The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


Leave a comment

Spotlight on multi-academy trusts: A glimpse into performance

By Jens Van den Brande

In recent weeks, NFER has shone a spotlight on multi-academy trusts (MATs) through our blog series examining what we know about the position of MATs in the education landscape. This time last week, NFER’s Karen Wespieser highlighted that despite the Department for Education (DfE) releasing their latest statistics on MAT performance measures on 25 January, we are still yet to know how MATs are performing in terms of improving pupil outcomes.  In this final blog in the series, we delve further into this issue.  Continue reading


Leave a comment

Spotlight on multi-academy trusts: what is happening to performance?

By Karen Wespieser 

Over the course of the past week, we have been sharing what the research tells us so far about Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs). We started by looking at pupil outcomes, and then moved on to teachers and schools. Today though, is a big day in terms of moving forward the evidence base on MATs’ performance. At 0930 hours this morning, the Department for Education (DfE) released ‘Multi-academy trust performance measures: 2016 to 2017’, the department’s own statistics on the performance of state-funded schools in multi-academy trusts in England. So what does this add to our story?  Continue reading


Leave a comment

Spotlight on multi-academy trusts: Teachers and schools

By Karen Wespieser

Last week, in the first part of our blog series on multi-academy trusts (MATs), we looked at what pupil performance data could tell us about MATs and found rather inconclusive evidence. In this blog post, we will look at three areas where there is a growing evidence base about MATs; teacher career paths, collaboration and financial efficiencies. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Spotlight on multi-academy trusts: Pupil outcomes

By Karen Wespieser

Just before Christmas, I was invited to present at a conference on establishing or joining multi-academy trusts (MATs). My role in the event was to share what the research tells us so far about MATs and I was given two questions to answer:

  • What does the research say about the success of the MAT movement?
  • Has enough research been conducted to present tangible arguments about the benefits of MATs?

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Income and expenditure in academies: new data raises more questions than answers

By Claire Easton

The latest Department for Education (DfE) statistics on income and expenditure in academies in England for 2015/16 were released last week. Press coverage focused on the extent to which academies’ expenditure exceeds their income. This shows that the total excess expenditure for all academies has risen from one per cent of total income in 2014/15 to 1.5 per cent in 2015/16 equating to an overspend of £280m in 2015/16. The DfE states that these figures do not necessarily mean that individual academies are in debt as they could be drawing on their reserves. It is not possible to tell from this Statistical First Release (SFR), which, overall, we think raises more questions than it answers. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Education White Paper – the devil will be in the detail

By Karen Wespieser

Last week the Department for Education (DfE) published their first White Paper in more than five years. Commentators have highlighted how it outlines plans for the most radical reshaping of education governance since the 1902 Education Act. It covers the big themes of how our education system is arranged, funded, governed and supplied with good quality teachers and leaders. However, it is not designed to set out the details of how these reforms will be implemented. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Is change in the air for RSCs?

By Ben Durbin

Despite Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw urging that debate should move away from school structures, the first report from the House of Commons Education Select Committee since the general election focused on one of the key structural developments of recent times. The report examines the role of Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs), which were established in September 2014 to oversee the growing number of academies across eight regions, and which were subsequently given increasing responsibilities and powers to address underperformance across the school system in England.

One of the recommendations of the Committee’s report is a re-definition of the RSC regions – but what impact will this have on schools and the RSCs? I’ve crunched the numbers to find out. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Don’t forget the ‘parent’ in transparent when it comes to the role of Regional Schools Commissioners

By Karen Wespieser

Today the Education Select Committee published their report on The role of Regional Schools Commissioners.

NFER provided evidence to the inquiry – both written and oral – based on our Guide to Regional Schools Commissioners. Our Guide explained the background and role of the RSCs, and presented an analysis of characteristics and challenges for each region, including the number of ‘coasting’ schools that the RSCs will need to tackle if the Education and Adoption Bill becomes law. Continue reading


Leave a comment

How can we best support coasting schools?

By Matt Walker

The waiting is finally over, and the government has now set out their definition of what constitutes a ‘coasting school’.  In my earlier post I explored some of the potential issues around the criteria chosen, and many others have commented too (see for example education datalab’s ‘Choose your own coasting secondary school’ tool).  While discussion of the definition will inevitably continue, it’s also important to consider the government’s proposed remedy. Continue reading


Leave a comment

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