Developing the role of extended schools

Submitting Institution

Newcastle University

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Specialist Studies In Education
Studies In Human Society: Sociology

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Summary of the impact

Extended schools research and related projects have contributed to debate and policy-making in the UK and in countries in Europe, Asia and Australasia post-2008 on the role of the school in relation to disadvantage. Our research has strongly informed English government policy 2008-11 and the actions (including funding and scaling up extended schools) taken to develop community-oriented, full-service and extended schools to help address the impact of disadvantage on educational outcomes. We have had sustained and far-reaching impact on the policy and actions of schools and local authorities (LAs) in their development of extended schools. Professional practice changes include greater willingness to collaborate across agencies and an amendment to policy on `raising aspirations' to become `reaching aspirations'. Additionally our innovative research methodology, a version of theory of change, has been taken up and used by schools, LAs and other organisations.

Underpinning research

The research focused on how schools (named variously as extended or full-service schools), can contribute to overcoming the effects of disadvantage through partnership with other agencies and institutions. Extended schools have broad aims, beyond a narrow focus on educational attainment, that include the well-being of children, families and indeed the community. These aims are reflected in a wider range of services for students, families and the community offered from the school. The research has involved projects funded by DfE, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and local authorities (LAs) totalling £1m since 1996, with outputs since 1998. Since 2005 Professor Liz Todd (1995-present) and Colleen Cummings (Research Associate RA, 2000-2011) in Newcastle have been joined by Karen Laing (RA, 2009-present) and Lucy Tiplady (RA, 2005-present), and have continued to collaborate with Professor Alan Dyson (1988-2005, thereafter at University of Manchester) and colleagues at University of Manchester. Our research has investigated the processes and outcomes of extended schools from their initial development to the present day.

Our local authority evaluation of efforts to raise the attainment of schools in a disadvantaged area of Newcastle in 1996 drew attention to the needs of economically disadvantaged parents and the role schools could play (1). Our next JRF-funded study, an investigation of the contribution of schools to area regeneration (2000-03), found that at this time schools were generally educating disadvantaged children to enable them to leave the area. Our subsequent research played a key role in a change to this aim, refocusing the role of schools towards the whole community. Two early DfES-funded extended school projects (the demonstration project, 2002-2005, and the pathfinder project, 2002-04) showed how schools were starting to re-focus their role (2). There was evidence that involvement in extended activities could have a positive impact on the cultures of schools and their communities and that it was compatible with raising students' attainment.

The three-year DfES-funded National Evaluation of Full-service Extended Schools (2004-07) developed the innovative mixed methods approach to theory of change methodology (5). This project (4) found evidence that, whilst average impact on educational attainment was not demonstrated, there was some evidence that extended schools `closed the gap' for disadvantaged children, were highly cost effective, and generated clear and important benefits for individual vulnerable young people's attainment and well-being, for the well-being of vulnerable families and positive changes in schools. This was the first research to generate such results in this manner. The theory of change methodology provided a way to evaluate the complex effects of a multi-strand initiative and enabled the impacts to be demonstrated (5). Our reports from the National Evaluation of Extended Services (£511k with University of Manchester, 2009-14) outlined a range of models of the strategic response of schools and local authorities to disadvantage. The Extended Services Subsidy Pathfinder Evaluation, (2008-10) found a range of effective responses of schools to make extra-curricular opportunities available to disadvantaged young people. Our JRF review (2010-11) of research of interventions in aspirations and attitudes (2010-12) found no evidence to support the focus of many extended schools and services on the `raising of aspirations' (6). Finally, our evaluation of the pupil premium (2012-13) has found that many schools continue to fund activities that reflect a broad focus on the wellbeing of students and families. This focus was part of the goal of schools to reduce the impact of economic disadvantage on pupils and existed despite the lack of government policy recommending extended services.

The overall contribution of the research is that we have demonstrated the effects of extended school provisions on children and families, and clarified the facilitating and inhibiting factors in developing extended schools (such as achieving, rather than raising aspirations). We found that strategic partnerships were central to key aspects of extended schools, in particular multi-agency working, involving parents and collaborating with young people. Our findings have focused attention on rethinking the role of the school in relation to disadvantage. Additionally, we developed an appropriate and innovative partnership-based evaluation methodology using a form of theory of change approach.

The work of Todd, Dyson, Cummings and Laing has been truly one of the co-production of ideas and methods. Professor Todd has been PI on all projects since 2002 and funding on joint projects has been shared equally between Newcastle and Manchester. Authorship is always in alphabetical order, reflecting co-production, and separate contributions since 2005 can be identified to the Newcastle team. Professor Todd has made a particular contribution to an understanding of partnerships in extended schools, those of parent partnership, multi-agency working and child participation (1, 3).

