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IntroductionSupport for schools

EEF has one overriding purpose: to use evidence of what works in schools to improve teaching and learning, especially for the most disadvantaged. But it can be challenging for school leaders to know how the latest research relates to different contexts.

EEF Partnerships is our new regional initiative to ensure all schools – especially those in deprived areas – have access to the resources, training and support they need.

EEF Partnerships are an opportunity for schools to work with the EEF, our 37-strong network of Research Schools and our six regionally based teams to improve pupil attainment through professional development programmes, access to evidence-based interventions and ongoing support and coaching.

We know that there is no quick fix to meaningful school improvement and that is why the Improvement Partnership is focused on developing long-term collaborations to help schools understand and use evidence in the classroom in a long-term collaboration. 

EEF Regional Support

EEF’s team of Regional LeadsEEF Regional Support

School improvement is not about quick fixes or buying in ad hoc professional development programmes. Accurately diagnosing the needs of your school, finding solutions based on sound evidence, paying careful attention to implementation and successfully monitoring and evaluating your approaches requires sustained support. 

EEF’s team of Regional Leads provide local support to develop Partnerships with our 37-strong network of Research Schools. Research Schools share their knowledge and expertise on effective teaching and provide evidence-informed support and training to bring research closer to schools in their area. 

Research Schools

The Research School NetworkResearch Schools

The Research Schools Network is a collaboration between the EEF and the Institute for Effective Education (IEE) to fund a network of schools which support the use of evidence to improve teaching practice.

Launched in 2016, the Network currently numbers 37 schools: 27 Research Schools and 10 Associate Research Schools. All have been appointed following a competitive application process. The Research Schools Network aims to lead the way in the use of evidence-based teaching, building affiliations with large numbers of schools in their region, and supporting the use of evidence at scale.

Research Schools work with the other schools in their areas to help them use evidence more effectively to inform their teaching through:

  • encouraging schools to make use of evidence-based programmes and practices through regular communication and events; and
  • providing training and professional development for senior leaders and teachers on how to improve classroom practice based on the best available evidence.
Partnership Case Studies linkVisit the research school network

Click the Map to find out about some of our partnershipsPartnership Case Studies

Through our Research Schools, the EEF is engaged in a wide variety of partnership work with Local Authorities, multi-academy trusts, teaching schools and new informal alliances of schools.

Partnerships are long-term collaborations designed to provide practical, hands-on support to help schools understand and use evidence in the classroom through professional development programmes, access to Promising Programmes and wrap around support and coaching.

Find out about some of the Partnerships we have already developed.

Professional Development Research Schools

Case Study 2Cornwall Teaching Schools Together – a Partnership with EEF and the Research School network

In Spring 2019, 134 schools came together from across Cornwall under a new steering group for a series of focused professional development workshops on Maximizing the Impact of the Pupil Premium. They worked with Research Schools to identify shared priorities and design and deliver an evidence-informed school improvement programme.

Over two terms, participants spent three days identifying their schools’ needs, using the implementation framework to find evidence-based solutions to develop a plan for raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. Additional support included pre, mid and post workshop tasks to work with their school’s staff and reinforce messages and plans, in addition to a follow up day in January 2020 to quality assure and peer review plans, co-facilitated by Kingsbridge Research School and Cornwall Associate Research School. 

Future Plans

The Partnership across Cornwall is focused on developing capacity and building on the region’s expertise. In Spring 2020, a series of follow on professional development opportunities on metacognition and maths at the transition will take place, building on the evidence in our guidance reports and working in conjunction with the Cornwall and Devon Maths Hub. Additional plans include developing assessment strategies to establish a more nuanced understanding of vulnerable learners’ needs and improve monitoring and evaluation. 

Partnership Case Studies

Case Study 1Tameside Metropolitan Council and Oldham Research School

The EEF and Oldham Research School are supporting schools in the area through a three-year partnership with Tameside Local Authority. The Partnership is focused on raising disadvantaged pupils’ attainment by developing teachers’ ability to access evidence, make sense of it and apply it across the primary phase, particularly in the early years.

What is involved?

The Partnership involves three complementary professional development programmes, each designed to cater to Tameside’s local needs.

  1. Leading Learning, a series of ‘Core’ Professional Development (CPD) workshops for all Tameside schools, are co-delivered by Dr Jo Pearson, Director of Oldham Research School, and local school leaders. The three-day CPD draws on the EEF’s guidance reports to support schools in using evidence to implement new strategies and make changes in their schools.
  2. A series of Specialist Programmes for early years practitioners based on the Preparing for Literacy guidance report complements the Core training
  3. The Research Breakfasts series provides a convenient forum for busy school leaders to be introduced to the essential evidence in bite-size chunks (alongside a bite to eat!).

