13 December 2019

Revised EEF evaluation

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Written by Magic Breakfast Team

Home > What we do > News and views > Revised EEF evaluation

Magic breakfast statement re EEF revised evaluation report

We have been informed by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) that it has been found necessary to revise and reclassify the evaluation that they published in 2016 regarding an independent study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) into the impact on attainment that eating breakfast at school has on primary age children.

The original evaluation, funded by the EEF, was set up as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) involving 106 English primary schools supported by Magic Breakfast. The evaluation found that offering schools support to establish a free, universal breakfast provision boosted attainment in reading, writing and maths at Key Stage 1 (Year 2) by two additional months’ progress over one year, compared with a control group whose schools were not given support to offer breakfast. The evaluators reported that the pupils’ behaviour and attendance improved too. The impact on educational attainment reported for Year 6 pupils over a year was slightly smaller, but close to KS1 in terms of additional progress made in English and maths, the evaluators found.

Unfortunately, due to human error by the IFS in how schools were assigned to the ‘treatment’ and ‘control’ groups, the study can no longer be classified as a Randomised Controlled Trial, as it was not random. Specifically, inner city schools, especially London schools, were more likely to be part of the treatment group. The revised evaluation therefore reclassifies the study as a Control Group Study.

How does this affect the results?

The results, when re-evaluated as a Control Group Study, come to the same conclusion for Key Stage 1 children, which is good news – so it is still true that KS1 (Year 2) children in schools supported by Magic Breakfast can boost attainment in key subjects by, on average, two months’ additional progress over the course of one year. The IFS carried out robustness checks and are confident in the robustness of the KS1 outcome.

However, following the reanalysis, the impact on KS2 outcomes reduced and there no longer appears to have been any significant impact for Year 6 children during the year the evaluation was carried out. The certainty that the evaluators can have in these results has also reduced.

Despite the error, the EEF says that this study is the largest and most robust evaluation of school breakfast provision in the UK and the findings remain important. The EEF advises that schools considering implementing breakfast clubs should also consider the multiple positive impacts of the approach, including improved pupil behaviour and improved attendance.

We are pleased to note that the part of the evaluation reporting on the positive impact of Magic Breakfast provision on pupils’ behaviour and attendance remains unaffected by the revised classification process. We know too, from our own annual Measuring and Monitoring surveys of our partner schools, that staff report improved concentration in class, energy levels, readiness to learn, general behaviour, healthy eating habits, emotional wellbeing, physical health and wellbeing, attendance and attainment in pupils who receive Magic Breakfast provision.

Magic Breakfast is disappointed that the coding error was not picked up during the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ original evaluation process, however we welcome the news that, following the revised evaluation, evidence of a significant boost to educational attainment for KS1 children in schools supported by Magic Breakfast remains.

You can read the EEF statement: re-publication of the evaluation of school breakfast clubs HERE

You can read the IFS statement: Magic Breakfast – revised evaluation report HERE

Note: The Education Endowment Foundation operates their own padlock rating system for the evaluations they support and, as a result of the revised evaluation, the padlock rating on the school breakfast research has changed to reflect the shift from a randomised controlled trial to control group study. More information on this can be found on the EEF website.

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15 December 2023

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