The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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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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The future of technical and professional education: joining up the dots

By Tami McCrone

The Learning and Skills Research Network (LSRN) workshop held last week on the future of technical and professional education was as current, relevant and thought-provoking as ever. Continue reading


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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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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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EBacc teacher recruitment and retention: even more challenging times ahead?

By Susie Bamford

Secondary schools face particular teacher recruitment and retention challenges, especially in some English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects. This was one of the conclusions of NFER’s report last November, Should I Stay or Should I Go: NFER Analysis of Teachers Joining and Leaving the Profession. The report was well received, primarily for its fresh and independent take on the emotive topic of a so-called workforce crisis. Continue reading


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Could it be that disengagement leads to poor skills?

By Tami McCrone

Last Thursday I attended two events in London: a Demos seminar reporting on ways to re-engage disengaged young people pre-16 years old, and an OECD seminar ‘Building skills for all – a review of England’ which offered policy insights from the survey of adult skills.
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Is baseline really so bad?

By Catherine Kirkup

Consider two scenarios. In the first, a reception practitioner (teacher or teaching assistant) takes children aside one by one to listen to them ‘read’. For some children this means seeing if they understand that print conveys meaning, if they can point to the words on the page and understand that they relate to the pictures alongside, or if the book engages them. For other children, further ahead in their reading development, the practitioner considers which letters or words they can recognise or sound out, or their interest in and level of understanding of what they are reading. 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