The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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Schools that work for everyone: Tackling disadvantage

By Joana Andrade

Tackling education underperformance among disadvantaged young people is a stated aim of the current UK government. But achieving this requires an understanding of what disadvantage is and a way of identifying precisely where it’s found. These are the two topics I’ve covered in my previous posts in this series, timed to coincide with the end of the government’s ‘Schools that work for everyone’ consultation last month, and new NFER research on the impact of disadvantage on maths achievement. Continue reading


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Are secondary schools making enough progress in closing the attainment gap?

By Caroline Sharp

I read the latest DfE Statistical First Release on 2016 GCSE results with great interest. Although most of the press coverage focused on the league tables of schools and the relative performance of grammar, academies and local authority schools, I was drawn to the section on the attainment gap in state-funded schools. This was a case of good news/bad news. Good news: the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and others reduced slightly in 2016, as it has in four of the last five years. Bad news: progress is slow and the position of disadvantaged pupils in 2016 is almost the same as in 2013. In fact, the gap would have been the same as last year if you exclude the recent addition of results from students in FE colleges. Continue reading


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Schools that work for everyone: Measuring disadvantage

By Joana Andrade

The UK government has recently been consulting on new proposals for ensuring good school places and opportunity for all young people in England, regardless of disadvantage (the consultation closed earlier this week). In my previous post I argued that any such policy should be based on a broad concept of disadvantage, taking account of economic, social and cultural capitals. Continue reading


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Boarding schools can provide a springboard for disadvantaged pupils

By Suzanne Straw

The benefits for the less than one per cent of pupils in England who have the privilege to attend fee paying boarding schools are widely acknowledged. However, what are the impacts of offering fully funded boarding school places to disadvantaged pupils? This is a subject less well researched over recent years and is the focus of an evaluation of The SpringBoard Bursary Foundation (‘SpringBoard’) being undertaken by NFER between 2013 and 2018. The second year evaluation report can be found here.

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How getting their heads together could help schools raise standards

“Competition is not the way to raise standards – collaboration is.”

Vic Goddard, Principal of Passmores Academy in Essex, spoke for many with these words aired during last night’s discussion on Newsnight of Ofsted’s Unseen Children report – if the extent to which the sector has embraced new models of working is anything to go by. Indeed, Sir Michael Wilshaw himself has highlighted that he intends to use Ofsted’s new regional structure to ‘work with local areas to support them and help them link up with best practice’, implying a greater emphasis on collaboration. Continue reading


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How do we help ‘unseen’ children access achievement?

By Guest Bloggers Julie Nelson and Richard White

Today, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills issued a report: Unseen Children: access and achievement 20 years on. The report contains some positive messages, showing that the achievement of some of our nation’s most disadvantaged children is on the rise. Continue reading