Supportive text messages boost GCSE resits grades

The project by Behavioural Insights Team found texts also boosted attendance rates amongst those GCSE students who took part

Will Martin

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Sending students supportive text messages can boost performance in their GCSE English and maths resits, a new study by the Behavioural Insights Team has found.

According to the organisation's Study Supporters project, which involved 1,800 students across nine FE colleges, those who received encouraging or motivational text messages from a friend or relative were 27 per cent more likely to obtain an A* to C grade than those who didn't.

Of the students who didn’t receive supportive text messages, 22.2 per cent achieved a grade C or better; of those who did, the A*-C pass rate was 28.1 per cent. Those who received supportive texts also recorded a 7 per cent increase in attendance rates compared with those who did not receive text messages from designated study supporters.

In March, the Behavioural Insights Team was awarded £240,000 for its “nudge” unit project: one of three post-16 trials backed by the Education Endowment Foundation to support GCSE resit students. 

‘Unlocking students’ potential’

Out of the 149,537 17-plus students across the UK who sat their legacy GCSE maths exams this summer, only 24.4 per cent managed to achieve a grade C or better – a drop of 5.1 percentage points compared with last year. Meanwhile, in English 29 per cent of 17-plus learners achieved an A*-C pass, up from 26.9 per cent in 2016.

Zhi Soon, director of early years, education and skills at the Behavioural Insights Team, said: "Education has a major impact on people’s life chances. Good levels of literacy and numeracy means people are much less likely to face economic disadvantage, unemployment and poor health in later life. Many students facing resits after their GCSEs lack confidence and struggle to re-engage with their studies. We are thrilled to be working with further education colleges to break this cycle and boost attainment rates."

Bibi Groot, advisor at the Behavioural Insights Team, said: "Family and friends can be a powerful – and often untapped – resource to shape students’ educational experiences. Our study supporter programme is a cost-effective way of unlocking this potential. A simple series of text messages has now been shown to have a marked improvement on attainment rates, with life-long positive impact for the students involved."

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Will Martin picture

Will Martin

Will is a junior reporter at TES

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