Throughout the academic year 2021 to 2022, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) undertook a package of work aiming to strengthen the development of its pipeline of evidence-based programmes, to support more schools to use evidence-based programmes and evidence in their practice. This work was funded by the Department for Education’s Accelerator Fund (AF) between 2021 and 2022.
The AF aims to support recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, in this instance, by targeting three Regional School Commissioner (RSC) regions that have been particularly impacted by the pandemic: the North; East Midlands and Humber; and the West Midlands. The work focused on supporting schools in these areas to use evidence-based maths and literacy programmes to aid their recovery.
The funding supported the delivery and/or evaluation of a range of EEF-funded programmes across over 1,500 schools, from early-stage development of new programmes through to implementation at scale. There was a focus on enabling further development and strengthening of the EEF’s programmes pipeline so that more evidence-based programmes with the potential to increase pupil attainment can be available to schools in the future.
The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and Sheffield Institute of Education (SIoE) at Sheffield Hallam University were appointed to complete a formative process evaluation of EEF’s AF activity.
The aim of the evaluation was to understand the promise, feasibility and scalability of the AF approach and gain insights which EEF could draw on in developing its programme pipeline evaluation work more widely. The evaluation also aimed to gauge the extent to which AF activity was beginning to influence schools’ decisions to use evidence-based programmes, or their likelihood of doing so in the future.
The evaluation included small-scale evaluations of each strand of activity and an overarching fund-level evaluation. The design used a combination of survey, interview, focus group, and management Information data across different strands of the AF work.
The evaluators found that all of the AF strands were implemented with fidelity to intentions and to expected timescales, and identified a number of barriers and facilitators to effective recruitment of schools to take part in evidence based programmes, and associated successful delivery in schools. The focused recruitment to trials in three regions was largely undertaken successfully.
Survey findings suggested that the AF activity was well aligned with schools’ needs and priorities, and were generally highly satisfied with the experience, with over three-quarters reporting that they were ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ satisfied. Despite having been engaged with EEF for a shorter period, the survey findings suggest AF schools were more aware of EEF activities and had higher levels of participation than non-AF schools.
The evaluators indicated that the AF activity included two successful innovations in EEF’s evidence-generation pipeline:
- an approach to early-stage programme development implemented with nine research schools as programme developers
- a systematic approach to capability building which supported scaling of four
Further recommendations included that there could be further development and formalisation of EEF’s role in programme team needs analysis and brokerage of support, to support programme teams to successfully scale their programmes.