How will this work be sustained?

The training and support is open to all schools, but we used EEF and Tameside Local Authority funding to prioritise schools with high numbers of disadvantaged students who may be likely to benefit most from the additional focus and support.

Tameside have identified system leaders who will steer the direction of the partnership to sustain it into Y2 and Y3. . At the end of the three years, we aim for participating schools to be able to confidently use evidence to inform their practice and improve outcomes for the children of Tameside, particularly the most disadvantaged.

Professional Development OpportunitiesProfessional Development

We understand that schools want to design and shape any school improvement support to meet their particular challenges. The EEF and Research Schools work together to provide evidence-informed professional development for school leaders. 

Our content draws upon the extensive publications, tools and resources from the EEF and elsewhere, equipping leaders with the skills to identify areas of need, explore the evidence base for potential solutions, develop an implementation plan and monitor and evaluate changes. The content is built around core elements of understanding and applying evidence in practice, while being intentionally flexible to allow those involved in the Partnership to adapt and focus on the areas of evidence which are of interest to them. 

Together we can ensure the agreed programme and support is aligned with the evidence on effective professional development, allowing for sustained work and training over at least two terms.

Specialist Professional Development

3 day training eventsSpecialist Professional Development

One component of this is our specialist training programmes, which use the EEF’s guidance reports as a basis to develop focused expertise.These in-depth sessions are adapted to meet individual school’s needs over a three day training through exemplars, case studies, templates, tools and resources covering such topics as behaviour, literacy, maths, metacognition and self-regulation and more.

As all RSN training is underpinned by a common framework and process (putting evidence to work), we find that multiple programmes - drawing in different members of a school’s leadership team help provide a common language and approach for more evidence-informed school improvement decisions. For example, a training and retaining great teacher programme for the Deputy Head Teacher and the Specialist KS1 Literacy Programme for the school’s literacy lead.

The range of Specialist Programmes includes: 

  • Literacy: EYs; KS1; KS2; and Secondary
  • Maths: KS2 and KS3 (EYs in development)
  • Science: Secondary
  • Learning Behaviours: Metacognition; Behaviour; Memory
  • And more general programmes around disadvantaged pupils; training and retaining great teachers and curriculum.

Who is it for: Middle and Senior Leaders

Who delivers it: Research School Directors across the network and EEF central staff

linkSpecialist Programmes Guidance Reports

Supporting schools with evidence – EEF timeline


The EEF is a unique organisation. Its messages are driven by evidence – synthesizing existing educational research, generating new knowledge through trials – but it also has a clear moral purpose: to support teachers and senior leaders in closing the attainment gap. We believe that is best done by using evidence as the foundation for school improvement activity; to inform planning, investment and decision making.

Since 2011, we have developed our knowledge and understanding of what it takes to support teachers to use evidence effectively, by testing different ways of passive dissemination mechanisms as well as more proactive training and support activity.


In 2012, the first full year of the EEF, we organised three ‘Evidence in Action’ events, bringing together teachers, researchers, and other key figures, to explore how evidence and knowledge of effective practice can make an impact on educational outcomes.

To inform discussion at these events, the EEF commissioned a paper by two leading researchers in the field. Positively, this highlighted that England ‘is a front-runner in demands to make research more useful and usable for education practice and policy’. However, it also noted the challenge that remained: ‘more attention has been paid to research production than to a systemic approach embedded in routines, behaviours and practices within and across education organisations’.

We funded four projects to test ways of schools using research to improve attainment:

  • Challenge the Gap’. A school-to-school improvement programme aiming to break the link between disadvantage and attainment through collaboration and the sharing of best practice between schools.
  • Hampshire Hundreds’. Creating a learning community focused on raising the attainment of disadvantaged children.
  • Anglican Schools Partnership’. A pilot project developing a way of improving feedback led by schools.
  • Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme’. A whole-school training programme to help teachers in challenging schools become more effective.


We funded a pilot of ‘Evidence for the Frontline’ - a brokerage service linking schools with academics and teachers who can support them to use evidence effectively.

