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The University of Southampton
Southampton Education School

Ways of Improving Educational Effectiveness and Quality

Educational effectiveness and improvement research by the University of Southampton has made a major contribution to the design and implementation of educational policy and practice at both national and international levels.


Research challenge

Most education professionals, policy makers and parents would agree that effective teaching in good schools is key to improving standards of education around the world. Over the years, many initiatives covering leadership, culture and expectations have been trialled in the classroom but which work well and how can they work better?

Significant research by leading academics Professors David Reynolds, Daniel Muijs and Anthony Kelly with Dr Chris Downey in the University of Southampton Education School has pioneered novel approaches to improving and evaluating systems in schools. The researchers have contributed significantly to the design and implementation of educational policy and practice both nationally and internationally.


Research in this field at Southampton is centred in the Education School’s Educational Effectiveness and Improvement Group. Members work with policymakers, managers and teachers in the UK in academy chains, schools and local authorities, as well as across the world in the US, China, Sweden, Cyprus and Chile.

Members of the group have been at the forefront of development of the field. For more than 20 years, the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI), co-founded by David Reynolds with board members including Daniel Muijs and Chris Downey, has sought to improve effectiveness in schools through demonstrating its importance in determining children’s educational and social achievement. (In the US, the American Education Research Association’s School Effectiveness & School Improvement Special Interest Group, twice chaired by Daniel Muijs has taken on this role).

Our solution

Many projects at Southampton in recent years have identified what makes effective schools and good teaching and made practical suggestions on how schools and teachers can improve and add value through employing research findings, collaborating, networking and making better use of data. Among these initiatives:

  • David Reynolds has produced most of the key syntheses of research in educational effectiveness, and has developed the High-Reliability School initiative, which gives schools the results of the latest research into effectiveness with the freedom to build on these initiatives for themselves.
  • Daniel Muijs has carried out key research on teacher effectiveness and designed and evaluated professional development programmes for based on his research findings. His analysis of the UK Government’s ‘Teach First’ programme contributed to the doubling of the scheme and its expansion into primary schools.
  • Anthony Kelly and Chris Downey have examined how performance data on pupils can help managers within schools and local authorities organise classroom teaching more efficiently.

What was the impact?

Research findings by the Educational Effectiveness and Improvement Group have spread widely around the world through conferences and other presentations. Through their membership of the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI), Southampton’s academics have presented influential ‘State of the Art’ reviews to thousands of educational professionals. ICSEI is one of the few international organisations in education that links policy-makers, practitioners and researchers.

All the organisations which have worked with Group members and employed their findings on effective schools have reported they have had a great impact on teacher training and the formation of education policy.

Close to home, research has also influenced UK national policy. David Reynolds is currently the Senior Educational Policy Adviser to the Welsh Government. Anthony Kelly serves on the UK Government’s Parliamentary Group on School Governance and has also been an expert witness for the House of Commons Select Committee on Education.





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