EEF Blog: On the road to evidence

James Turner, our deputy chief executive, outlines how -- and why -- the EEF is supporting the Department for Education's Strategic School Improvement Fund...

Over the next three weeks, the EEF is taking a chunky slot in the Department for Education's roadshows for prospective applicants to the Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF). 

We're speaking 19 times at 11 different locations. The first was yesterday in Newcastle, and we'll reach the crescendo in West Somerset at the beginning of October. Aside from a fondness for Premier Inn breakfasts‎, the reason we're so committed to supporting the roadshows is because we think SSIF represents a great opportunity.

It's £140 million available to local authorities, multi-academy trusts and Teaching School Alliances, to address local school improvement priorities. That's a big pile of cash with big potential, and we're keen to help ensure it is spent well, in evidence-informed ways that stand the best chance of improving young people's outcomes.

It's government money and, ultimately, it is the Secretary of State for Education's decision where it goes. But the more we can do to support the sector to put in well-designed, clearly expressed and evidence-informed bids, the better. 

The Strategic School Improvement Fund will also unearth some great local initiatives that EEF will be interested in taking further, testing robustly, and potentially scaling-up.

We cover a lot of ground in our session -- you can see our slides below -- but the big messages‎ are quite straightforward: 

  • be clear about the issue you are trying to address;
  • use evidence to select the strategy most likely to work in addressing that issue;
  • plan for what might go wrong through strong implementation; and
  • build in monitoring and evaluation from the start. 
  1. Updated: 9th October, 2017

    SSIF guidance

    PowerPoint presentation narrated by James Turner (EEF Deputy Chief Executive)

We also highlight the key EEF (and other) resources that can help applicants to access the evidence - a task that can otherwise seem as daunting as it is overwhelming.

Having just delivered the first sessions, the words that keep cropping up are specificity and context

  • the importance of being specific about what you are doing and why; 
  • and that evidence means nothing unless it is in the hands of professionals, who can judge how it applies to their own schools and communities. 

Evidence is‎ ultimately about learning from the experience of others. If something has worked well in similar contexts, it's a good bet for your own context.

We're offering up our advice and insight in the spirit of support and learning. It is, of course, no guarantee of success and no substitute for professional insight and hard graft. ‎

But if you are one of the 1,200 leaders and educationalists we'll be speaking to over the next few weeks, I hope what we have to say is useful in putting together your application. 

And, most crucially, leads to a project that has a positive impact on the young people we all want to help.