IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Evaluating Complex and Whole-school Interventions: Methodological and Practical Considerations

Research exploring issues around the evaluation of complex and whole school interventions.

This research was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and carried out with the the Behavioural Insights Team and FFT Education Datalab.

Pupil's attainment

Evaluating the impact of Evaluating Complex and 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, suggesting that interventions aimed at changing these have significant potential to improve pupil outcomes.

Complex interventions

A 'complex' intervention is one that combines multiple components that interact with one another within a context and aims to produce change.

They may have many potential 'active ingredients' and may include targeting a range of outcomes, or different levels of an organisation. Based on this, most (if not all) interventions aimed at improving pupil attainment through changes in schools are likely to be 'complex' in some sense.


The report makes a number of recommendations including use of multi-stage protocols, to help alleviate this problem in the context of CWSIs while, importantly, preserving the principle of making analytical decisions before interacting with the data, and increased use of quasi-experimental evaluation methods to identify the impact of whole school interventions, given the challenges of randomised trials in settings such of these that may involve long delivery periods or existing clusters of schools.


This project's primary outcome was a guidance report to the EEF and its panel of evaluators:


  • Rebecca Allen
  • Jake Anders
  • Chris Brown
  • Melanie Ehren
  • Toby Greany
  • Rebecca Nelson