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Evidence for excellence in education


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Phonics results – Now that’s good news for young readers

By Jane Nicholas

In the first year of the annual phonics screening check (PSC) in 2012, less than three-fifths of pupils achieved the expected standard. There was also a large variation in outcomes between different areas of the country. However, the latest PSC for primary pupils in England, published yesterday by the Department for Education (DfE), shows that many more pupils are now achieving the expected standard in 2017 and the wide variation previously seen has largely disappeared. This is good news, as the teaching of phonics is considered by the Department of Education to be the best practice to provide a secure foundation for the teaching of reading. Continue reading


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What’s happening to reading under the new Key Stage 2 curriculum and assessment regime?

By Jennie Harland and Claire Hodgson

The Government has today published the provisional national curriculum assessment results for Key Stage (KS) 2 for primary pupils in England. They show very encouraging increases in attainment compared with the 2016 results, with 61 per cent of pupils reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics (i.e. a scaled score of 100 or more or a teacher assessment of ‘reaching the expected standard’ or ‘working at greater depth’ in writing) in 2017 compared with 53 per cent in 2016. 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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ResearchED 2015 – Working out what works

By Ben Durbin

In his opening address at the third of his national conferences bringing together over 860 teachers, researchers, and policymakers, Tom Bennett compared ResearchED to his young toddler. Both born at a similar time in 2013, each seems to have a mind of its own and to grow and develop in ways far beyond Tom’s control. Continue reading


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Reading is easy – so why bother to assess phonological awareness in young children?

By Diane King

We live in a society that places a high value on literacy skills and, if nothing else, we expect schools to teach our children to read and write. However, literacy difficulties are common and can be persistent, impacting not only on school experience, academic achievement and later life choices, but also on many practical issues of daily living. Continue reading


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Why language skills must be a key feature of any Reception Baseline Assessment

By Diane King

The new Reception Baseline Assessment is essentially an accountability measure but, at NFER, we believe that it can also be a useful tool for teachers to identify children who may benefit from extra support.  In these early years, it is particularly important to ensure that children have good language skills so that they can access the curriculum and make good progress throughout the rest of their school years. Continue reading


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Validity and baseline assessment

By Marian Sainsbury, assessment expert, former Primary teacher, and NFER research associate

Much of the recent controversy about baseline assessment has centred on arguments about its validity. However, this term is widely used and abused with little attention to its real meaning – for example, the phrase ‘statistically invalid’ in a recent letter to the Guardian is literally meaningless. Continue reading


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Is baseline assessment really ‘invalid and harmful’?

By Marian Sainsbury, assessment expert, former Primary teacher, and NFER research associate

As the new baseline assessment policy develops, opinions are quickly polarising. The Department for Education (DfE) is introducing this assessment from September. Baseline assessment will take place in the first six weeks of children starting school and provides a score for measuring a pupil’s progress from the beginning to the end of primary school and beyond. Continue reading