What Makes Successful Schools Successful?

The government commissioned the NFER to research good practice in raising attainment of disadvantaged students. They specifically looked at features of schools that successfully narrowed the gap and compared them to schools that weren’t doing as well.

It is a fascinating report but like it’s title, it is long and not sexy. It is tough to find time read such reports so we have gathered the highlights to make life a little bit easier.

What Makes Successful Schools Successful?

This is the question on everyone’s lips. In a nutshell they place an emphasis on:

    1. Teaching and learning strategies including emotional/social support.

li>Straightforward assessment for learning systems.

  • Clear feedback for pupils.
  • Improving pupils’ ability to learn through metacognitive strategies


What Is The Silver Bullet To Raising Attainment?

There is no one singular approach identified as raising attainment. This is important, they repeat that a lot. In fact, the most successful schools had on average, 18 different strategies in place to support disadvantaged pupils.

The are four main groups of strategies used by schools to raise attainment. The analysis of relationships between these factors identified one statistically significant relationship; more successful schools were more likely to use Group 4 – metacognitive strategies.

This is supported by the Schools’ Week Alternative GCSE League Table which shows the best performing schools in the country for FSM pupils. We work with 4 out of the top 10 schools with our Pupil Premium Project.

What Can My School Do Next?

What is clear from the study, is the effectiveness of such strategies relies on them being embedded into a whole – school ethos of aspiration and attainment.

There are seven building blocks for success:

What Is The Improvement Journey?

I found the below visualisation of the school’s pathway to success really helpful.

Timescale 3 – 5 years


There is no simple or one size fits all solution to closing the gap. Instead, a number of measures are required including setting a culture of high expectations and looking at evidence based strategies, such as metacognition. It must be tailored to each school’s circumstances and above all, the students themselves.

For more information about our partnerships focusing on metacognition, self – regulation and resilience, and the whole child please click here.