References to the research

1) Todd, E.S. and Higgins, S. (1998) Powerlessness in professional and parent relationships. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 19, 2, 227-236. DOI:10.1080/0142569980190205


2) Cummings, C., Dyson, A. and Todd, L. (2007) Towards extended schools? How education and other professionals understand community-oriented schooling. Children and Society, 21, 189-200. DOI:10.1111/j.1099-0860.2006.00043.x


3) Todd, L. (2007) Partnerships for Inclusive Education. A critical approach to collaborative working. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-29845-8. Available from HEI on request. Shortlisted (in top 4) for the NASEN/ TES Academic Book Prize.

4) Cummings, C., Dyson, A. and Todd, L. (2011) Beyond the school gates: Can full service and extended schools overcome disadvantage? Routledge. Prize-winner, highly commended by the Society of Educational Studies, November 2012. REF2 output: 156363.

5) Dyson, A. and Todd, L. (2010) Dealing with complexity: Theory of change evaluation and the full service extended schools initiative. International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 33, 2, 119-134. REF2 output: 154856.


6) Cummings C, Laing K, Law J, McLaughlin J, Papps I, Todd L, Woolner P. (2012) Can changing aspirations and attitudes impact on educational attainment? A review of interventions. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Available at:

Investigators Grant Title Sponsor Dates Value
Easen (PI), Higgins & Todd The Educational Achievement Strategy evaluation Newcastle Upon Tyne Local Education Authority Mar to Jul 1996 £5000
Dyson (PI), Milward & Cummings How schools can contribute to area regeneration Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) 2000-03 £30,000
Todd (Co-PI) & Dyson (Co-PI) Evaluation of the Extended Schools Pathfinder Project Department for Education & Skills (DfES) Dec 2002 to Jan 2004 £66,278
Todd (Co-Pl) & Cummings Evaluation of the Extended Schools Demonstration Project DfES Feb 2002 to May 2005 £27,585
Todd (PI) & Cummings Evaluation of Full Service Schools DfES Jan 2004 to Sep 2007 £219,262
Todd (PI) & Cummings Extended Schools Subsidy Pathfinders Evaluation Department for Children, Families and Schools (DCfS) Jul 2008 to Sep 2010 £94,163
Todd (PI), Cummings & Laing National Evaluation of Extended Services DCfS Feb 2009 to Mar 2012 £403,081
Todd (PI), Cummings, Laing, Law, Papps & Woolner A review of research of interventions in aspirations and attitudes: influencing educational attainment JRF Oct 2010 to Nov 2011 £39,985
Todd (PI) & Laing Evaluation of Pupil Premium Department for Education July 2012- March 2013 £32,580

Details of the impact

This research has had longstanding influence on policy and practice in the UK, on government, schools, charities and local authorities (LAs) and international influence on policy and practice in some areas of Europe, Asia and Australasia. In England, according to evidence from the DfE, the research formed a `major part of the evidence base for policy development' in the Department for Education's children's services delivery mechanisms over the decade that included 2008-11 (senior research officer DfE) (IMP1). Our research informed (in 2008) a move in national policy from having one extended school in each LA area to focusing attention on the availability of extended services in every school and locality. It provided evidence for scaling up the policy, defining the expanding elements of the extended services model, and led to the decision to make funding available to schools post-2010. A senior research officer at the DfE explained the impact on school funding: `funding was made available (by the DfE) to schools from 2010 onwards (a subsidy pathfinder) to help them provide a wide range of activities for children and young people who were disadvantaged by economic circumstances, and children in care', and that our research `supported the expansion of the (DfE) policy to help address a wide set of social goals rather than just the educational attainment aims which were the initial focus' (IMP1). Our work also provided the government `key pieces of evidence to inform spending reviews and policy development' (IMP1). The same DfE testimonial indicates that our research has had influence on recent government policy, that it provided evidence to `inform the recent publication of More Affordable Childcare (2013)' setting out the Government's plans to increase the amount of affordable provision (IMP1). In addition, the recent development by Save the Children Fund of three `Children's Zones' pilots in England are based directly on our research.

Pathways to impact have varied. From 2008-10 the DfE reported the Newcastle research findings to practitioners and policy makers via its website. When in 2010 decision-making about extended services was devolved to schools, the DfE commissioned from the Newcastle-Manchester team a manual for head teachers based on all our previous research in this area. Our distinctive partnership research design enabled schools and LAs to reflect on and apply our research. Our four day-conferences since June 2012 on extended services have been well attended (each 40+) and valued (evaluation form comments): `the opportunity to do things differently'; and `raise awareness within the services of the importance of children's zones aims and encouraging multi-agency work'. Todd and Dyson have accepted invitations to present to large practitioner and policy-maker audiences (from 50 to 500 people). For Todd this has included countries in Europe (UK, Spain, Sweden and Netherlands), Asia (Vietnam) and Australasia (New Zealand and Fiji).

