School Funders’ Network

The Schools Funders Network is a group of grant-makers and other funders that the EEF convened in 2013, together with the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), the membership body for UK foundations and grant-making charities.

School Funders' Network meeting, May 2016Membership of this Network is open to school funders with an active interest in addressing educational disadvantage within state-funded schools, as well as early years and post-16 settings.

The focus of the group is on practical learning from our grant-funded projects, identifying ‘what next?’ steps with the aim of greater collaboration between funders. For further information, please contact Anne-Laure Bedouet.

Future meetings:

To be announced.

Previous meetings:

27 May 2021

  •  ‘What’s 2021 really been like for schools?’

How did the second round of 'lockdown learning' compare to the first? What are schools' plans for learning recovery in the months and years ahead? Hear directly from senior leaders at three schools: Jane Elsworth (Huntington School, York); Lesley Powell (The Academy at Shotton Hall, Durham); and Kirsty Ryan (Wyndham Primary Academy, Derby).

11 March 

  •  The Covid impact on learning – what does the research say?

The two periods when schools have been closed to most pupils in the past year has, we know, had a major impact – on pupils, their families, as well as on teachers. Throughout that time, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has been undertaking analysis to find out more about key questions – such as the impact on attainment for disadvantaged pupils, curriculum diagnostics for teachers, pupil engagement in home learning, and the views of teachers and senior leaders. In this session, Dr Ben Styles, head of NFER’s educational trials unit, will present some of the key findings that have emerged to help funders think through how best we can respond. His slides are available here.

3 Feb

  • Learning in lockdown (again)

Almost a year on, and once again schools are closed to most pupils. With evidence pointing to the first shutdown having at least wiped out the last decade’s progress in closing the attainment gap, what’s the current situation facing pupils, teachers and parents?

The Sutton Trust has just published an assessment, using survey data from Teacher Tapp and YouGov to give an up-to-date picture of how teaching is being delivered remotely, as well as access to resources, and barriers faced while learning at home. Its authors, Rebecca Montacute and Carl Cullinane, will present key findings. Their slides are available here.

23 Nov 2020

  • What’s 2020 really been like for schools?

From lockdown learning to planning for a completely unpredictable academic year… Hear directly from senior leaders at three schools: Cassie Buchanan (Headteacher, Charles Dickens Primary School, London; CEO, The Charter Schools Educational Trust), Tom Graham (Deputy Headteacher, Coombeshead Academy, Devon), and Karl Rogerson (Principal, Billesley Primary School, Birmingham; Director, Billesley Research School).

19 Oct 

  • 'Has the Pupil Premium worked?' with Prof. Stephen Gorard

The Pupil Premium is the most high-profile education policy in the past decade aiming to close the attainment gap. But is there any evidence that it’s worked? In this session, Stephen Gorard, Professor of Education and Public Policy at Durham University, will present his new research on the impact of the Pupil Premium and discuss its implications.

6 May 

  • 16-18 education: 'What do we know, what do we want to know?' led by Anna Bird

"Further education, further education, further education" - that is what education secretary Gavin Williamson has said will be his key focus (albeit before Covid-19 hit). But what do we know about current policy and research in 16-18 education? What are the practicalities of working in the sector? And what does the evidence suggest are the most useful areas for funders to focus on? These are just three of the questions we'll begin addressing at the next meeting of the School Funders' Network. The session will be led by Anna Bird from the Behavioural Insights Team. Her presentation is available here.

8 April 

  • Covid-19 school closures – what can funders do?

A special online meeting to discuss the impact of school, nursery and college closures on children and young people, and particularly those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. The EEF’s chief executive, Prof. Becky Francis, will give an overview. She will be joined by two colleagues, Robbie Coleman and Alex Quigley, who will offer insights from a policy and schools perspective respectively. Their presentation is available here.

18 Nov 2019

  • “My top 5 priorities for improving education in England” led by Sir Kevan Collins

Sir Kevan Collins has been working in education for more than three decades. He began his career as a primary school teacher in London’s east end, before working on the National Literacy Strategy and heading up the Primary National Strategy. He then helped lead Tower Hamlets’ schools transformation, first as director of children's services, then as the London borough's chief executive. Since 2011, he has served as the first chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). Shortly to step down from that role, Sir Kevan will share his views on the top priorities facing this country’s education system – and what funders can do to help achieve them.

