Education Endowment Foundation:Challenge the Gap

Challenge the Gap

Challenge Partners
Implementation cost
Evidence strength
Impact (months)
Project info

Independent Evaluator

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University of Manchester
A school-to-school approach to narrowing the gap.
Pupils: 21041 Schools: 104 Grant: £961,778
Duration: 5 year(s) 6 month(s) Type of Trial: Effectiveness Trial
Completed July 2017

Challenge the Gap (CtG) is a school to school improvement programme that aims to break the link between disadvantage and attainment through collaboration and the sharing of best practice between schools. The approach is influenced by the London Challenge, which has been credited by many with raising the performance of London secondary schools

The aim of this intervention was to narrow the attainment gap. The study found no evidence that CtG had an impact on attainment overall, but some exploratory results suggest that there were different impacts on pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM). In primary schools the gap seemed to narrow, with FSM eligible students in CtG schools making 2 months’ additional progress in comparison with similar students in schools that did not receive the intervention. In secondary schools, however, the gap seemed to widen, with FSM eligible students in CtG schools making 2 months less progress. It may be that conditions in primary schools allowed CtG to have a greater impact on FSM eligible pupils. These sub-group analyses, however, include lower numbers of pupils and are therefore of low security. Staff members that took part in CtG valued the opportunity to collaborate with other schools and were positive about the approach.

EEF has no plans for a further trial of CtG. The CtG approach has been developed and continues to develop since this evaluation.

  1. The project found no evidence that Challenge the Gap (CtG) increased average attainment for either primary or secondary school pupils, overall. The security of the primary school results is low to moderate, and the security for the secondary school results is low.
  2. The findings are different for children eligible for free school meals. FSM-eligible children in CtG primary schools made 2 months’ additional progress compared to similar children in other schools, while FSM-eligible children in CtG secondary schools made 2 months’ fewer progress compared to similar children in other schools. The smaller number of FSM-eligible students in the trial means that these results are less secure than the overall findings.
  3. Teachers and non-teaching staff from participating schools were extremely positive about the involvement of their schools in the CtG programme and valued both the professional development opportunities it provided and the opportunity to collaborate with partner schools.
  4. CtG is a flexible programme that allows lead schools to share best practice. There was large variation between the strategies that were adopted by the schools in the programme
ImpactThe size of the difference between pupils in this trial and other pupils
SecurityHow confident are we in this result?
KS2 attainment
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KS2 attainment (FSM)
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KS4 attainment
Months' progress
KS4 attainment (FSM)
Months' progress