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Evaluation of Complex Whole-School Interventions: Methodological and Practical Considerations

  • Academic publication
  • 25th Oct 2017


Evaluating the impact of complex whole-school interventions (CWSIs) is challenging. However, what evidence there is suggests that school leadership and other elements of whole-school contexts are important for pupils’ attainment (Leithwood et al., 2006), suggesting that interventions aimed at changing these have significant potential to improve pupil outcomes. Furthermore, strong leadership is likely important for the effective implementation of many interventions funded by the EEF since even class-level or targeted programmes are more likely to work best within supportive and effective settings.

We therefore welcome the EEF’s commitment to exploring the issues inherent in evaluating CWSIs. Developing design and practice for evaluations of this type of intervention, focusing on the issues of complexity and managing change across a whole
school, increases the scope of projects of which the EEF may confidently fund evaluations.

In this document, we provide key messages for EEF evaluators on how to get the most out of evaluations of CWSIs, including considerations for both design and implementation. As far as possible, our suggestions aim to be practical steps that evaluators can implement immediately. A number of issues, and points 13 and 14 below in particular, require either further investigation or decisions from the EEF.


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Jake Anders

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Chris Brown

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Melanie Ehren

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Toby Greany

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Rebecca Nelson

Jessica Heal

Senior Research Advisor

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Bibi Groot

Advisor and PhD Fellow

Michael Sanders