You can view the slides from Sir Kevan's presentation  here.

11 June 

  • 'Behaviour and exclusions: a deep dive'

At the Network's 20th meeting, we took a deep-dive look at the linked issues of behaviour in schools and exclusion of pupils, with sessions led by two Network members with significant expertise to share:

28 March 

  • 'Evidence-Based Education: how useful is it?' led by Prof. Rob Coe

The idea that at least some of the decisions that teachers and school leaders make should be informed by evidence from research is probably not too controversial. But for exactly which kinds of decisions is evidence available and relevant? What kinds of research should inform them? What part should evidence from other sources, such as experience, play in informing those decisions? And how will we know if it has worked?

Prof. Rob Coe was a secondary maths teacher before embarking on an academic career. He was Professor of Education and Director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University from 2010-18. He is now Director of Research and Evaluation at Evidence Based Education and a consultant for the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

You can view the slides from his presentation  here.

5 December 2018

  • 'Education at the Nuffield Foundation’
    The Nuffield Foundation’s work in education aims to improve evidence, policy and practice in education and skills, from early childhood onwards. Its current funding priorities include: early years education and childcare; skills; teaching quality; young people’s pathways; and educational disadvantage. During 2017, the Foundation funded 19 new education research and development projects, with a total value of £3.5 million.
    In this session, we heard from colleagues at Nuffield about their approach to funding, exemplified with highlights of relevant, key research. 
  • ‘Comparing trends in spending per student across different stages of education’ led by IFS research fellow, Luke Sibieta.
    In September 2018, the IFS published its first annual report on education spending in England, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. This provides measures of spending per student in the early years, schools, further education and higher education back to the early 1990s. These allow us to understand how policy decisions have affected the resources available to students in different stages of education over the long run.
    Co-author Luke Sibieta presented the IFS’s latest analysis, focusing on the implications for schools and post-16 settings. You can view the slides from his presentation here.

19 September 

  • The impact of genetics on educational attainment, led by Dr Kathryn Asbury (senior lecturer, University of York)

What do we know about the influence of genetic and environmental influences on pupils' academic achievement, well-being, mental health and behaviour? In this session, Dr Kathryn Asbury - senior lecturer in educational psychology at the University of York and co-author of ‘G is for Genes’ - looked at the interplay of genetics and education, disciplines with a historically difficult relationship.

Drawing on behavioural genetic research from around the world, including the UK-based Twins’ Early Development Study (TEDS), one of the largest twin studies in the world, her research shows that genetic influence is not the same as genetic determinism and that the environment matters at least as much as genes.

You can view the slides from her presentation  here.

8 May 

  • A School's Eye View, led by Dr Caroline Creaby (Sandringham School, Hertfordshire)

What does today’s education landscape look like from the point of view of schools? What’s the impact of tightening school funding? How can teachers’ professional practice best be developed and empowered? How do schools support their most disadvantaged young people? What are the areas we as funders should focus on? These are some of the questions Caroline Creaby will seek to address in our next School Funders’ Network session.

Dr Creaby is Deputy Headteacher at Sandringham, an Ofsted-rated ‘Outstanding’ secondary school in Hertfordshire, which leads on a number of key national programmes. As well as being a National Teaching School, Sandringham co-leads a Teaching School Alliance, delivering high-quality training across the local area, and trains teachers of the future as a designated Initial Teacher Training awarding body. In 2017, it was designated a national Research School by the EEF and Institute for Effective Education, with Dr Creaby as its director.

You can view the slides from her presentation  here.

31 January

  • 'Parental engagement: addressing inequality in children’s early attainment'

A child’s life chances are heavily determined at birth. Disadvantaged children start lagging behind their better off peers before they start school. Small gaps in early development go on to predict big differences in future outcomes. In 2014, the Sutton Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, working with the University of Oxford Department of Education, launched a £1 million Parental Engagement Fund. This was aimed at developing effective parental engagement practice in the UK. The School Funders’ Network heard from the funders at its launch.

