in numeracy in North Lanarkshire?
  • Is there evidence of a pre-school vocabulary gap within 3 target nurseries which have above average levels of SIMD 1-2 and can word aware impact on vocabulary development?
  • Will an increase in teachers’ knowledge and understanding of growth mind-set influence their teaching and learning approaches in secondary schools?
  • Does the use of video as a coaching tool increase the quality of learning conversations between target children and Teaching Assistants (TAs)?
  • Does an increase in the quality of learning conversations have an impact on numeracy attainment for the targeted children?
  • What impact will a small scale study of Precision Teaching have on raising attainment in numeracy in Angus?
  • Does the resilience planning toolkit combined with professional development opportunities in the area of resilience enable school staff to better identify barriers and supports for children with emotional and mental health needs?


About this research

What is the context for this research?

All of the research explores two key areas of the curriculum:

  1. Numeracy: child development of numeracy skills, how to teach numeracy, and comparative reviews of the literature to progress our understanding of how children learn mathematical concepts.
  2. Health and Wellbeing: an emphasis on growth mind-set, the measurement of wellbeing and teaching approaches to improve children’s motivation, resilience and confidence.

Almost all of the summary reports direct you to links which will provide you with staff development materials, assessment tools, and further practical information which you can use, adapt, and develop further.

How was the research carried out?

Each summary report outlines the research methodology used to investigate research questions generated from rigorous literature reviews of children’s attainment in numeracy and socio-emotional development.

What did the research look at?

The first 8 research papers investigate the following areas:

  1. North Lanarkshire: Achieving excellence and equity through enhancing teacher knowledge in arithmetical development, numeracy pedagogy and quality interactions: A coaching and mentoring approach.
  2. Aberdeenshire: Evidencing the impact of growth mind-set teaching and learning approaches on children’s engagement, enjoyment and attitude towards maths at secondary education level.
  3. Dundee: Making learning conversations count: Using video reflection to enhance teaching assistants’ impact on attainment in numeracy.
  4. Glasgow City: Evaluating the use and impact of the Glasgow Motivation and Wellbeing Profile (GMWP) as tool to seek and take account of young people’s views to inform planning.
  5. North Lanarkshire: Improving young people’s health and wellbeing by developing their resilience through the use of targeted evidence based interventions, professional development opportunities and teacher coaching and mentoring using Video Enhanced Reflective Practice.
  6. East Renfrewshire: The Family Wellbeing Scale: the development of a scale to measure Family Wellbeing (Phase 1)
  7. Angus: Raising Attainment in Numeracy through the use of Precision Teaching
  8. West Dunbartonshire: Closing the vocabulary gap in early years – engaging and involving parents and early years practitioners.

About the author(s)

All of the researchers are educational psychologists working in local authority educational psychology services.

Related research/reading

The literature reviews in each of the summary reports will provide useful reading materials and references for specific research papers which will assist you in your own research and teaching.


The findings and recommendations from the research and development project are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Education Scotland.