Teaching & Learning

The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit is an accessible summary of educational research. It provides guidance for teachers and schools on how to use their resources to improve the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The Toolkit currently covers 34 topics, each summarised in terms of the average impact on attainment, the strength of the supporting evidence and the cost.

The Toolkit is a live resource that will be updated on a regular basis as findings from EEF-funded projects and other high-quality research become available. We would welcome suggestions for new topics to be included in future editions. If you have a topic suggestion, or any other comments or questions about the Toolkit, please contact Danielle Mason at danielle.mason@eefoundation.org.uk.

Why is research useful?

We know that the relationship between spending and pupil outcomes is not simple. Per pupil spending increased by 85% between 1997 and 2011, but improvements in pupil outcomes were marginal on most measures. At the school level, it is clear that different ways of spending school budgets can have very different impacts on pupil attainment, and choosing what to prioritise is not easy. Even once a decision to implement a particular strategy has been made, there are a wide variety of factors which determine its impact. We believe that educational research can help schools get the maximum 'educational bang for their buck', both in terms of making an initial choice between strategies, and in implementing a strategy as effectively as possible.

One particular spending decision which research can inform is how to spend the Pupil Premium. Introduced in 2010, the aim of the Pupil Premium is to raise attainment among disadvantaged children. It provides additional funding to schools for disadvantaged pupils to ensure they benefit from the same educational opportunities as pupils from wealthier families. In the 2015-16 financial year the Pupil Premium was worth £935 per eligible child in secondary schools and £1320 per eligible child in primary schools. If the Pupil Premium is to succeed in achieving its ambitious goals, the choices that schools make in allocating the money are of vital importance.

A range of teaching and learning approaches were selected for analysis and inclusion in the Toolkit. The choice of approaches was based on: i) approaches commonly mentioned in connection with education policy, ii) suggestions from schools, and iii) approaches with a strong evidence of effectiveness not covered by either previous criterion.

Months' impact

Months' impact is estimated in terms of the additional months' progress you can expect pupils to make as a result of an approach being used in school, taking average pupil progress over a year as a benchmark.

For example, the 'feedback' strand in the Toolkit shows that improving the quality of feedback provided to pupils has an average impact of eight months. This means that pupils in a class where high quality feedback is provided can be expected to make, on average, eight months more progress over the course of a year compared to another class of pupils who are performing at the same level at the start of the year. At the end of the year the average pupil in a class of 25 pupils in the feedback group would now be equivalent to the 6th best pupil in the control class, having made 20 months progress over the year, compared to an average of 12 months in the other class.

These impact estimates are based on ‘effect sizes’ reported in British and international data (see table below). Effect sizes are quantitative measures of the impact of different approaches on learning. The Toolkit prioritises effect sizes derived from systematic reviews of research and quantitative syntheses of data such as meta-analyses of experimental studies. Approaches are only included in the Toolkit if there is a quantifiable evidence base which can be used to derive effect sizes. For more information about the Toolkit methodology please view the Toolkit Technical Appendices.

Most approaches included in the Toolkit tend to have very similar average impacts on pupils with different characteristics. However, where the research summarised suggests that an approach has a different average impact on the learning of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to the learning of their peers, the Toolkit’s ‘headline’ average impact figure refers to the former.

Months' ProgressEffect size from...to...Description
-0.010.01Very low or no impact
10.020.09Low impact
20.100.18Low impact
30.190.26Moderate impact
40.270.35Moderate impact
50.360.44Moderate impact
60.450.52High impact
70.530.61High impact
80.620.69High impact
90.700.78Very high impact
100.790.87Very high impact
110.880.95Very high impact
120.96>1.0Very high impact


Cost estimations are based on the approximate cost of implementing an approach in a class of 25 pupils. Estimates commonly include the cost of additional resources, and training or professional development if required. For more information about the Toolkit methodology please view the Toolkit Technical Appendices.

£Very low: up to about £2,000 per year per class of 25 pupils, or less than £80 per pupil per year.
££Low: £2,001 to £5,000 per year per class of 25 pupils, or up to about £200 per pupil per year
£££Moderate: £5,001 to £18,000 per year per class of 25 pupils, or up to about £700 per pupil per year.
££££High: £18,001 to £30,000 per year per class of 25 pupils, or up to £1,200 per pupil.
£££££Very high: over £30,000 per year per class of 25 pupils, or over £1,200 per pupil.


The toolkit presents a rating of evidence security for each approach - a 'padlock' security rating. These evidence ratings are based on: the quantity of evidence available  (i.e. the number of systematic reviews or meta-analyses and the number of primary studies which they synthesise); the methodological quality of the available evidence; and the consistency of estimated impact across the systematic reviews and meta-analyses that have been synthesised. For more information about the Toolkit methodology please view the Toolkit Technical Appendices.

Rating Description
1 padlockVery limited: Quantitative evidence of impact from single studies, but with effect size data reported or calculable. No systematic reviews with quantitative data or meta-analyses located.
2 padlocksLimited: At least one meta-analysis or systematic review with quantitative evidence of impact on attainment or cognitive or curriculum outcome measures.
3 padlocksModerate: Two or more rigorous meta-analyses of experimental studies of school age students with cognitive or curriculum outcome measures.
4 padlocksExtensive: Three or more meta-analyses from well-controlled experiments mainly undertaken in schools using pupil attainment data with some exploration of causes of any identified heterogeneity.
5 padlocksVery Extensive: Consistent high quality evidence from at least five robust and recent meta-analyses where the majority of the included studies have good ecological validity and where the outcome measures include curriculum measures or standardised tests in school subject areas.

Notes on the November 2015 Update 

Major updates made to the Toolkit in November 2015 include:

  • Updated entries for eight strands: Arts participation, Block scheduling, Feedback, Homework (primary), Homework (secondary), Learning styles, Phonics and Reading comprehension.
  • Technical appendices have been added to all eight of the updated strands. These replace the reference documents and contain additional information about the security and cost ratings as well as references to the underlying evidence. 

Who wrote the Toolkit?

The Toolkit was originally commissioned by the Sutton Trust and produced as the ‘Pupil Premium Toolkit’ by Durham University in May 2011. The Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit has been developed from this initial analysis, since the Education Endowment Foundation’s launch in 2011.

The Toolkit is written by Professor Steve Higgins, Dr Maria Katsipataki (School of Education, Durham University), Professor Rob Coe (CEM Centre, Durham University), Dr Lee Elliot Major (The Sutton Trust), and Robbie Coleman, Peter Henderson and Danielle Mason (Education Endowment Foundation).

Full reference: Higgins, S., Katsipataki, M., Coleman, R., Henderson, P., Major, L.E., Coe, R. & Mason, D. (2015). The Sutton Trust-Education Endowment Foundation Teaching and Learning Toolkit. July 2015. London: Education Endowment Foundation.