Report Overview

To provide the background context to many of the issues being discussed at the Best in Class 2018 summit, the Sutton Trust commissioned surveys of teachers and school leaders in England and the United States. Our three areas of focus were: attitudes to evidence and ‘what works’ in school decision-making, how targeted money for less well-off pupils is spent, and perceptions of charter schools and academy trusts amongst teachers.

1,246 state school teachers across England were polled by the National Foundation for Education Research using their Teacher Voice survey. 501 teachers in US public schools were polled by YouGov. Fieldwork was conducted during March 2018.

The Trust has been monitoring use of the Sutton Trust/EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit since 2012, with use in schools up to almost two thirds of senior school leaders and one in four classroom teachers:

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
School Leaders 39% 43% 45% 38% 51% 51% 59%
Teachers 4% 8% 10% 8% 15% 17% 23%



Over a third of school leaders in England use pupil premium funding to plug gaps in their budget.


Nearly half of teachers use research evidence for decision making.


Nearly a third of teachers say early interventions are a priority for spending their pupil premium.

Key Findings


  • Use of evidence to inform school decision making has been rising in England since 2012. 68% of school leaders and 45% of teachers cite the use of research evidence. 59% of senior leaders and 23% of teachers use the Sutton Trust/EEF Toolkit to inform evidence-based teaching methods, with awareness among teachers increasing more than fivefold since 2012.
  • Early interventions are the highest priority for spending funding targeted at disadvantaged students (the ‘pupil premium’), with 31% of teachers in England citing it as the priority.
  • 34% of school leaders in England say pupil premium funding is being used to plug gaps in their budget, up from 30% in 2017. Staff cuts are also on the increase because of tightening budgets.
  • 30% of academy leaders in England feel that academy autonomy has no effect in the classroom, with 18% saying it has a negative effect. Of the teachers who believed it had a positive influence, the gains cited most were freedom over the curriculum (59%), allocation of resources (57%), along with increased collaboration across schools (45%).

United States

  • Use of evidence among US teachers polled was high, with 55% of teachers citing research as a factor in school decision making. More than half (57%) said they rely on past experience of what works, followed by learning from what works in other schools (55%).
  • Early interventions were the highest priority for funding targeted at low income students (22%), along with one-to-one tuition (12%) and hiring additional teachers or assistants (14%).
  • 25% of US teachers polled felt that charter schools have a positive effect on the day to day life of teachers in the classroom. Of those who thought so, most cited freedom to decide programmes and approaches to learning (80%), along with freedom from local bureaucracy (52%).