The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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Increasing pupil numbers create challenges for secondary schools

By Suzanne Straw

The Government has today published the latest Department for Education (DfE) national pupil projections. They show that state primary and secondary pupil numbers are expected to continue to grow over the coming years. The number of primary pupils will see a small increase of 1.9 per cent between 2017 and 2021, after which it will plateau. However, secondary schools will see a much larger increase, with the number of full-time equivalent pupils aged up to 15 years projected to increase by 320,000 (+11.4 per cent) by 2021 and to continue to grow until 2025. This significant growth for secondary schools suggests a major challenge ahead and, in this blog post, we look at what this might mean for the sector. Continue reading


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If you want to learn, ask a teacher

By Claudia Sumner and Sigrid Boyd

The third and final part of this blog series on evidence-informed policymaking looks at the importance of stakeholders.

Involving stakeholders in the development of public policy seems a no-brainer. After all, it is stakeholders who will ultimately interpret, implement and experience policy and they are best placed to anticipate any unintended effects or consequences on the ground. Following the general election, David Bell (who ran the Department for Education under both Ed Balls and Michael Gove and is now Vice-Chancellor of Reading University), said that while evidence will always be interpreted through an ideological lens, ‘the best lessons for politicians come from teachers themselves’. Continue reading


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More teachers are joining than leaving the profession, but will it be enough to meet demand?

By Sarah Lynch and Jack Worth

School workforce and teacher retention are high on the current education policy agenda and are the subject of on-going NFER research. The latest statistics from the 2016 School Workforce Census (SWC), published today by the Department for Education (DfE), shed some more light on the current state of the teacher labour market. Continue reading


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Keeping up with the Jönses: European mechanisms for evidence-informed policymaking

By Sigrid Boyd and Claudia Sumner

Second of a three-part blog series on evidence-informed policymaking.

Promoting the use of evidence in policymaking is something to which politicians often pay lip service – no-one wants to appear ill-informed or unaware of the outcome of previous policy initiatives. But many politicians are not experts in the field prior to ministerial appointment and they, consequently, rely heavily upon the structures in place to inform and support their decisions. In our previous blog post, NFER looked at the ‘what works’ centres that exist in England to synthesise research findings into evidence that policy-makers can actually use. Continue reading


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Importance of evidence in a post-truth world

By Julie Nelson and Claudia Sumner

First of a three-part blog series on evidence-informed policymaking.

Following a bruising election campaign, which saw an ideological fight seldom witnessed in British politics, the Prime Minister and her ministers must get down to the business of policy-making. Continue reading


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Situations vacant

By Geoff Gee and Karen Wespieser

There will be much on the mind of Theresa May as she returns to Number 10 as Prime Minister, not only with a much reduced majority, but also relying on the support of the DUP. This poses a particular problem for education – as a devolved issue, the DUP are unlikely to be able to help on any legislation in our sector.
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Devolution at a crossroads?

By NFER Cymru research team

Since devolution of responsibility for education and training to Wales following the establishment of the National Assembly, NFER’s research has recognised the increasingly divergent approaches to education policy and practice across the UK. One question is, will the forthcoming election mean that Wales continues to develop its own educational policy and practice? What next for devolution and education? Continue reading


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School funding: Why we must not lose focus on addressing disadvantage

By Caroline Sharp and Maire Williams

Earlier this week, the NFER blog focused on the urgent issue of school funding. But while the politicians argue, is there more that can be done at a school level? Continue reading


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Education funding – time for more than just talking

By Karen Wespieser and Maire Williams

In the two televised debates that have taken place so far, a teacher has been in the audience each time to ask the politicians about their education pledges. In the first debate, a teacher asked a panel of leaders “what would you do to support teachers in schools to make sure every child gets the best start in life regardless of background?” Last night, even though education didn’t feature highly, a teacher asked Theresa May “how will you ensure schools are adequately funded?” Continue reading


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‘When I saw the opportunity to take the prime minister to task over grammar schools, I had to take it’

By Karen Wespieser

This blog first appeared on TES, Monday 22 May 2017.

We all know that in the British political system, the electorate doesn’t actually vote for the prime minister – they vote for their local MP. Except I do. I live in Maidenhead – Theresa May’s constituency. So next month, her name will be on my ballot sheet. She therefore pops up at all the local events that one expects a constituency MP to attend: the local marathon, visiting local businesses and opening fetes. Continue reading