The Parental Engagement Fund aimed to increase knowledge of ‘what works’ by supporting innovative parental engagement interventions; to develop their delivery; and increase their understanding of impact. You can read the full evaluation report  here

In this session, we heard briefly from a range of speakers reflecting on the key lessons learned from the Fund. Naomi Eisenstadt, Professor Kathy Sylva and Fiona Jelley from the University of Oxford, Dr Janet Goodall University of Bath, Laura Barbour from the Sutton Trust and Gina Crane from Esmee Fairbairn reported on lessons learned for the sector as a whole. We also heard from Emma Beresford, of Parental Engagement Network, one of the recipients of the fund. Their presentation is available  here.

29 November, 2017

  • 'Beyond attainment: how do you measure what exams don’t?’ led by Neil Humphrey, Professor of the Psychology of Education at the University of Manchester. 

There is growing evidence that children’s social and emotional skills – their ability to respond to setbacks, work well with others, build relationships, manage emotions, and cope with difficult situations – are associated with success at school, as well as positive outcomes in adulthood, such as stable employment, physical and mental health, and well-being.

Despite a growing interest in these skills, much less is known about what can be done to develop them. One of the major challenges is the considerable debate about how to define and measure various aspects of social and emotional development, as demonstrated by the confusing and contested terminology, and overwhelming number of measures available.

In this session, Neil Humphrey, Professor of the Psychology of Education at the University of Manchester, took us through what we can measure (and what we should measure) in assessing the impact of projects aiming to develop young people's essential skills. His slides are available  here.

4 October

  • 'The policy landscape for schools – what does the future hold?' led by Natalie Perera, Executive Director of the Education Policy Institute. 

20 June

  • The new Chartered College of Teaching, with its founding chief executive Prof. Dame Alison Peacock. Launched in 2017, the Chartered College is an autonomous member-driven organisation established “to promote the learning, improvement and recognition of the art, science and practice of teaching for the public benefit”. Its three main aims are to (1) create a knowledge-based community to share excellent practice; (2) be a collective voice for the teaching profession; and (3) enable teachers to connect with rigorous research and evidence. Hear directly from its founding chief executive how she hopes to put its mission – ‘A new organisation, run by teachers for teachers’ – into practice. Her slides are available here.

28th March

  • ‘Comparing global education. OR: Everything you wanted to know about PISA but were afraid to ask!’ led by Dr John Jerrim of the UCL Institute of Education. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. In 2015 over half a million students, representing 28 million 15-year-olds in 72 countries and economies, took the internationally agreed two-hour test. Students were assessed in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving and financial literacy. The results of the 2015 assessment were published in December 2016. In this session, Dr Jerrim guided us through the latest PISA results. What they measure and what they can tell us (as well as what they can’t) about how British schools compare internationally. His slides are available here.

19th May, 2016

  • 'Behind the Toolkit' led by Professor Steve Higgins, professor of education at Durham University. It’s five years since the Sutton Trust-EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit was launched. Today, this Which-style guide summarising the world’s education evidence about different approaches, offering teachers ‘best bets’ of what has worked most effectively to boost the attainment of disadvantaged pupils, is used by 64 per cent of school-leaders. In this presentation, the Toolkit’s co-author, Prof. Higgins will go ‘behind the Toolkit’ to explain how it works and how it’s intended to be used by schools. He will also give his thoughts on how school-funders of varying sizes can evaluate the impact of their funded projects in order to generate evidence that’s of wider benefit to the education sector. His slides are available here.

