The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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The primary consideration ‘should’ be the best interests of the young person

By Tami McCrone

As the election debates stagger on I find it interesting that there is so little focus on young people and preparing them for the challenging world of work ahead of them. I accept that I am an education researcher (so have quite an interest in this area) but it seems to me that the future of our country relies heavily on them. When I’m sitting in my rocking chair in years to come I want to be sure that our country’s economy, defence, health service (and education system) are in good hands.

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Um, but what is an academy?

By Karen Wespieser

Over my past three blogs, I have explored new NFER data  on school choice. I have discussed how parents believe they have a genuine choice, how this choice is often influenced by local conditions and how this varies to some extent depending on household income. One thing I haven’t dwelt on though is the impact that one of the biggest education reforms this parliament has had on choice. Namely, academy schools. Continue reading


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Unlocking the bike shed

By Claire Hodgson

Learning to ride a bicycle can be a developmental milestone for some children, offering them a way to gain independence and freedom. There are many appeals of cycling – bicycles “use no fossil energy, deliver important health benefits … and provide an affordable and seamless door-to-door mobility service”[1]. However, cyclists are also vulnerable road users. In the UK, the risk of someone who cycles being killed or seriously injured is reported to be highest for young cyclists aged 10-15 years.
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Local schools for local kids

By Karen Wespieser

It is now 10 years since Alastair Campbell’s now infamous claim that the days of the ‘bog-standard comprehensive’ are over.  Whether or not this is true, I have been discussing this in a series of blogs on school choice (School Choice, a social mobility issue? and I have a choice), how a majority of parents still want to rely on their local school. Continue reading


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Why language skills must be a key feature of any Reception Baseline Assessment

By Diane King

The new Reception Baseline Assessment is essentially an accountability measure but, at NFER, we believe that it can also be a useful tool for teachers to identify children who may benefit from extra support.  In these early years, it is particularly important to ensure that children have good language skills so that they can access the curriculum and make good progress throughout the rest of their school years. Continue reading


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Validity and baseline assessment

By Marian Sainsbury, assessment expert, former Primary teacher, and NFER research associate

Much of the recent controversy about baseline assessment has centred on arguments about its validity. However, this term is widely used and abused with little attention to its real meaning – for example, the phrase ‘statistically invalid’ in a recent letter to the Guardian is literally meaningless. Continue reading


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School Choice, a social mobility issue?

By Karen Wespieser

Yesterday,  I wrote about how, according to new NFER research, a majority of parents feel that they have a genuine choice in choosing a school. I also noted how local factors, such as the ‘school that suits my child’ and the location of the school were some of the most important factors in this choice. However, there is a little more nuance to this second point that needs to be explored… Continue reading


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I have a choice

By Karen Wespieser

Today, parents up and down the country will be anxiously waiting to hear if their son or daughter has been accepted to join their chosen primary school. Next year, I will be joining the nervous masses, but this year I am just gearing up for it. In fact, last weekend, I spent much of my time looking at the websites of local primary schools and discussing with my husband the factors that are important to us in choosing the school that our three-year-old daughter might attend. Whilst admittedly slightly ahead of the curve (well what would you expect from an education researcher and an English teacher), this is a choice that an ever increasing number of families will need to make this autumn.

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The poetry and prose of careers guidance

By Ben Durbin

It is said that you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. While Labour’s education manifesto, launched last week, was hardly poetry, when it came to its commitments on careers guidance the sentiment was certainly right.  However, it was light on detail and raised as many questions as it answered.

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WANTED – MPs with teaching experience for new Select Committee

By Geoff Gee

Education policy is better for having a process of rigorous scrutiny that draws on robust evidence. The Education Select Committee has become a key part of that process. So one outcome of the General Election will be to determine who is available to serve on the Committee, which will be key to how effective it is in the next Parliament.  Continue reading