The Bristol Early Years Boys’ Achievement Project (Dec 2016 - July 2018)

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.

The Project

The BBAP operates on two levels – universal and targeted. Last year, the universal aspect was addressed through quality improvement visits to all YR classes in schools and all pre-school settings. Awareness was raised about Bristol’s priority to address the underachievement of some groups of boys and it was an opportunity for professional dialogue about settings’ own approaches to improving outcomes for particular groups.

The targeted project in 2016/17 involved 23 schools and 15 children’s centres which participated in practitioner-led action research. The rationale underpinning this approach is that improvement which is led and owned by the practitioners is more likely to become embedded and sustainable in the long term.

Three area BBAP Learning Hubs were established. Hub meetings were held once each term for project participants.

Sub-hub meetings were held once each term for groups of schools/centres working jointly on specific research enquiries. Mentoring and support for research participants is provided by children’s centre lead teachers and Specialist Leaders in Education (SLEs) designated through the Teaching School and National College of Teaching and Leadership.

A successful Bristol Boys’ Achievement Conference was held in June 2017 for approximately 100 delegates. Professor Chris Pascal and Professor Leon Tikly were keynote speakers, and research presentations were made by settings involved in the project.

The impact of the project on data so far:

Positive results in reception class EYFS profile assessment outcomes:

EYFS Profile GLD data 2017 – showed good improvement for some groups of boys: Black Caribbean (+10%), Indian (+10.9%), Black African (+22.9%), Black Somali (+4%), Bangladeshi (+18.8%), Mixed Heritage White & Black Caribbean (+26%), Mixed White and Black African (+3.4%) and White British (+3%). Overall gender gap narrowed to 11% (14.8% in 2016).

These are positive steps forward but some groups of boys are still not improving.  These include Pakistani, Asian Other, Mixed Heritage White and Asian.

Although Pupil Premium boys’ EYFSP GLD outcomes improved by 4.5% and the gap for PP boys reduced by 1%, the overall outcome at 47.3% is unacceptably low. Similarly, only 47.6% of FSM boys achieved the GLD although there was an improvement of 4.8%.

Of the 23 schools that participated in the project in 2016/17, 17 (74%) narrowed the gap. In 18 schools (78%) boys’ GLD outcomes improved.

Continuation of the BBAP in 2017/18

Bristol City Council is committed to building on the early positive results of the Boys’ Project, which now includes about twenty PVI settings, a group of childminders and more reception classes in schools.

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 + 6 =