Funding FAQs

Answers to our most frequently asked questions surrounding funding. 

What is the purpose of EEF funding?

The EEF’s remit is to identify, fund and evaluate projects that will raise the attainment of children and young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds in schools in England. We then aim to scale up those which are shown to work best at narrowing the attainment gap between children from low-income backgrounds and their better-off peers. EEF funding is intended to achieve two outputs:

  1. A well-delivered intervention that has the potential to improve the academic attainment of disadvantaged children. We recognise there are many different factors which impact on teaching and learning, but applicants must be able to establish a clear link between the project for which you want funding and educational attainment.
  2. A robust evaluation of the intervention, which includes an estimate of its impact on attainment. The final evaluation report will be written by an independent evaluator, but our grantees share responsibility for ensuring that the evaluation is as robust as possible. Please also see “How will the EEF evaluate my project”.
Who can apply to the EEF for funding?

Funding from the EEF is available to any organisation working schools and other educational settings: mainstream primary and secondary schools, early years settings, charities, local authorities, academy chains, universities, social enterprises and companies.

If for-profit companies are involved, the EEF will need to ensure that our funding is being used for public benefit and meets our objectives. We expect most grantees to contribute towards the project costs, and we would particularly expect this of for-profit companies.

Please note that the EEF can only fund projects for the benefit of pupils and schools in England, including early years settings and colleges. We are, however, very open to innovative ideas from overseas that are applicable to schools in England.

For early years initiatives, we focus on programmes aiming to improve outcomes for 3-5 year olds. 

We can only fund work with 16-18 year olds where the target cohort are learners who have not achieved a C or above in GCSE English or Maths.

When should I apply for funding?

The EEF intends to invest at least £210m over the 15-year lifespan of our founding grant, from 2011 to 2026.

Currently we run one or two general funding rounds a year, when we are open to applications on any area, and one themed funding round, when we are open to applications on a specific area (eg, digital technology or neuroscience). The EEF will accept applications at any point when a funding round is open up until the advertised closing date. We will then review all applications together. There is no advantage in submitting applications early in either funding round.

You are welcome to contact us when you are in the early stages of thinking about applying to see if we think your idea has the potential to meet the EEF’s criteria.

What questions do you ask all applicants?

The application form has several pages, but is designed to be straightforward to answer. There are 3 overarching questions that guide our assessment of all applications for funding we receive:

  1. Does your application focus on raising the attainment of economically disadvantaged pupils?
  2. Is there evidence of promise that your project will have a positive impact on academic outcomes for those children and that it will narrow the attainment gap?
  3. If your project works, can it be scaled up affordably and effectively?

The key terms used in these three questions are explained below.

What do we mean by ‘economically disadvantaged’?

The EEF uses eligibility for free school meals (FSM) as the best available proxy measure for economic disadvantage. We do not expect that all projects we fund will work only with pupils eligible for free school meals. However, we do expect all projects we fund to have a particular focus on narrowing the attainment gap between FSM-eligible pupils and all other pupils.

In the case of projects involving the whole school, rather than targeted interventions, we would expect applicants to be willing to work with schools where the proportion of FSM-eligible pupils is well above the national average and/or with schools where FSM-eligible pupils are under-performing academically.

What do we mean by ‘evidence of promise’?

The EEF is looking for “informed innovation” – in other words, innovation that builds on what we already know from existing evidence. All EEF-funded projects aim to build or secure the evidence base of what works in raising the attainment of economically disadvantaged pupils. We therefore look to fund projects with ‘evidence of promise’.

In practice, what this means is that we are more likely to fund projects which fulfil at least one of these three criteria:

You have some limited evidence already.

Your evidence might be from a pilot where there is good quantitative data which suggests your approach or intervention is likely to have a positive and gap-narrowing impact on academic outcomes. The EEF has produced, together with Durham University, a DIY Evaluation Guide which provides practical advice on designing and carrying out small-scale evaluations in schools. This might be useful as an alternative to applying to the EEF for funding for an ‘action research’ project within a school, or for generating indicative evidence prior to applying to the EEF.

This evidence might also be drawn from existing educational research, such as the Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit, which synthesises and summarises what we currently understand about what works best at raising attainment, including that of economically disadvantaged pupils. This is based on multiple RCTs or other robust quantitative studies (‘meta-analysis’) and is the most high-quality form of evidence available to us, especially in understanding what is most likely to narrow attainment gaps.

