The Bristol Early Years Boys’ Achievement Project (Dec 2016 - July 2021)

The Project Rationale

The Bristol Early Years Boys’ Achievement Project (BBAP) seeks to explore how we might improve the educational achievement of boys, particularly boys growing up in low income households, and boys from some BME groups whose achievement at the end of the reception year has been historically low in comparison to the Bristol average attainment for boys and continues to be low as they progress through KS1 and 2.

The project works on a number of levels to raise the aspirations and expectations of early years educators and families in Bristol.

Schools, children’s centres, private, voluntary and independent settings (PVI) and childminders are involved in the project.

Strong ethical considerations and protocols underpin the project to ensure it is undertaken in an affirmative manner using a credit approach, involving families as partners in working on the home learning environment (HLE) as well as teachers and practitioners working together following an action research approach.

We are using findings from national research and reports which identify key aspects of practice and provision that contribute to improving outcomes for disadvantaged groups and which help to inform possible lines of enquiry by individual or groups of early years settings.

We are drawing on national and local expertise, to engage wide participation in the project at different levels, from professionals to families, and to raise the urgency and importance of the project to improving the achievement of boys in Bristol. The engagement of community groups/organisations is integral to the project to promote greater understanding of the value of early intervention, especially for some groups of boys.

New BBAP Leaflet

The new Bristol Boys’ Early Years Achievement Project leaflet is now available here to download and print. The leaflet provides useful information for parents, governors and committees and can be very useful in explaining why you are undertaking research into boys’ achievement.

Bristol Boys’ Achievement Project Update (November 2018)

Excitingly, we are into our third year of the Boys’ Project and it’s heartening to find that there is still strong enthusiasm and interest in participating in this fantastic opportunity to narrow the attainment gap for boys in Bristol.  We currently have 60 settings, including schools, private, voluntary and independent (PVI) settings and children’s centres, that are investigating self-chosen lines of enquiry with their colleagues, to improve boys’ learning and development.

Practitioners meet once a term at Area Learning Hub meetings to listen to guest speakers and to share the progress of their own research. In between times, they meet informally with others who are researching similar themes. Practitioners have found the meetings a great opportunity to be a part of a learning community. They talk about the enjoyment of engaging in research with colleagues in their own settings and the effect that the research has on raising the level of professional discussion about their pedagogic practice.

Lead teachers and Foundation Years Consultants coordinate the Area Learning Hub meetings and provide additional support to settings on request. They provide guidance on organisational aspects of conducting research as well as on how to document learning from the research.

The BBAP webpage is now established and research case studies are posted as they become available. They showcase the wide diversity of the enquiries which settings explored, the strategies they used and importantly the impact on boys’ learning and development.

In the new year, we will be working with Bristol University to evaluate the progress of the Boys’ Project so far and to inform the future direction of the project.

The 2018 Early Years Profile assessments, made at the end of the reception year in schools, show mixed results this year with some groups of boys improving and others falling further behind. Bristol’s early years gender gap widened slightly but on a positive note it is narrower than the national gender gap. We continue to have very wide gaps for boys who are eligible for free school meals or access the Pupil Premium.

By focusing sharply on the learning and development needs of boys through action research we can improve our provision and practice to ensure all boys make a good start in the early years so that they start Key Stage 1 with positive and self-confident dispositions to learning.

If you are interested in participating in the Boys’ Project please contact the lead teacher at your nearest children’s centre, a Foundation Years Consultant or Elizabeth Fee. It is possible to start your research at any point and the dates for the Area Learning Hubs are below.

BBAP Area Learning Hub meeting dates and venues:

North Bristol Hub – 6th February 2019, 4.00 -5.30pm, Filton Avenue Nursery School and Children’s Centre

East Central Bristol  Hub – 4th February 2019, 4.00-5.30pm, St Paul’s Nursery School and Children’s Centre

South Bristol Hub – 7th February 2019, 4.00-5.30pm, Knowle West Nursery School and Children’s Centre

Elizabeth Fee

Early Years Improvement Officer – Project Coordinator for the BBAP

Project Aims: 

  • To address the national and Bristol’s priority to narrow the gap in achievement of some groups of boys  (‘Unknown children – destined for disadvantage’ Ofsted July 2016) and to consider the key points made in the report by the DfE in Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential – a plan to improve social mobility through education (Dec 2017).
  • To bring together schools, children’s centres and PVI settings to explore the barriers and issues of long-standing low achievement by some groups of boys and to participate in an enquiry-led approach to address boys’ learning and development needs.
  • To work in partnership with families and communities to explore strategies which will inform sustainable approaches, enabling families to support their boys to make the best possible progress in their learning and development and to contribute to the social mobility of boys living at a disadvantage.
  • To disseminate the outcomes of the project widely with early years and primary colleagues and to use the findings to inform the practice in nationally funded initiatives such as the 2 Year Old Free Early Education and Childcare Entitlement, the Early Years and School Pupil Premium and the Troubled Families programme.
  • To produce practical information and guidance for practitioners working with families and early years children to enable them to support the learning and development of boys to improve their educational outcomes and sense of well-being.

Please contact one of the Foundation Years Consultants if you would like to participate, or if you want to find out more about the project.

Elizabeth Fee, Project Leader

Nicky Bale, South Bristol

Smi Pearce, East Central Bristol

Kate Hubble, North Bristol

Beth Osborne


We are building a bank of resources to support your early years research project.  Links to suggested further reading in each of the key research hubs can be found below.  Or contact us and let us know how we can make this website more relevant to you and your practice.

We'd love to hear from you!  Please get in touch with any ideas or suggestions for the website.

We will only use the information submitted in this form to make contact with you regarding your enquiry. Your details will be stored securely and will never be passed to third parties. Please tick the box to confirm you are happy with this.

2 + 2 =