Extra mile (EM) investigated what is believed to be a cultural barrier of low aspirations and scepticism about education, that prevents some disadvantaged pupils from succeeding at school. EM focused on how schools might close the attainment gap which commonly divides pupils entitled to free school meals (FSM) from their peers.
Its aim was to reduce within-school variations and spread good practice between schools and so help to raise the aspirations and attainment of disadvantaged pupils. In 2007, school standards advisers from the Department for Education visited 50 secondary schools which were identified as bucking the trend by achieving high results despite having an intake from some of the most disadvantaged wards in England.
In 2008, a similar investigation was conducted in 45 primary schools. The advisers identified 12 common activities for secondary schools and seven common activities for primary schools which appeared to be particularly successful in raising aspirations and attainment. These were developed into guidance documents for primary and secondary schools, with the aim of seeing if other schools, with similar intakes, could adopt some of these activities with the same success.