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Organising your school

Addressing school-level structural and organisational issues, such as timetabling, class size, the built environment, and digital technology.

Introduction

This page covers school-level structural and organisational issues such as timetabling, the amount of time spent at school, class size and composition, the built environment, and the purchasing of digital technology. These factors can often be costly to change, both financially and in terms of staff workload. It is therefore important that school leaders have good information about the impact that they can have on student outcomes, and consider whether there are more cost-effective ways of achieving their goals. 

Guidance Reports

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Toolkit strands

Evidence Summary

The approaches in our Toolkit which relate to school structures and organisation have a lower impact, on average, than those that specifically aim to improve the quality of teaching and learning. In broad terms, then, the evidence is clear that changing organisational factors will have limited impact on academic attainment unless the change leads to improved teaching.

For example, reducing class size does not appear to have a big effect on attainment unless it enables the teacher to change the way that they teach. This typically requires a substantial change in class size (e.g., from 30 down to 20 or even 15).

Similarly, digital technology tends to have a much greater impact when it is used to supplement and improve, rather than replace, teaching. The EEF-funded project, Accelerated Reader – one of our Promising Projects – provides a good example of this principle in action. Accelerated Reader uses an online assessment of pupils’ reading ability to match pupils to books that provide the right level of challenge required to improve their reading. Teachers and pupils set goals for the pupils to achieve in independent reading time. It is designed to make pupils’ private reading more efficient for improving their reading skills, and is integrated into normal teaching. The EEF’s trial suggested that the programme had a positive impact on pupils’ reading. More guidance on the effective use of technology can be found in the guidance report, Using digital technology to improve learning

Some approaches, such as summer schools and  extended school time are also relatively expensive, on average, compared to other approaches in the Toolkit which have similar impacts. The key message here is to use students’ existing time in school better, before deciding to increase the amount of time they’re there.

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 – Discover Summer School and Future Foundations Summer School – 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 sizessetting and streaming, and school uniform – which might intuitively appear likely to have a positive impact, but which the evidence suggests have limited (or even negative) effect. For example, while requiring pupils who haven’t passed their exams to repeat a year of schooling might be expected to improve their grades, the evidence suggests that it is very expensive and, on average, has a negative impact on outcomes.

Promising Projects

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Projects

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Resources

In 2019, the EEF published a guidance report on using digital technology to improve learning. This report reviews the best available research and makes four headline recommendations related to the effective use of technology in teaching and learning:

1. Consider how technology will improve teaching and learning before introducing it

2. Technology can be used to improve the quality of explanations and modelling

3. Technology offers ways to improve the impact of pupil practice

4. Technology can play a role in improving assessment and feedback

EFF has also published two other guidance report relating to organising your school: 'Putting Evidence to Work - A School's Guide to Implementation' and 'Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants'.