15th March

  • ‘Building evidence across a sector: the effectiveness of outdoor learning’ led by Caroline Fiennes, founder of Giving Evidence and Jo Wells, director of the Blagrave Trust. What does the evidence on outdoor learning in the UK tell us – and what can funders learn from it that will inform our grant-making? This was the question the Blagrave Trust set out to find the answer to when it commissioned Caroline to carry out a systematic review of what we know about the sector. In this session, Jo Wells shared her experience of the rationale, process and approach to developing this work. And Caroline Fiennes offered her perspective on how trusts and foundations can help build the evidence base in their focus areas. You can read the findings of the outdoor learning study funded by Blagrave Trust here:

18th January

  • 'The Policy Picture: Creating a self-managing, self-improving schools system' was the title of the presentation by Frank Green (national Schools Commissioner) in which he talked about what’s often termed "the fragmentation of the schools system", with an autonomous school-led system replacing the previous local authority-run model. What are the implications of this change for the work of school funders? Where do schools looking for support to self-improve now turn? What does it mean for schools in the 'cold spots', where there are often high proportions of disadvantaged pupils? This session aimed to tackle these questions and many others. His slides are available here.

30th September, 2015

  • ‘Mental health provision in schools’ led by Dr Miranda Wolpert, Director of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Evidence Based Practice Unit, part of both University College London and Anna Freud Centre. Her presentation was titled ‘What kinds of mental health activities (5-18) should be the focus for funders’ grant-making and what should they be aiming to learn?’ and her slides are available here.
  • ‘What next? Priorities and partnership group discussion’ We’ll think through the implications for us as schools funders of Dr Wolpert’s presentation, and also share current funder priorities to find out what we are each of us doing and identify potential areas for collaboration.

25th June

  • ‘Careers education: what do we know about works best?’ led by Professor Tristram Hooley, Professor of Career Education at the University of Derby and Head of the International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS), looking at the policy and delivery context of careers education in schools and colleges; identifying what is already known about the key ingredients of effective careers education; highlighting current gaps in our understanding; and offering some hints about the best ways of evaluating the success of funded work. A copy of Prof. Hooley's presentation is available at his blog here.
  • ‘What next? Priorities and partnership group discussion’We’ll think through the implications for us as schools funders of Prof. Hooley’s presentation, and also share current funder priorities to find out what we are each of us doing and identify potential areas for collaboration.

3rd December, 2014

  • ‘The role of parental engagement’ led by The Sutton Trust’s Laura Barbour and James Turner and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s Gina Crane. Esmée and Sutton-Trust are about to launch a joint funding round on ‘Parental engagement’ and will speak to this joint work and their hopes for what they’ll learn.
  • Funder collaboration ‘speed-matching’... We’re going to trial a form of ‘speed-dating’ to help everyone involved get the most out of the knowledge, experience and expertise in the room. No time for small-talk, you have to cut to the chase! What are the areas of schools funding you’re working on where you want to team up? Which areas do you want to know more about? By the end of it, we’ll know more about what we’re all doing and hopefully have struck up a useful conversation or three to pick up afterwards.

1st July

  • ‘Funding innovation: why money on its own isn’t enough’ led by Nesta’s Amy Solder and Oliver Quinlan, explored what school funders need to consider when supporting innovations and innovators make their ideas a reality by drawing on Nesta’s experience as an innovation funder.
  • ‘A Headteacher’s Perspective’ :Dame Sue John (pictured), Headteacher of Lampton School, Hounslow, joined us to offer a school’s-eye view of the current education landscape. Lampton was included in Ofsted’s ‘Twelve outstanding schools – Excelling against the odds’ publication, and designated one of the first 100 Teaching Schools in the country.

3rd April

  • “Scaling up: what do you do next when you find something that works?” led by Amelia Sussman ( Impetus-PEF);
  • “The What Works Network: what it is and how it hopes to work with funders” led by Ross Neilson (Cabinet Office).

21 November, 2013

  • “Collaboration in focus: a case study” led by Teresa Priest (Walcot Foundation) and Paul Carbury (SHINE Trust) on how their two organisations have worked together.
  • “What can funders measure and what should funders measure in schools?” led by Dr Becky Allen, Reader in Economics of Education at the Institute of Education.

21st May

Chaired by Dr Kevan Collins, the EEF’s Chief Executive, with two guest speakers, both senior members of the civil service with a particular interest in schools funding policy:

  • Kate O'Neill - Senior Policy Advisor on Social Mobility, Cabinet Office
  • Andy Tyerman - Head of Improving Pupil Performance, Dept for Education