We co-funded a £1.5m ‘Research Use in Schools’ grant-funding round with the Department for Education and the Greater London Authority on the most effective ways of translating research findings into changes in the classroom

Five projects were funded:

  1. Research Champions;
  2. Research into Practice – evidence-informed CPD in Rochdale;
  3. The RISE Project – evidence-informed school improvement;
  4. Research Learning Communities; and
  5. The Literacy Octopus: Communicating and Engaging with Research


Building on the evidence generated from the first three years of EEF knowledge mobilisation grants, a more intensive ‘campaign’ model was developed, focusing on primary schools in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. EEF worked with seven local advocate-partners to provide support and training to up to 1,000 primary schools in the ‘Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants Campaign’.

The backbone of this approach was our first guidance report, ‘Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants, distilling the evidence into seven actionable recommendations.

We also launched an excellence fund with Suffolk County Council for its schools to bid to implement programmes trialled by the EEF with promising findings. More than one-third of the county’s schools were awarded funding to train a total of more than 600 school staff.


We developed further our campaign approach with the ‘North East Primary Literacy Campaign’ launched, aiming to reach all 800+ primary schools in the region through a combination of guidance reports, training and support, and high-potential projects.

We partnered with the TES to produce an online course, Making best use of teaching assistants in the classroom, designed for school leaders, taking them through this guidance report’s recommendations.

Drawing from the lessons we learned in our early campaigns on the importance of having teachers demonstrating how evidence can be used in practice, we established the Research Schools Network in September 2016. Launched in partnership with the Institute for Effective Education, aiming to lead the way in the use of evidence-based teaching, building affiliations with large numbers of schools in their region, and supporting the use of evidence at scale.


In 2017 the Research SChools network expanded from an initial 11 schools to 22, with additional funding from the DfE to launch them in the Opportunity Areas, government-designated social mobility cold-spots.

The EEF provided support to hundreds of school and system leaders thinking of applying to the Government’s £140m Strategic School Improvement Fund (SSIF) on how to develop evidence-informed projects. Our Research Schools Network was also heavily involved, both in leading successful bids and assisting neighbouring schools in their applications.

The network began with 5 pioneering schools, expanding in 2017 to include 22 schools in total, including a Research School in 11 of the 12 Opportunity Areas. In 2019, the network grew again to 32 and now also incorporates 7 Associate Research Schools, located in areas typically with low levels of engagement with EEF, where they support the network to amplify our key messages.


Developing professional development materials from our guidance reports became a major focus for the Research School Network. New training course in maths and science (based on EEF guidance reports) for 220 schools developed through a co-funded initiative by EEF and Kusuma Trust UK. This was supported by a new Guidance Report, ‘Putting Evidence to Work: A School’s Guide to Implementation’, a guidance report to support schools in the process of managing change well.

In addition, other new guidance reports were published: Metacognition and Self-regulated Learning; Preparing for LiteracyWorking with Parents to Support Children’s Learning; and Improving Secondary Science.

Ten lessons learned from EEF’s knowledge mobilization work

The work of the Research Schools, in conjunction with the projects, trials and research documented here has provided us with a nuanced understanding of the challenges of knowledge mobilization. The key lessons can be summarized as follows:

  1. Passive dissemination strategies (publishing reports, Toolkit summaries, blogs, tweets and press reports) are necessary but not sufficient for changing teacher’s practice.
  2. Evidence-based guidance, detailed and specific enough for teachers to act upon, is essential for changing practice. The development of evidence-based guidance is most credible and useful when it is co-created by researchers and practitioners
  3. Exemplification is required to bring the evidence to life for teachers. Case studies, videos, tools and resources all have a role to play.
  4. To apply the lessons of evidence in the classroom, active implementation support is required. Professional development programmes, learning clusters, coaching, and light-touch support mechanisms are important for embedding evidence in practice.
  5. Schools listen to other schools. Senior leaders and teachers talking about the value of evidence are the most credible advocates for evidence use. Working with practitioners as partners in mobilising knowledge and integrating evidence into local contexts.
  6. An understanding of implementation processes is as important as the understanding of the evidence itself.
  7. For evidence to gain traction in schools in a sustained manner, a multi-stranded approach is required, working at different levels of change (e.g. practitioner, school, regional and national policy levels)
  8. Building capacity (knowledge, understanding, skills related to evidence use) in the system to support the appetite for engaging with evidence is a bigger challenge than anticipated.
  9. Aligning evidence with the school system helps to create opportunities for it to be discussed more widely.
  10. Framing evidence around practical school priorities such as behaviour, numeracy, parental engagement etc. helps school leaders to see research as integral to the work of school improvement not as an optional extra.


The first evaluation of the Research Schools Network has been published. The report assesses the evidence of promise, feasibility and scalability of the network based on the experiences of the first five Research Schools over their initial three years. 

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