September 22, 2022

Implementing the EEF’s Five-a-day-approach: School Planning Guide for Primary Schools

This blog will present a summary of the content and recommendations of EEF’s publication with specific reference to its implications for primary schools.

Implementing the EEF’s Five-a-day-approach and School Planning Guide for Primary – Part 1 of 3

This document was produced by EEF in May 2022. This blog will present a summary of the content and recommendations of this publication with specific reference to its implications for primary schools. 

The impact of Covid-19 on Learning

The impact of Covid-19 on learning clearly sets the context for the challenges that schools face in the Autumn Term of 2022. High-quality teaching every day for every pupil will make a difference. 

This document aims to support leaders to plan for the ongoing recovery of all pupils, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, whose learning has been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19.

The EEF’s guide focuses on:

  • High-quality teaching

    The evidence tells us that high-quality teaching is the most important factor when it comes to improving attainment outcomes, particularly for disadvantaged pupils. Schools should focus on improving teaching over a sustained period to drive meaningful change in their setting. School plans to maximise teaching quality may include: the ‘five-a-day’ approach; improving literacy and mathematics outcomes; securing effective professional development; using formative assessment to pin-point gaps in learning.

  • Using diagnostic assessment to identify learning gaps

    For pupils in need of additional support, research suggests that providing targeted academic support finely tuned to the needs of individual pupils offers potential benefits. School planning should therefore be focused on planning high-quality interventions to compliment high-quality classroom teaching.

  • Wider strategies

    Wider strategies address non-academic barriers to success at schools that have a significant impact on attainment. Strategies that are likely to support learning include: improving attendance; improving behaviour and re-establishing routines, relationships and expectations. 

In this first of three blog posts will focus on strategies to support high quality teaching.

Strategies to support high quality teaching

Much school planning for the academic year will rightly focus on ensuring high quality teaching every day, for every pupil. Recent research suggests some ‘best bets’ to sustain high quality teaching.

The best bets include:

What is the 5-a- day approach?

The suggestion is that there are certain elements that can be incorporated into daily practice to enhance its quality. If done well, these five elements will have a positive impact for all pupils, including those with SEND.

  1. Explicit instruction: Clear explanations, modelling and frequent checks for understanding. This is then followed by guided practice, before independent practice.
  2. Cognitive and metacognitive strategies: Managing cognitive load is crucial if new learning is to be transferred into the long-term memory. This also includes opportunities for pupils to monitor and evaluate their own learning.

  3. Scaffolding: The use of a supportive tool or resource (a writing frame, partially completed example) can be an effective scaffold. Aim to gradually reduce the scaffold over the course of a week, half term. 

  4. Flexible grouping: Allocate groups temporarily based on the current level of attainment. This could be a group that receives additional spelling instruction based on current needs before joining the rest of the class. 

  5. Using technology: Technology can be used effectively by teachers to model worked examples, or by pupils to help them to learn. 

The guide goes onto suggest that the five-a-day approach might be especially helpful in addressing lingering knowledge gaps or long-standing misconceptions. 

What does the term ‘explicit instruction’ mean?

One popular approach to explicit instruction is Rosenshine. Explicit instruction is not lecturing pupils or teaching by telling (transmission teaching). It usually begins with detailed teacher explanations, followed by extensive practice of routine exercises and later moves onto independent work. Explicit instruction includes teaching knowledge or concepts in small steps, using examples or non-examples, using clear language, anticipating and planning for common misconceptions and highlighting essential content and removing extraneous information.

Cognitive and metacognitive strategies

Cognition is the mental process of knowing, understanding and learning. Cognitive strategies are skills like memorisation or subject-specific strategies, like methods to solve problems in maths. Cognitive strategies are fundamental to learning and are the bread and butter of effective teaching. Metacognition refers to the way in which learners monitor and direct their learning. Metacognitive strategies are strategies we use to monitor and control our own cognition, for example: checking that we have chosen the correct approach to solve a mathematical problem or deciding which cognitive strategy is the best fit for a task. In order to facilitate this in a classroom, teachers need to develop their pupils’ metacognitive skills by modelling their own metacognitive processes; this will include how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning. Teachers can also set an appropriate level of challenge to develop pupils’ self-regulation, promote and develop metacognitive talk in the classroom and explicitly teach pupils how to organise and manage their independent learning. Graphic organisers are a cognitive strategy that has been extensively researched with pupils with SEND. Graphic organisers are used to organise knowledge, concepts and ideas. They are effective tools for supporting learning. 


Scaffolding is a form of temporary support; it is removed when it is no longer required. Initially, a teacher will provide scaffolding for tasks that pupils are not able to do independently. This requires effective assessment to gain a precise understanding of the pupil’s current capabilities. Support could be visual, verbal or written. The teacher will gradually remove the scaffold as the pupil becomes able to complete the task independently. If the teacher is supporting a pupil with SEND, that scaffold may be in place for longer to promote competence and confidence that can be sustained once the scaffold is removed. 

Flexible grouping

Recent research on pupils with an EHCP plan, found that these pupils are often grouped together with other pupils with SEND and are segregated from the rest of their peers. This situation equates to a form of streaming, where pupils are grouped together based on an overview of their attainment, regardless of their individual strengths and weaknesses. An alternative approach might be to allocate pupils to groups flexibly, based on the individual needs that they are currently sharing with other pupils. Such groups can be formed for an explicit purpose and disbanded when that purpose is met. Allocating pupils to temporary groups can also allow teachers to set up opportunities for collaborative learning. 

Using technology

Technology can be a useful tool for supporting teaching. Successful approaches could include instructional apps that provide modelling or instructional opportunities. There are also non-instructional apps that can be used to aid learning, such as note-taking apps and speech-generating apps to support pupils who may have communication difficulties. 

The five-a-day approach can be particularly helpful in closing knowledge gaps and correcting misconceptions.

Steps to success:

  1. Explicit instruction is used to ensure that pupils have a secure understanding of previously learned content upon which to then build new knowledge.

  2. Flexible groups temporarily bring together pupils with a specific knowledge or skill gap to receive additional support.

  3. Scaffolding homework tasks can support pupils who may be struggling to learn independently at home

The guide presents two questions for school leaders to consider:

  1. Are teachers and leaders using the five-a-day approach to promote good teaching for all pupils, including those with SEND?

  2. What are the necessary ‘five-a-day’ teaching approaches that would best support pupils in your school context?

Part 2 coming soon…

Photo of Emma Adcock – VNET EDUCATION CIC
Emma Adcock

Principal Consultant
September 2022

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