Chief Executive’s Letter: 10 ways the EEF supported teachers and disadvantaged pupils in 2020

It’s fair to say that this year has not turned out as I anticipated when I joined the EEF as chief executive in January. Covid-19 has turned everyone’s lives and plans upside down.

The pandemic has also exposed and deepened educational inequality in our society. Our own research, published in the summer, suggests that the disruption to learning is likely to have at least reversed the progress made in closing the disadvantage gap over the past decade. 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.

Supporting great teaching, providing high-quality resources for pupils

This sustained response is work the EEF has been undertaking through the Covid-19 pandemic. Supporting great teaching in every classroom, making sure there are high-quality resources and support for those students who need it most – for example, by:

  • pioneering the new National Tutoring Programme to support pupils who’ve fallen behind as a result of Covid-19 school closures. With government funding, we have recruited 33 tutoring organisations to deliver this. Work started in schools this term providing added support to pupils across England with the expectation of reaching 250,000 pupils this year.
  • scaling up the Nuffield Early Language Intervention, an EEF Promising Project regarded as the most well-evidenced early language programme in the country. We worked with the Department for Education so that this programme will be made available at no cost to state-funded primary schools across the country this year.

EEF Guide to Supporting School Planning, 2021

EEF Guide to Supporting School Planning, 2021

Practical, evidence-based guidance to support schools in this busy and unpredictable academic year

Directing our support where it is most needed and can make most difference

This was all in addition to our planned programme of work, which included:

  • publishing the findings from our 100th randomised controlled trial (RCT) – including seven messages about closing the disadvantage gap, drawn from these first hundred evaluations. The EEF has commissioned more than 10 per cent of all known trials in education in the world.
  • funding and supporting our 38-strong national network of Research Schools – helping their colleagues use evidence to inform their teaching – which engaged 2,500 schools in 2019-20 (despite Covid-19 disruption).

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My aim when I took up leadership of the EEF in January was to build on our world-leading reputation for generating and mobilising educational research, while sharpening our focus on working with schools, nurseries and colleges to break the link between family income and educational achievement.

Looking back, it feels to me like we’ve taken strides towards delivering on that ambition – both despite and because of this year’s challenges.

And it has only been possible thanks to the hard work of my colleagues and the immense support we are able to draw on from the EEF’s networks. Our grantees and evaluators. The teachers and senior leaders we work with. Our funding partners in the UK and internationally. And the many, many others who share our mission of creating an evidence-informed education system capable of closing the disadvantage gap.

My thanks to you, and very best wishes for the festive season – and, let us hope, a much happier new year!