Explaining how your approach applies the existing evidence in the Teaching and Learning Toolkit is often more persuasive than using evidence from smaller evaluations, which may be less robust. For instance, if your project has been working in three schools and the pupils involved have made higher than nationally expected levels of academic progress, this would not normally be sufficient for us to be confident that it is the intervention itself which has made the difference if the wider evidence in the Toolkit suggests that it is not usually a successful approach.

You have some good evidence already and you are now looking to secure that evidence and/or test a new model of delivery.

Your approach or intervention may already have been tested and you have data to suggest it has a positive and gap-narrowing impact on academic outcomes – but you may now be looking to secure the evidence by having it independently and robustly evaluated through a Randomised Controlled Trial. Or it may be it’s been shown to work in other countries but hasn’t yet been tested in English schools. Or you may be looking to adapt it so that you train teachers or teaching assistants to deliver the intervention, rather than delivering it yourself. Or you may be looking to test a more cost-effective version of the approach or intervention.

You aim to shift current teaching and learning practices to be more effective at narrowing the attainment gap.

Some approaches or interventions are already in widespread use in English schools, but current evidence shows they do not necessarily have a positive impact on economically disadvantaged pupils. The EEF is interested in trialling projects which would shift current practice to raise attainment and narrow the gap.

What do you mean by ‘scale up’?

The EEF funds only those projects that we believe have a good chance, once they have been properly and robustly trialled, of making a positive impact on raising the attainment of large numbers of economically disadvantaged pupils and students across England’s primary and secondary schools and post 16 providers.

Cost is an important consideration when assessing a programmes potential for scale. For early years and school programmes, we are looking for programmes that can be funded with a school’s Pupil Premium allocation. In 2014/15, the Pupil Premium will be £1,300 per primary-aged pupil and £935 per secondary-aged pupil. From 2015, the Early Years Pupil Premium will be £300.

We initially run projects in a relatively small number of schools – anything between two and 200 schools, depending on the project. For those which show the most promising results we will look to see how they can be taken up much more widely. Exactly how we do this will depend on the nature of the approach or intervention and will be discussed fully with the grantee.

What types of projects does the EEF fund?

Please see our Projects pages for examples of projects that we have funded since the EEF was founded in 2011.

EEF funding is primarily focused on children aged 3-18 in England eligible for free school meals. We are willing to consider projects which start or end beyond the limits of this age range, but we would still expect the project to have a measurable impact on attainment within the 3-18 age range. Our work with 16-18 year olds is focused on those who have not yet achieved a C or above at GCSE. 

Our focus is on literacy and numeracy, as success in these is such a strong predictor of later life outcomes, including being able to access further and higher education and employment opportunities. However, we are also interested in more general cognitive, as well as social and emotional, programmes where a clear link can be made to improved attainment outcomes.

We are looking for interventions or more general approaches to teaching and learning where there is a clear question that can be tested – for instance, “Does your intervention lead to better outcomes for economically disadvantaged pupils in Mathematics?”, or “Does your approach to developing teachers’ classroom strategies lead to more effective teaching and learning and therefore improved attainment and smaller attainment gaps?”

EEF funding is not intended to replace funding lost from other sources, nor simply to enable the continuation or expansion of established programmes.

The following are areas where we are particularly interested in for Round 11 (but please note our standard funding criteria will still apply):

  • Interventions aimed at improving literacy outcomes in primary school children, which could be tested in schools in the North East. For more information about our North East Primary Literacy Campaign, see here
  • Secondary school subject teaching. We receive relatively few applications about improving subject-specific teaching and attainment in secondary schools (up to GCSE - we do not currently fund work on A level teaching).
  • Interventions that aim to improve how teachers mark pupils’ work. Following the publication of our review of the evidence about marking, A marked improvement, we invite proposals focused on improving the quality and impact of written marking.      
​How much funding can I apply for?

The EEF does not have a set minimum or maximum size of grant that we award. Past EEF grants have ranged from £90,000 to £1.5m, with the rest somewhere in between: we spend as much as we have to, but not a penny more than we need to, in order to trial projects we think may raise attainment and narrow the gap. The amount you request should be commensurate both with the nature and scale of the project and with your capacity to ensure its successful delivery.

