More common in medicine than education, the trials are being used by the Department for Education (DfE) on the advice of Dr Ben Goldacre, the author of Bad Science.
A report for the DfE by Dr Goldacre earlier this year looked at the role of evidence in education and recommended its use in everyday approaches and professional practice.
The trial will see 480 schools shown how their pupils’ maths and science exam results fit against those of schools with similar intakes.
The idea is that participating heads and teachers will be able to compare and collaborate.
The project is to be led by the Institute of Education and funded through the DfE’s research centre, the Centre for Understanding Behavioural Change.
Meanwhile, a second trial is to focus on the Safeguarding Assessment and Analysis Framework (SAAF) child protection assessment tool. SAAF will be randomly assigned to social workers in trial areas with their child protection results being compared with those using alternative existing approaches.
The findings from both projects are expected in 2015.
Education secretary Michael Gove said: “We need more hard evidence in the education debate. We also need to develop a better understanding of what counts as effective social work. Randomised controlled trials offer us the opportunity to establish which policies genuinely help children.”
Dr Goldacre added: “Randomised controlled trials are often the best way to find out which interventions work best. They are used extensively in other countries, and in other fields, so it’s great to see the UK moving forward. We need a slow revolution that puts evidence at the heart of teaching, identifying and answering questions that matter to parents, teachers, and children.”