The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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Choose a not-for-profit research organisation for a lower effect size?

By Ben Styles

As the head of NFER’s Education Trials Unit, I was interested to read Professor Stephen Gorard’s recent book on Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) in education.

It’s an interesting book but there are aspects that I would like to challenge. Take the passage that reads: ‘One of the main problems with [the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF)] lies in finding the capacity among traditional researchers in university departments of education to conduct and even appreciate such work… Instead, the funds have been taken up by the growing sector of not-for-profit organisations… IES (and EEF in the UK) need the capacity that these organisations offer in order to conduct evaluations, and the organisations themselves need the external funding maintained in order to pay the salary of staff employed to do the evaluations. This might make the organisations more likely to provide what they feel the funder wants…’ Continue reading


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Factors affecting maths achievement and pupil absence in Ethiopian schools

By Stephen McNamara

Bad policy is, at best, a waste of resources and, at worst, damaging to those it intends to help. To prevent such situations, we need reliable data to facilitate effective analysis and policy.

One of the best sources of data about educational outcomes in the Global South is the Young Lives study, which is carrying out longitudinal research on childhood poverty in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. Young Lives School surveys, which provide valuable insights on student achievement, school effectiveness, and equity issues, and are an important component of this research. Continue reading