Applicants should set out an estimated total for the amount of funding required from the EEF. Do not worry about providing a lot of detail at this stage, as the size and shape of projects often change substantially as we work with you (and with the appointed independent evaluator) to develop your proposal for recommendation to the EEF’s Board of Trustees. At the application stage it is helpful if you can estimate the cost per school and/or per pupil of your proposed intervention.

What does EEF funding cover?

EEF funding can cover the costs needed to deliver your proposed intervention and manage the project. However, the type of funding varies considerably between projects and we would usually expect contributions from other organisations.

If your project is at an early stage, your budget might include some development costs to ensure that the delivery model is robust enough to be ready to be tested in a large number of schools. In projects built around more developed programmes, our funding might cover recruitment of schools, project management, and some delivery costs (eg, training for teachers). We would normally expect at least part of the delivery costs to be funded by schools themselves to strengthen their commitment to the project, and as part of ‘market testing’ to show there is an appetite for your intervention.

We can only fund capital costs which are clearly and directly linked to the attainment-raising nature of the project – for instance, on digital technology that is an integral component. We are not able to fund capital-only projects, such as building new classrooms or a new library.

University applicants please note: the EEF does not fund university overheads. Applicants working in universities can apply for funding for all ‘directly incurred’ costs (eg, salary costs of research assistants) and, subject to certain conditions, ‘directly allocated’ costs (eg, the costs of support staff where these are specifically needed for the project). However, the EEF does not fund indirect university costs (eg, estate costs of permanent university staff).

What is the average length of an EEF grant?

There is no standard length of an EEF grant. We want projects to be given the best possible chance to show their effectiveness and recognise that some may require a development phase and/or a multi-year intervention period before their impact can be properly evaluated. We work collaboratively with applicants and with our independent evaluators to design an appropriate project timeline.

Why does the EEF ask applicants to identify sources of funding other than the EEF?

The EEF aims to invest at least £210m in funding, evaluating and scaling-up cost-effective projects which raise the attainment of economically disadvantaged pupils. To invest this amount requires the EEF to identify an additional £42m of funding. Therefore, we normally expect applicants to contribute to the overall project costs, or to be able to commit to fundraising for such a contribution. The EEF’s Development Director is available to help successful applicants in this activity.

School or local authority applicants please note: this expectation of co-funding does not apply to you. However, we do expect schools participating in a study to contribute to the implementation costs of the project where appropriate (for example, by covering the costs of teachers’ time or by paying a subsidised price for the project).

How will the EEF evaluate my project?

Robust, independent evaluation is central to the EEF’s approach to funding. Our role is to provide school-leaders and policy-makers with the evidence they need of what is likely to work most effectively and cost-effectively.

This means we need to be able to show what difference your intervention or approach makes to attainment compared to doing what schools already do or compared to them trying something else. This is often referred to as ‘the counterfactual’ – ie, what would have happened otherwise? Simply testing a group of children before and after you introduce a new intervention or approach does not answer this question, as that approach will not tell us whether any improvements seen would have happened in any case, or even whether those pupils might have improved more under ‘business as usual’ or if a different intervention had been tried.

The most robust way of estimating ‘what would have happened otherwise’ is through a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT). This involves recruiting a group of potential participants – in EEF-funded projects these will be pupils or schools – and randomly allocating them to one of two groups. One group will receive the intervention (the ‘treatment group’) while the other group won’t (the ‘control group’). By testing both groups before and after you introduce your new intervention or approach, and measuring the attainment outcomes of each, the difference it has made can be estimated. Most of the EEF’s evaluations are Randomised Controlled Trials and we have gained considerable experience of commissioning RCTs that are acceptable to, and work well within, schools.

Not all the evaluations we fund are RCTs. The exact evaluation design will depend on the nature of the intervention or approach being tested. But designing a robust evaluation normally requires applicants’ project plans to be adapted in some way. We do not expect you to have a clear idea of how your model could be tested when you apply, but we do ask that you are open to working with us to shape your project so that it can be robustly evaluated and a fair assessment of its educational impact can be made. This may involve, for instance, stripping out some elements of the project so that we are testing a more tightly-defined intervention, or delivering your project to more/fewer schools than you initially proposed.

We will measure children’s attainment outcomes across all the projects we fund. The primary outcomes we are looking for are improvements in attainment in core subjects (often literacy and/or numeracy) though we may also measure other outcomes that are directly relevant to the project being funded.

It is important when you consider applying to the EEF for funding that you understand our approach to evaluation, and that you are willing for your project to be tested robustly and independently.

