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.

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Executive Headteachers: What’s in a Name?

By Karen Wespieser

The naming of reports can be a tricky affair. Try to be too witty and the meaning becomes obtuse. Try to be too literal and it sounds boring. But the naming of our new report on executive headteachers (EHTs) didn’t suffer from this problem. One of the considerations we faced from day one of the project was understanding the great variety and breadth of the role. There is more than one kind of executive headteacher and the role is still evolving in response to the self-improving school system, so understanding what’s in a name was a pivotal part of the project. Continue reading


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What are we to make of the latest School Workforce statistics?

By Jack Worth

At a time when trainee targets are being missed, retaining the teachers already in the profession becomes all the more important. Teacher retention has been the focus of a programme of NFER research, including our Should I Stay or Should I Go? report last November and forthcoming research examining the experiences and intentions of teachers.

Yesterday’s School Workforce statistics show that the rate of teachers leaving the profession has jumped to the highest level since 2011, with 10 per cent of teachers having left between November 2014 and November 2015. In terms of teacher headcount, the proportion of teachers leaving is the highest since at least 2005. Continue reading


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Building bridges between teachers and researchers

By Matt Walker

Schools and teachers are increasingly expected to engage with research evidence to enhance teachers’ professional practice, pupil outcomes and school capacity for self-improvement. However, this is easier said than done and it can be difficult to know where to start. Last week I attended the first day of a two-day conference which brought together researchers and teachers to talk about using research to improve teaching and learning of STEM subjects.
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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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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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Weaving a little magic

By Gareth Mills

Every day teachers have to weave a little magic. They have to take the dry words of a curriculum document or syllabus and turn them into engaging and memorable learning experiences for young people.

As teachers working hard to make a difference, we need to enjoy memorable and engaging learning experiences too. While one-off courses and conferences have their place, evidence suggests that the best CPD takes place over time, is focused on real classrooms and involves a degree of collaborative enquiry. That’s why NFER designed the Enquiring Schools approach to professional learning. Continue reading


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Striving for ‘knowledge animation’ – can we bring evidence-informed practice to life?

By Julie Nelson

Last month, Professor Carol Campbell (University of Toronto and Knowledge Network for Applied Educational Research) and I co-hosted a round-table discussion at the International Congress for School Improvement and Effectiveness, and simultaneously issued a call for papers for a special issue of Educational Research on evidence-informed practice (EiP) in education. We were joined by researchers, policymakers and teaching professionals from many countries.

The discussion provided an opportunity to discuss the issues planned for coverage in the journal.
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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