The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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Are secondary free schools really achieving what they’re supposed to?

By Chloe Rush

This opinion piece first appeared in TES on Tuesday 14 November 2017. 

A key part of the 2010 Coalition Government’s education strategy, free schools were introduced to create a more autonomous and self-improving school system by driving up standards through greater school choice and increased local competition. However, free schools have attracted a lot of controversy since their inception, with some commentators claiming they are expensive and wasteful, and set up in places where there is surplus capacity, while supporters say they are located in areas of need and provide a better quality of education than local authority schools. Who is right? We explore some of these issues here and ask why so much of the new provision has happened in London. Continue reading


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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


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Local schools for local kids

By Karen Wespieser

It is now 10 years since Alastair Campbell’s now infamous claim that the days of the ‘bog-standard comprehensive’ are over.  Whether or not this is true, I have been discussing this in a series of blogs on school choice (School Choice, a social mobility issue? and I have a choice), how a majority of parents still want to rely on their local school. Continue reading


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Are more free schools a good idea?

By Ben Durbin

Earlier this week David Cameron announced plans to open 500 new free schools in the next Parliament. In doing so, he adopted a familiar template used by politicians announcing new policy initiatives: our previous policy has been successful; if you vote for us we’ll do it some more, and it’ll continue to be successful.

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