The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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Putting evidence at the heart of policymaking

By Carole Willis

This blog post first appeared on the CaSE guest blog.

In election debates over the next few weeks, politicians of different hues will be making very different claims about what the evidence says is best for the country (if they draw on the evidence at all).

Finding ways to ensure that evidence is given sufficient weight and fully embedded in policymaking and political discourse is crucial. This may seem like an obvious point, but continues to be a challenge, as this new report from CaSE highlights.

Continue reading


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Who’s interested in education?

By Karen Wespieser

One of the challenges of working in the education sector, is everyone has an opinion because everyone has been to school. Whilst this can be unhelpful in some contexts, it should be a real strength during a general election campaign. Yet, for nearly 20 years, education has not been a priority issue for politicians or the electorate. In 1997, nearly half the population thought that education was the most important issue facing Britain. Since 2007, this figure has been less than a quarter. Continue reading


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All singing from the same hymn sheet: a new approach to assessment

By Claire Hodgson

At NFER we have long been involved in assessment and have worked closely with schools to help provide assessments and other products and services that support effective teaching and learning. We were aware that the abolition of reportable national curriculum levels created a dilemma for schools – on the one hand it gave them greater autonomy in the way they plan and assess learning; on the other, it created uncertainty about what this new way of assessing should look like. NFER was not alone in recognising this dilemma and, in partnership with ASCL (The Association of School and College Leaders) and SSAT (The schools, students and teachers network), decided to develop a free-to-use resource to support schools in developing their own approach to assessment. Continue reading


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Retaining teachers in Wales – what do we know?

By Jack Worth and Jennifer Garry

As we have previously reported, government statistics show that retaining working age teachers in England appears to have been getting more difficult, while our latest survey data suggests this trend may now be reversing. Last month the Education Select Committee published a report on teacher recruitment and retention in England, urging the Government to “place greater emphasis on retaining teachers and not just focus on the necessary task of recruiting new teachers”. But what do we know about teachers in Wales? Continue reading


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Life as an NFER apprentice

By Harminder Hundal

In 2015/16, 509, 400 people started apprenticeships in England and I was one of them! In May 2016 I began my journey as an apprentice with NFER, and looking back it was the best step I could have taken for my career.

To embark on my journey as an apprentice I abandoned my degree in Diagnostic Radiography. I was advised by close family and friends that I was academically capable and by leaving my degree unfinished I would be jeopardising my career. According to this study, only one-quarter of parents judge vocational education to be worthwhile.

When I joined NFER I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career. Several roles were explained to me and I was fortunate enough to have a choice to work in whichever departments I was most interested in. So far, I have experienced three different job roles, each for three months. Each role has taught me invaluable skills; as a HR administrator I enhanced my basic office skills, as a project-coordinator, I learnt adaptability and working in finance has helped me believe in myself. Personally I consider self-confidence as priceless, once gained obviously!

Working as an apprentice has enhanced my organisation and time management skills, through working and studying at the same time. I have had to adapt and transfer my skill set for use in different areas of the business. During my journey I have also had to learn to work well under pressure, working between two departments.

I have had a real insight into this world of work; I have experienced different roles and learnt what careers they lead to. I work alongside people who support my journey, talk about theirs and give me every opportunity to learn every day. I have been given positive direction. It is vital that we as a society acknowledge the value of apprenticeships.

NFER’s aim is for all young people to make a successful transition from education to employment. As a part of this aim they are interested in changing attitudes towards vocational education, and they are putting their money where their mouth is! They seem truly interested in creating the most beneficial stepping stones for a young person’s career – in my career. As I come to the end of my journey with NFER I have found my lost love for numbers and I am hoping to begin my career in Finance in the next couple of months.

 

 


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Could teacher retention be improving?

