The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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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


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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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The power of collaboration: what schools can achieve through effective school-to-school partnership working

By Robert Smith

In a recent blog post I described what emerged from NFER’s evaluation of the Lead and Emerging Practitioner Pathfinder Project in Wales. I looked particularly at the characteristics of effective collaboration between schools. In this post I’ll describe the activities that resulted from this collaboration, and their perceived contribution to school improvement.
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Stronger by working together: Lessons on what makes for effective collaboration between schools in Wales

By Robert Smith

Allowing practitioners to design and lead change in the school system is increasingly the way that successful systems across the world are approaching educational reform. This trend is evident in Wales where policymakers are looking to harness the talent and enthusiasm that exists in schools to bring about a radical transformation of the way the education system works and an improvement in learner outcomes. This is regarded as essential if pupils in Wales are to fulfil their potential. It is also key to Wales’ effort to overcome disappointing outcomes, for example in recent PISA tests.
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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


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Can schools in the most deprived areas hang on to their teachers?

By Susie Bamford

Teacher recruitment and retention is still high on the political agenda with claims that it is the biggest challenge facing England’s schools and cries that a crisis is unfolding. One current focus is on recruiting teachers to schools in deprived areas. But once they get there will they stay?
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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


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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


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Coasting schools and the cliff edge

Ben Durbin

When you walk along a coastal path close to the cliff edge, it’s hard to concentrate on anything other than the sheer drop below. It’s more difficult to hold a conversation and positively risky to look too far ahead for fear you might slip. This situation becomes all the more exaggerated for someone who does slip towards the edge, scrabbling to regain their footing.

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researchED 2015 – factchecking claims isn’t just about accuracy

By Amy Sippitt, Education Lead at Full Fact.

At the ITV general election leaders’ debate back in April, Nick Clegg claimed:

“If we want to make sure that our own youngsters get the jobs…we’ve got to train them up. Over the last five years we’ve got two million more people starting apprenticeships”.

He’s right that there was an increase of two million, but these new apprentices don’t necessarily represent better qualified youngsters. Look at the breakdown of the data and the biggest increase in starts was for those over 25, who made up 4 in 10 of the new starts. In other words—apprenticeship starts for the over 25s more than tripled, while starts for the under 19s increased by 3%. Continue reading