Please see the Evaluation section of our website for more information about how we evaluate EEF-funded projects.

Who will evaluate my project?

We will commission one of our panel of independent evaluators to design and deliver the evaluation and you will need to work closely with them to ensure this is implemented successfully.

Alongside this quantitative evaluation, we will also commission an independent evaluator to produce a process evaluation of your project which will report on how it worked and how it was viewed by the participating schools/teachers/parents/pupils.

As a charity principally funded by public money, we are committed to publishing the evaluation reports of all EEF-funded projects regardless of the findings. Our overall decision on whether and how the project might be scaled up will be based on the results of these evaluations.

Do I need to have recruited schools or other settings to take part before I apply?

At this stage, we are simply looking for the ‘evidence of promise’ your project is likely to improve attainment outcomes for economically disadvantaged pupils and that you have an idea of the number of schools you would hope to work with.

The EEF works with applicants and our independent evaluators to design the most appropriate and robust evaluation. This usually means having a group of pupils or schools who want to participate in your project but who are, initially at least, randomly assigned to a ‘control group’. Therefore it may be unhelpful to have already engaged with a large number of schools that are expecting to be involved, if they are then going to be disappointed if they are not allowed to participate immediately. It also means that when grantees do come to recruit schools, they make it clear that schools are being recruited to a trial of an intervention, not directly to the intervention itself, as schools may be assigned to a control group.

The EEF funds work in schools across England. There are a couple of areas, the North-East and the East Midlands, where we are currently actively looking to direct EEF-funded projects where possible.

We would expect to work with all successful applicants to agree where the project takes place and in how many schools in order to determine the best school recruitment approach.

What happens after I have applied for EEF funding?

We will set out the timetable with approximate dates for decisions for each funding round. The general process is as follows.

Once the funding round closes, all applications are separately and individually reviewed by the EEF’s team of Grants Managers in order to identify a long-list of potential projects. They will undertake further research and initial due diligence prior to making recommendations to the EEF’s Grants Committee, which will give initial approval to progress projects (or not). We will then let all applicants know the outcome of their application. This process usually takes 2-3 months.

Projects which have received in principle approval will then be progressed by our Grants and Evaluation teams. Independent evaluators will be appointed by the EEF. The applicant, the evaluator and the EEF will collaboratively begin detailed project design and budget costing, and the EEF will undertake further due diligence. This is also the stage at which we would look to discuss the potential for co-funding with strategic partners in addition to any co-funding you have already identified. This process also usually takes 2-3 months.

Once there are specific, costed plans for the project (and for its evaluation), the applications will then be re-considered by the EEF’s Grants Committee, which will recommend approval (or not) to the Board of Trustees which retains the final discretion. If approved, we will then draw up a Grant Agreement with the applicant/grantee which sets milestones to assure successful delivery of the project. There is normally at least 4-6 months between formal approval of the project and delivery beginning in schools in order to allow time for recruitment of schools and delivery of training.

My project meets the EEF’s funding criteria but has been rejected. Why is this?

The EEF receives a large number of applications in each funding round. Inevitably, therefore, we are unable to fund them all and have to reject many interesting applications that do meet our criteria in order to focus on those we regard as the strongest. We always offer to provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants if you get in touch with us and you are welcome to re-apply in future funding rounds.

Can I make or participate in more than one application?

Organisations and schools are free to participate in multiple bids (eg, as a named school), but we would advise against a single organisation leading more than one bid.

The EEF will be making only a limited number of relatively large-scale grants each year and we would like to see these spread across a range of different organisations, areas and approaches. As a result, if you are considering leading multiple applications, we would encourage you to focus on developing the single idea which you believe has the most potential.

If your application is not approved in one funding round, you would be welcome to submit a more developed proposal in future funding rounds, or we may speak to you about carrying over your project to a future round.

How many applications to the EEF are funded?

The EEF receives a large number of applications in every round, many of which meet our fundamental criteria. Our policy is to identify those with the most potential to contribute to the evidence base. Therefore each round is competitive. In the past 2 general rounds, we received over 330 applications and successfully awarded to 16 of these. For this reason, the application form is designed to provide a high level overview of your proposal and should not require substantial information and effort from applicants.

You are welcome to contact the EEF ahead of applying ( or 020 7802 1676) to discuss whether your proposal might meet our criteria.