School organisation

Factors such as the length of the school day, class size, and the physical environment are ones that every school has to manage. They are also factors that can be costly to change, both financially and in terms of school and staff capacity. It is therefore important that schools have good information about the impact that such factors can have on student outcomes.

This page presents evidence from the Teaching and Learning Toolkit on the structure of the school day, summer schools, the size and make-up of individual classes, and the physical environment, alongside the results from recent EEF projects.

Evidence Summary

The approaches in the Toolkit that relate to school organisation have a lower impact, on average, than those which involve particular pedagogies or teaching and learning techniques. In broad terms, the evidence suggests that changing organisational factors can have limited impact unless the change actively facilitates improved teaching quality or other effective practice.

For example, reducing class size does not appear to have a clear effect unless it permits the teacher to change their teaching approach, which seems to require a reduction to around 20 or even 15 pupils. Similarly, setting and streaming appears to be detrimental to the learning of mid-range and lower attaining learners, but some studies have shown that setting can be effective for the lowest attaining children if they are assigned high-performing teachers and taught in smaller groups.

Some school organisation approaches, such as summer schools, smaller class sizes, and extended school days are also relatively expensive compared to other approaches in the Toolkit which have similar impacts. Schools should therefore consider the cost as well as the impact of these approaches when deciding whether to adopt or continue with them. For example, two EEF summer school projects both concluded that the relatively high cost of the programmes made it likely that other approaches to raising attainment would be more cost effective.

The evidence for this theme often challenges ideas about approaches such as reducing class sizes, setting and streaming, school uniform, and performance pay, which might intuitively appear likely to have a positive impact, but which the evidence suggests have limited effect. For example, it might seem obvious that requiring failing pupils to repeat a year of schooling will improve their attainment, but the evidence suggests that it is very expensive and on average has a negative impact on outcomes.

The EEF is currently evaluating an intervention which trains schools in a best practice approach to setting, helping them to address poor practices such as misallocation, low expectations, less demanding curricula, and fixed positioning in low groups. This project will also pilot a new approach to mixed ability teaching in secondary schools, designed to overcome the common barriers to this practice. 


Our YouTube channel features discussions on the evidence presented in each of the Toolkit strands.