The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


Leave a comment

PIRLS 2016 results and the importance of teaching

By Juliet Sizmur

24 November 2010 marked a significant day for education.  As some four and five year olds were settling into their first term of school, it was also the day that former Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, unveiled his plans to overhaul education in England, publishing a new white paper, The Importance of TeachingContinue reading


Leave a comment

What will the PIRLS results tell us about reading in England and Northern Ireland?

By Juliet Sizmur

Next Tuesday (5 December), sees the release of the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results. Continue reading


Leave a comment

The Industrial Strategy: Will the Government put its money where its mouth is?

By Claudia Sumner

The problem of low productivity in Britain is at the heart of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, and after the woeful predictions about the economy in last week’s budget, the Government is hoping to change the narrative and regain the initiative. NFER agree with the Government that ‘investment in education is vital to address challenges facing the economy.’ Continue reading


Leave a comment

Are secondary free schools really achieving what they’re supposed to?

By Chloe Rush

This opinion piece first appeared in TES on Tuesday 14 November 2017. 

A key part of the 2010 Coalition Government’s education strategy, free schools were introduced to create a more autonomous and self-improving school system by driving up standards through greater school choice and increased local competition. However, free schools have attracted a lot of controversy since their inception, with some commentators claiming they are expensive and wasteful, and set up in places where there is surplus capacity, while supporters say they are located in areas of need and provide a better quality of education than local authority schools. Who is right? We explore some of these issues here and ask why so much of the new provision has happened in London. Continue reading


Leave a comment

International school spending – how does the UK compare?

By Maire Williams

Over the last six months, school funding has been an almost constant feature in policy debate, from the proposed introduction of a National Funding Formula to the longer running cuts and freezes schools are facing to their budgets. However, far less has been said on how the UK compares internationally. While there are obviously some ‘health warnings’ around comparing international data, including recognising that different countries may be pursuing different priorities, international comparisons can still give us insight into how outcomes vary (or don’t vary) with expenditure.  Continue reading


Leave a comment

Are teacher pay reforms having an impact on schools?

By Matt Walker

Growth in pupil numbers as well as the increased costs associated with pensions, national insurance and inflation are putting pressure on school budgets in England. At the same time, school workforce and teacher retention are high on the education policy agenda. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Apprenticeships In England – are they working?

By Zoe des Clayes

Currently the United Kingdom’s (UK) gross domestic product per hour worked is at least 20 per cent behind that of the USA, France and Germany, according to official figures from the Office of National Statistics. The green paper, Building our Industrial Strategy (January 2017) argues that the productivity gap between the UK and these other countries could be partially closed by developing the technical and higher level vocational skills of the UK workforce. This green paper argues that high-quality apprenticeships are a core way to improve these skills across the UK. The strategy also highlights that improving these skills is especially important because of the increasing mechanisation of low skill jobs and the UK’s departure from the European Union.  Continue reading


Leave a comment

Party conferences: policy aspiration, inspiration and ideation

By Karen Wespieser and Claudia Sumner

Party conferences are, by their nature, all about policy aspiration, inspiration and ideation. For the party currently in government, it is also a time for reflection and celebration. But whichever ‘tion’ is in the spotlight, research evidence can play a useful role. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Phonics results – Now that’s good news for young readers

By Jane Nicholas

In the first year of the annual phonics screening check (PSC) in 2012, less than three-fifths of pupils achieved the expected standard. There was also a large variation in outcomes between different areas of the country. However, the latest PSC for primary pupils in England, published yesterday by the Department for Education (DfE), shows that many more pupils are now achieving the expected standard in 2017 and the wide variation previously seen has largely disappeared. This is good news, as the teaching of phonics is considered by the Department of Education to be the best practice to provide a secure foundation for the teaching of reading. Continue reading