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Research School Network: 5 Evidence-Based Resources We’ll Be Reaching For In 2021 5 EVIDENCE-BASED RESOURCES WE’LL BE REACHING FOR IN 2021


5 Evidence-Based Resources We’ll Be Reaching For In 2021


by Unity Research School
on the

“The pandemic has exposed and deepened educational inequality in our society … we don’t yet know the full extent of the impact, though the studies we have commissioned to find out will begin reporting shortly. But we can be sure it requires more than a ‘quick fix’. A sustained response is essential – for all children, but particularly for those from socio-economically disadvantaged families.”

Prof. Becky Francis, Chief Executive, Education Endowment Foundation

Against this ever-evolving backdrop, our work as a Research School continues to see us working with schools, bringing evidence alongside experience and their contexts in order to inform next steps in school improvement.

Evidence has the potential to provide best bets’, drawing on what has been seen to be effective under certain conditions in the past. We are well aware that the context is a very different one to that which the majority of existing evidence arises from, however, drawing on trusted recommendations still provides an insightful evidence-informed perspective on the decisions being made.

As a result, key documents continue to characterise our conversations with those leading trusts, schools, Teaching Schools, Teaching School Hubs, teachers, TAs and governors. Here are five trusted favourites which will continue to inform our work in January 2021:


EEF Implementation 2020 12 16 125118

“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how great an educational idea or intervention is in principle; what really matters is how it manifests itself in the day-to-day work of people in schools.”

Education Endowment Foundation guidance report

This guidance report sets out an invaluable framework and sequenced prompts to guide the processes associated with effective implementation. The uncommon common sense’ outlined in the six recommendations highlight the importance of establishing firm foundations (never more crucial and challenging than amid the current context of uncertainty):

  • viewing implementation as a process, not an event; planning and executing it in stages
  • creating a leadership environment and school climate that is conducive to good implementation

… and then giving the time and resource to appropriately explore, prepare, deliver and sustain whatever it is that is judged to be worthy of implementing.

When resource is stretched and need is dynamic, being driven by the key principles of effective implementation can go some way at least to providing a reliable framework to give whatever is implemented the best chance of success. Utilising this guidance report and associated resources (all freely available here) within projects, partnerships and individual support in 2021 will be more important than ever.


Education Endowment Foundation
School Plannind

Launched at the start of this term, this guide:

aims to support school leaders with their planning for the unpredictable academic year to come. It proposes a tiered model that focuses upon (1) high-quality teaching, (2) targeted academic support, and (3) wider strategies. Many of the featured approaches supported by the best available evidence will be familiar to experienced school leaders. This guide supplements such expertise, offering handy questions and recent school case studies that can hold up a mirror to existing leadership plans.

Containing helpful questions to consider and a useful checklist for implementing change, the guide has been very well used already this year (the trusted paper copy has become rather dog-eared, highlighted and has plenty of notes all over it!). Used as a starting point for conversation and signposting to freely available, evidence-based resources it is a document we will continue to reach for and share with colleagues in 2021.


Education Endowment Foundation guidance report

Published in March 2020, this most recent of the EEF’s guidance reports is never more important than in the current context.

Pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) have the greatest need for excellent teaching and are entitled to provision that supports achievement at, and enjoyment of, school. The attainment gap between pupils with SEND and their peers is twice as big as the gap between pupils eligible for free school meals and their peers. However, pupils with SEND are also more than twice as likely to be eligible for free school meals.

In the current context, the impact of disadvantage on learning is crucial to understand. That’s why this guidance report and the five evidence-based recommendations it presents are essential in our work in schools to provide the very best experience for children with special educational needs through inclusive quality first teaching. Containing a host of practical ideas, the guidance highlights familiar but powerful strategies, like scaffolding and explicit instruction, to support pupils with SEND. Essential to this is understanding the needs of individual pupils, looking beyond the label (SEND/PP etc) and weaving specific approaches into everyday, high-quality classroom teaching – being inclusive by design not as an afterthought.’



The Institute for Effective Education has been a significant influence in our work and a key inspiration for our activity as a Research School. In a sad announcement earlier this month the organisation signalled its closure – their legacy lives on in practices developed through their expert guidance and a range of resources still available for use. Their final publication, just prior to their closing, is one such invaluable guide we know we will be utilising.

The purpose of this document is to support schools in planning and carrying out robust evaluations of practice as part of an evidence-informed approach to school improvement. Before you can carry out an evaluation you need to have a new approach to evaluate, so the guide starts by describing how to identify the issue you wish to address and how to use existing evidence to choose an approach to address this issue. It then describes how to plan and carry out an impact evaluation before providing a framework for analysing results and drawing conclusions.


NTP 2020 12 16 131243

This brief guide from the National Tutoring Programme aims to help state schools in England make the most of tutoring opportunities available through the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) Tuition Partners. It summarises key messages for schools, based on the best available evidence for effective tutoring, and provides practical recommendations and resources for schools to utilise.

Organised around five key questions the guide can help inform decisions about:

  • How can schools ensure the content of tutoring sessions aligns with classroom teaching?
  • When in the school day should tutoring take place?
  • How should pupils be selected and grouped for tutoring?
  • How can positive relationships between tutors, teachers and pupils be established and maintained?
  • How can pupils and teachers most effectively receive feedback from tutoring sessions?

So, with an eye to what we do, how we do it and how we say it, our work in schools will continue to establish the conditions for pupils and staff to thrive and emerge stronger from the most unsettling period many of us have ever experienced.

As we break for Christmas, we reflect on all that has inspired us in the schools and from the people we have the privilege to work with. Drawing on their values of selflessness and honesty, personifying virtues of courage, optimism and kindness, we thank you all and wish you a safe and refreshing break. Take care.

Andy Samways

Director of Research School

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