By Karen Wespieser and Zoe Des Clayes

The latest report by the Education Select Committee about the recruitment and retention of teachers argues that the Government should place greater emphasis on improving teacher retention. The committee explains that, based on the evidence they received, not only is retention  a more cost-effective way to tackle the issue of teacher shortages, but more teachers staying in the profession for longer would strengthen the pool of applicants for leadership positions.

NFER agrees with the Education Select Committee that teacher retention is a priority, and over the past 18 months we have analysed and reported on trends in teacher retention. Our latest evidence suggests that teachers’ intentions are a little more positive than a year ago, particularly in the primary sector, although there continue to be serious challenges for the future.

Over the past five school terms, we have used the NFER Teacher Voice survey to ask a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 teachers whether or not they are considering leaving teaching within the next academic year. We have shared the results of earlier surveys in our Should I stay or should I go? and Engaging teachers reports. The first reports teachers’ intentions to leave teaching at one time point; the second looks at teachers’ intention to leave across four school terms.

This blog considers new data from our fifth and most recent Teacher Voice survey. We compare teachers’ intentions to leave across five time points, allowing us to identify any emerging trends. We’ll follow up and extend this analysis when we have more new data from the next two terms.

November 2016 Teacher Voice findings

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The findings from the Autumn 2016 survey tentatively suggest the proportion of teachers intending to leave teaching is falling. Overall, 20 per cent of our Autumn 2016 sample said they were considering leaving teaching within the next year, a significant reduction (5 percentage points) from the 25 per cent of respondents stating their intention to leave the previous autumn.

It is early days, but the latest survey results could be a sign that fewer teachers are now considering leaving the profession. NFER will be monitoring whether or not these figures do indicate the start of a trend that continues throughout the 2016-17 academic year or if this reduction is a one-off.

It will also be important to monitor what proportion of teachers actually leave the profession, since actions can be quite different to stated intentions. However, data on what proportion of teachers in autumn 2016 are retained won’t be available until the 2017 School Workforce Census data is published in Summer 2018.

Analysis by phase

To find out if the reduction in teachers stating their intention to leave between Autumn 2015 and 2016 was in all schools or in certain phases we did some further analysis.

fig2

The analysis of our survey data shows that a lower proportion of teachers in both phases, were considering leaving in Autumn 2016 compared with Autumn 2015.

The reduction at primary level was statistically significant, with 22 per cent of teachers surveyed stating their intention to leave in Autumn 2015 compared to 16 per cent in Autumn 2016. However, the proportion of secondary teachers considering leaving is about the same as it was this time last year: 25 per cent in November 2016 compared to 28 per cent in November 2015. The difference between these two time points was not statistically significant.

While the latest results appear encouraging for primary schools, they are concerning for secondary schools which face a faster rise in pupil numbers over the next decade. NFER will be following the trends in both phases in the coming terms.

More data needed

More data is needed to see if this reduction in teachers’ expressed intention to leave is part of a longer-term trend or a one-off. More time points are needed in order to judge whether or not teachers’ intention to leave is affected by the time of year in which the survey is administered.

In March 2017 we should have two whole years’ worth of data and therefore a greater opportunity to explore if there are any seasonal trends. We’ll also have a clearer picture of whether or not the reduction in autumn 2016 continues further into the 2016-17 academic year.

NFER have also recently begun a new piece of research on the teacher workforce, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, which will analyse teacher retention in even greater detail. We will be sharing more about this new project in the next few days.

Watch this space for updates.


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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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The use of R&D in schools inches forward

By Claudia Sumner

2017 began with the announcement that the new Chartered College of Teaching (CCoT) is to provide all members with access to published research.  This is welcome news.  A newly published NFER report, ‘Insights into the Role of Research and Development in Teaching Schools’ has found that accessing research evidence (which is often behind the paywall of an academic publisher) is one of the hurdles facing schools wishing to become research-engaged. But the challenge of making teaching an evidence-based profession is one that policy makers and educators have been grappling with for a number of years and, while the CCoT has made a welcome first step, barriers go far beyond the ability to click on a journal article. Continue reading