Achievement for All
Achievement for All is a whole-school improvement programme that aims to improve the academic and social outcomes of primary school pupils. Trained Achievement for All coaches deliver a bespoke two-year programme to schools through monthly coaching sessions which focus on leadership, learning, parental engagement and wider outcomes, in addition to focusing on improving outcomes for a target group of children (which largely consists of the lowest 20% of attainers). The programme has cumulatively reached over 4,000 English schools.
Testing a whole-school improvement programme, focused on improving leadership, teaching and engagement with parents
University of Manchester
Staff deployment & development
Language and literacy
In this trial, Achievement for All resulted in negative impacts on academic outcomes for pupils, who received the programme during five terms of Years 5 and 6 (ages 9-11). Children in the treatment schools made 2 months’ less progress in Key Stage 2 reading and maths, compared to children in control schools, in which usual practice continued. The same negative impact was found for children eligible for free school meals. Target children (those children the intervention specifically aimed to support) also made 2 months’ less progress in reading, and 3 months’ less progress in maths. The co-primary outcome finding (whole-group reading, and target children reading) had a very high security rating, 5 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale.
Given the size of the effects and the consistency of negative findings, these results are noteworthy. Of particular importance is the impact that the programme had on target children, and children eligible for free school meals.
Alongside academic outcomes, the evaluation also sought to assess Achievement for All’s impact on other measures, including the attendance at school of target children and pupils’ resilience-related outcomes. The evaluation found that the programme did not improve pupils’ self-esteem, goals and aspirations, perceptions of how supportive their families were, or target children’s attendance. However, children in Achievement for All schools were more likely to report that there was an adult in their school who cared about and supported them.
The negative findings are unlikely to be a result of schools failing to effectively implement Achievement for All. Although schools may not have delivered all elements of the programme as the delivery team had intended, the evaluators’ analysis suggests that better implementation was not associated with improved outcomes; indeed, they conclude that better implementation of some elements of the programme may even have been associated with more negative impacts.
One factor that may have contributed to the negative impact on pupils is the flexibility of the programme. While some schools commented that they found this beneficial, others would have preferred a more defined and structured approach. Several teachers also commented that they could not identify how the programme could lead to a direct impact on pupil learning. It may also have been the case that other school priorities began to compete with, and overshadow, the priorities set by the Achievement for All action plan at the outset of the programme.
Negative impact on pupils may have, in part, also been caused by the resources that schools invested in the programme, at the expense of other activities. Schools commented that certain aspects of the programme came with a number of time and logistical demands which may have financial consequences, and it may be the case that schools in the control group, which didn’t implement Achievement for All, used their resources more effectively.
On the basis of these highly secure findings, the EEF concludes that, in this trial, AfA did not improve pupils’ academic outcomes and had a detrimental effect on learning.Schools currently delivering Achievement for All should carefully monitor and evaluate whether it is having the intended impact.
Given the reach of the programme to date, this result is likely to raise a number of questions, including whether schools should still use the programme. Here we attempt to provide some answers.
The addendum report, published in April 2021, shows that AfA had broadly the same negative impact on a second cohort of pupils who began the trial in year 4, whose school received the programme for 6 terms (January 2017-December 2018), and whose results were taken 7 ½ terms after AfA delivery began. Cohort 2 children in AfA schools made 2 months’ less progress in reading on average, compared to children in schools that did not receive the programme. Cohort 2 target children also made two months’ less progress in reading, while cohort 2 children eligible for FSM made one month less progress in reading. All children, AfA target children, and FSM-eligible children in this second cohort, who were in the Achievement for All schools, made two months’ less progress in maths, on average, compared to equivalent children in schools which did not receive the programme. The evaluation of cohort 2 found that the programme did not improve pupils’ self-esteem, goals and aspirations, perceptions of how supportive their families were, perceptions of how supportive their schools were, or target children’s attendance. However, cohort 2 FSM-eligible children in Achievement for All schools were more likely to report higher levels of goals and aspirations.
Children in the Achievement for All schools made two months' less progress in reading, on average, compared to children in schools that did not receive the programme. This result has a very high security rating.
Target children in the Achievement for All schools (the lowest 20% of attainers or those deemed to be ‘vulnerable to underachievement’ as identified by their school) made two months' less progress in reading, on average, compared to target children in schools that did not receive the programme. This result has a very high security rating.
All children and children eligible for free school meals (FSM) in the Achievement for All schools made two months' less progress in maths, on average, compared to equivalent children in schools that did not receive the programme, while target children made three months less progress in maths, on average, compared to target children in control schools. FSM children in Achievement for All schools also made two months less progress in reading compared to FSM children in schools that did not receive the intervention.
The evaluation found that the programme did not improve pupils’ self-esteem, goals and aspirations, perceptions of how supportive their families were, or the attendance of target children. However, children in Achievement for All schools were more likely to report that there was an adult in their school who cared about and supported them.
The implementation of Achievement for All was not optimal and varied across schools. However, there was no evidence to suggest that this contributed to the negative findings. Some teachers identified significant resource demands which made implementing Achievement for All challenging.
Full project description
Achievement for All (AfA) is a whole-school improvement programme that aims to improve the academic and social outcomes of pupils, developed by the national charity AfA 3As. In this trial, the programme primarily aimed to improve Key Stage 2 reading attainment while the trial also examined its impact on KS2 mathematics, pupil attendance, and pupil resilience-related outcomes. The trial cohort comprised all children who began the trial in Years 4 and 5 (ages 8–10). A particular focus was placed on a target group of children selected by each school within these year groups. Schools were advised to select target children whose attainment placed them in the lowest 20%, while they could also include pupils whom they deemed to be vulnerable to underachievement.
The intervention ran for five terms. At the start of the programme, each school designated a member of staff to become an AfA champion. They then met with a trained AfA coach to assess the needs of the school and devised a bespoke action plan. This plan was then used to inform monthly coaching and training sessions delivered by the AfA coach to relevant members of school staff; schools also had access to AfA’s online learning platform, The Bubble. AfA is a flexible programme that is expected to be tailored to the needs of each school. However, the training that each school receives draws from four key areas: ‘leadership for inclusion', ‘teaching and learning’, ‘wider outcomes and opportunities’, and ‘engaging with parents and carers’.
The project was a two-armed randomised controlled trial; 134 schools from across England participated, with 66 schools in the intervention group and 68 schools in the control group. The process evaluation included surveys, informal observations, and interviews, and a particular focus on eight case study schools. This report details the impact that the programme had on the first cohort of pupils who were in Year 5 at the outset of the trial in 2016/2017 and received the programme for five terms. The results from a second cohort, who began the trial in Year 4, will be examined in a future addendum report.