Our impact on schools, LAs, and partner organisations is demonstrated by repeated references to our research in policy documents (i.e., Northern Ireland Assembly (IMP2), Hotspur Primary School in Newcastle (IMP3), Solihul LA, W. Sussex LA, ContinYou) and that we were engaged to conduct local evaluations of extended services provisions for seven English LAs, from Northumberland to Wiltshire, and to edit, from 2007-11, a national practitioner publication on extended schools for teachers, the `Extended Schools Update' (circulation in 2010: 456 schools/LAs) (IMP4). This publication informed and stimulated the actions and policies of extended schools and local authorities and contains many examples of the impact of Newcastle's research (IMP4). A director of extended services in one LA noted our research had: `played a significant part in helping the schools in the (...) area to: develop policy and practice in `Extended Services'... [and to...] stimulate and inform our direction of travel'. We are quoted as being responsible for their nomination as a Children Zones pilot. The manager of Rural Youth Offending Service demonstrated how our research evidence was used in 2013 to bid successfully for further funding. Our theory of change methodology has been taken up by schools, LAs and other organisations to research organisational change. The impact of this approach is evidenced by comments from senior education managers in Durham, North Tyneside, and Manchester (IMP5). The specialist educational psychologist in Durham said: `this model ... seemed to offer a way of navigating through the (sometimes messy) complexities of researching organisational development, and giving validity to observed changes at a number of levels (student, staff, systems etc). I was also interested in the process of theory building'. Impact on schools is evidenced by a deputy head of a primary school in Manchester, who said: `We've used your change document... it's helped us to ensure the impact of things in a way that we hadn't thought of' (research interview quote) (IMP5).

There has been a cultural shift as a result of our research. It has influenced government thinking, inhibiting the policy of `raising aspirations'. This was a key aim of many extended schools; but the research found no evidence of its utility, instead showing that a better focus was sustaining aspiration. The finding has been communicated through invitations to speak at well-attended practitioner, manager and policy-maker conferences (2011-13) organised by the DfE, various English councils and the Bevan Foundation (Wales). JRF representatives took the research to the UK Cabinet Office where it has influenced thinking about pupil premiums, and Todd was invited to discuss the research with the Minister for Education in Wales. In February 2013, Michael Gove referenced a statistic which was based in part on our review, in a speech to the Social Market Foundation (IMP6). Practices of professionals have changed as workers in city councils (i.e. Newcastle, North Tyneside, Northumberland and Oxford) recognise the need to change their language. For example, `Children North East' consulted us on the changed wording of their mission statement to remove the words `raising aspirations' (IMP7): `We now see our charitable purpose to create opportunities for children and young people to realise their aspirations' (Chief Executive, Children North East) (IMP7). `Many Local Authorities in the NE are currently reviewing their child poverty documents and we expect that language surrounding aspirations (in many North East LAs) to be markedly different as a result of the research findings' (Regional Child Poverty Research and Action Plan Co-ordinator). The research is cited as evidence in the Education Endowment Fund toolkit against adopting interventions that focus on raising aspirations.

Internationally our research has informed debate and policy-making. The Cabinet Leader of the borough of Amsterdam West, refers to decision-making that increased the out of school hours opportunities for disadvantaged young people, and asserts: `To me a policy maker from West Amsterdam, (Todd's) research offers great opportunities for discussion between policy makers from the local government and the school board representatives, because of its `hands-on' character' (IMP8). An NGO in Vietnam attributes its current success partly to our research, according to its director: `We are now leading in renovation of the mental health care system in on social work...related to women and children...Contribution on this change, certainly has come from your work and our collaboration' (IMP9). Our research is extensively quoted by the Foundation for Young Australians in their literature review for National Collaboration Project: Extended Service School Model (IMP10). Our outputs have influenced teachers in other locations nationally (Glasgow and Belfast) and internationally (Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand).

Sources to corroborate the impact

(IMP1) Testimonial statement: senior research officer DfE, July 2013.

(IMP2) Northern Ireland Assembly briefing paper 03/11, November 2010, accessed from

(IMP3) `Hotspur Primary School. Review and development of extended services provision' by Alison Priestley and Malcolm Stone, 2012. And Hotspur Proposal for extended school provision.

(IMP4) Scanned example edition of professional journal `Extended Schools Update'.

(IMP5) Research Interview data: Deputy Head, at a primary school in Manchester, 2013.

(IMP6) Testimonial email: JRF Programme Manager, 2 Sept 2013.

(IMP7) Testimonial letter: Chief Executive at Children North East, 11 July 2013 & Blog Children North East 20 Sept 2012

(IMP8) Testimonial letter: Cabinet Leader of the Borough of Amsterdam W.Netherlands, 16.7.12.

(IMP9) Testimonial email from Director Research and Training Center for Community Development (RTCCD), Hanoi, Vietnam, 20 July 2013.

(IMP10) Foundation for Young Australians. Literature review for `National Collaboration Project: Extended Service School Model', dated 2010, Accessed from: