Evidence and Research

The Centre for Applied Educational Research (CAER)

In 2019, the Bradford Opportunity Area (BOA) partnership board recognised that many barriers to social mobility fell outside the school gates. The Born in Bradford project showed that many children were experiencing health difficulties that were acting as barriers to their education. In response, the BOA established the Centre of Applied Educational Research (CAER), to address the barriers to learning relating to the other side of the Bradford school gates.

CAER is a partnership between the Department for Education and the Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, the Universities of Leeds, Bradford and York, the City of Bradford Metropolitan Council, and the Educational Endowment Foundation (EEF).

While teachers are aware which children need extra support in class, understanding why a child may need extra support is usually harder to determine, and this is especially the case when some of these underlying reasons are health issues.

The BOA have been able to use CAER to identify specific issues (some of which are detailed below) that impact on children’s learning. We have used matched health and education data from ‘Born in Bradford’ (BiB) to work with schools on supporting the needs of their children. BiB is one of the largest research studies on childhood development in the world, tracking the lives of over 30,000 Bradfordians to find out what influences the health and wellbeing of children within their families. Through the insights provided by BiB we have co-designed and tested ~20 interventions which we now are in the process of trialling in a rigorous scientific manner.

Many children with ‘health’ difficulties go unidentified in school settings because the needs are unfortunately invisible to schools (e.g. a child with hearing problems may seem to have behavioural problems to a classroom teacher). In 2012, the Chief Medical Officer estimated the annual short-term costs of failing to meet children’s health needs as £1.58 billion, with long term costs of £2.35 billion.

However, confusion can be created when ‘health’ is used to label the needs of a child. This gives the false impression that a child’s health and their education can be addressed by separate service assessments and provision rather than a unified approach. The evidence from Born in Bradford suggests the opposite where health issues (e.g. uncorrected vision problems) have been found to impact negatively on literacy rates later in the child’s educational history.

In order to understand and tackle the complex issues affecting education and social mobility, we used data from ‘Born in Bradford’ to find new and practical ways to work with schools, families, and health professionals. Our goal was to generate learning that could identify ways to improve service delivery and improve life outcomes for children throughout the UK, and bring new scientific discovery to the world. Due to the success of the initial projects, we have been able to attract more than £3.5m of external funding (from organisations such as the EEF, the UK’s Research England, and philanthropic donors) to extend the number and reach of the programmes – to the point that we are now extending the trials to other parts of the country.

We are always looking to strengthen our networks with researchers and academics. If you can offer support to our social mobility ambition in Bradford please contact us at opportunityareas.bradford@education.gov.uk