Business engagement with schools

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is commissioning a review of the current evidence about the most effective ways businesses can support schools to improve pupil outcomes.

We are seeking proposals from research teams able to complete this review by March 2017. This review will identify the most promising approaches and programmes that businesses can use to support schools. It will inform future grant making and guidance issued to schools and businesses. We are interested in all types of volunteering, but have a particular interest in approaches aimed at improving primary literacy (e.g. volunteer reading).


It is hard to identify the scale of business volunteering, but our estimate suggest it is considerable. In terms of literacy alone, the National Literacy Trust had 44 signatures from large organisations to its inaugural Vision for Literacy Business Pledge in 2016 and this revealed a vast range of in house reading volunteering activity in addition to third sector brokered programmes. The scale of this activity suggests there is great potential to improve pupil outcomes, but this can only be realised if the volunteering is underpinned by robust evidence.

Organisations whose staff volunteer often assert that benefits accrue to their own organisation (and their staff) and to the schools receiving volunteers (including staff and pupils directly). The review should focus on school based outcomes (attainment, character and labour market).

In tandem to this review EEF have commissioned the National Literacy Trust to conduct a review of current practice of business volunteering in England through their extensive school and business networks. This will cover all types of volunteering, but have a particular focus on approaches aimed at improving primary literacy. It is expected that the two teams will coordinate their work to ensure they remain complementary, e.g. using a common classification system for the different types of volunteering.

The EEF has recently published a review of careers education which gives an indication of the type of review that we are looking to complete.

Review purpose

1. Identify the different types of business volunteering

We would like the review to summarise the different ways that businesses can engage with schools and what the intended and evidenced outcomes are of each approach. We are especially interested in approaches aimed at improving primary literacy (e.g. volunteer reading). Appendix 1 is a menu of volunteering opportunities produced by Business In The Community and may provide a useful starting point for identifying the types of business volunteering.

Questions we would like to answer include:

  • What are the different ways that business volunteering can support schools?

2. Identify areas of promise and where further research is needed

We would like the review to identify approaches and interventions with evidence to suggest they are effective in improving school outcomes. We are most interested in robust, causal evidence of impact using experimental and quasi-experimental designs, including studies carried out both within the UK and internationally. The review should assess the strength of existing studies; identify international interventions that may be most suitable for adaption in this country; identify UK interventions that would benefit from further study; and identify and review where further research should be carried out if gaps are identified in the literature.

Questions we would like to answer include:

  • To what extent are existing practices informed by evidence?
  • What is the quality of existing evidence for practices and programmes that impact on school outcomes?
  • Which interventions and programmes have the greatest promise for improving school outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged children in England?
  • Where is further research needed?

3. Identify key features of successful practice

We would like the review to highlight overarching features of successful volunteering programmes in schools. This part of the review will be useful in potentially producing recommendations to give to schools and businesses. It will be important to clearly convey the strength of the evidence supporting each of the features identified and if they are universal or only apply to specific types of volunteering.

Questions we would like to answer include:

  • What are the features of successful business volunteering with schools?


The deadline for proposals is 9 am on Monday 5th December 2016. We are looking to appoint someone to begin working straight away, submitting a draft to the EEF by February 2016, and a final version of the report by March 2017.

Appointment process

If you would like to be considered to undertake the review, please send a brief outline describing your proposed approach. Please include an overview of your relevant skills and experience, and an estimated budget. Proposals should be no more than 1,000 words.

We will finalise the specification with the successful team. The final report will be peer reviewed. Report length and budget are open for discussion at this stage.

If you have any questions, please contact Thomas Martell:

Please send your short proposal to: by 9 am on Monday 5th December 2016.

The document below contains all details and an appendix showing Business in the Community's menu of options, which might provide a helpful starting point. 

  1. Updated: 16th November, 2016


    265 KB pdf