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Thinking Skills evidence

Impact of Thinking Schools

Thinking Schools that we have worked with show outstanding outcomes. Pupil progress is 10 months higher than at equivalent schools and grade attainment is subsequently better. At Thinking Schools disadvantaged learners perform above national averages and inspectorate judgements improve. Pupil attendance, teacher engagement, retention and recruitment can also be shown to benefit.

Academic Progress and Attainment

Recent research by the University of Exeter on the attainment and progress in Thinking Schools has shown the following:

  • Students from accredited secondary Thinking Schools in the UK show the equivalent of a GCSE grade increase against those starting at the same point at non Thinking Schools.

  • Students from accredited primary Thinking Schools in the UK show the equivalent to a grade’s worth of progress in their SATs tests against expectations of those starting at the same point at non Thinking Schools.

  • The Progress 8 results of accredited secondary Thinking Schools showed almost 10 months of additional gain. This is a higher impact than any other intervention strategy in the Education Endowment Fund "toolkit"and also at a lower cost per pupil.


  • The achievement gap between ‘disadvantaged’ pupils at accredited thinking schools and national ‘non-disadvantaged’ pupils is not only narrowing but actually resulting in ‘disadvantaged’ pupils exceeding the achievement of ‘non-disadvantaged’ pupils.

    See the Abstract and full Evaluation Report

Government Inspection Benefits

  • On becoming accredited - over half of secondary Thinking Schools schools moved up an OFSTED (English schools inspectorate) rating.

  • On average, an English school with a Progress 8 score of zero (the UK national average) would move up to a score of 1 if they showed the same progress as an accredited Thinking School. This would put them firmly in OFSTED’s outstanding’ category for student outcomes. See OFSTED Comments.

The following animation illustrates the impact of being a Thinking School on progress and attainment.

Wider Benefits for Leaders, Teachers and Pupils

  • Energises staff by creating a focal point and common purpose.

  • Improves staff engagement and retention.

  • Offers school a point of differentiation for marketing and recruitment of staff and pupils.

  • Future proofs learners by developing their skills as independent, reflective learners.

  • Greater learner motivation resulting in improved attendance.

  • Improved pupil attitudes, behaviours and coping strategies.

  • Prepares students with the communication and thought processes required for senior school, university and job interviews.

Report on the Evaluation of the Impact of the Thinking School 2012

A report carried out by Thinking Schools International and the University of Exeter evaluates the impact of the Thinking School Approach.

Since 2005, fifty five schools in the UK have gained ‘Thinking School’ accreditation from the University of Exeter by adopting a whole school approach to the teaching of thinking, embedding thinking in the heart of the school and its curriculum. A further hundred plus schools in the UK have joined the Thinking Schools network, often facilitated and trained by consultants from Thinking Schools International. In most cases, the journey to accreditation has taken at least three years to achieve. In September 2012, the University of Exeter and Thinking Schools International jointly funded a survey to evaluate the impact of the ‘Thinking School’ approach, as adopted by these ‘Thinking Schools’. This is a preliminary survey, identifying areas for further research and evaluation. Read full report here

A Summary Report of the Regio Comenius funded 'Developing a Thinking School'

Developing a Thinking School: Norway to Northern Ireland’ Project and the NEELB Creating a Thinking School Pilot Project

A two-year Regio Comenius project, led by the North Eastern Education and Library Board’s Curriculum Advisory and Support Service (NEELB) and Oslo Education Authority (UDE), focused on shared exploration of the concept of a Thinking School. The project involved Kestrel Consultancy (previously the UK arm of TSI/Thinking Matters) and University of Oslo, as external partners, and also included participation by staff of six Northern Irish primary schools and four Norwegian schools. The project was completed at the end of 2012 and final report for the project was submitted in June 2013.

Read full report here

The following documentary film was produced to reflect the overall outcomes of the project http://www.neelb.tv/world-projects/creating-a-thinking-school/