The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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PIRLS 2016 results and the importance of teaching

By Juliet Sizmur

24 November 2010 marked a significant day for education.  As some four and five year olds were settling into their first term of school, it was also the day that former Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, unveiled his plans to overhaul education in England, publishing a new white paper, The Importance of TeachingContinue reading


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What will the PIRLS results tell us about reading in England and Northern Ireland?

By Juliet Sizmur

Next Tuesday (5 December), sees the release of the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results. Continue reading


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The Industrial Strategy: Will the Government put its money where its mouth is?

By Claudia Sumner

The problem of low productivity in Britain is at the heart of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, and after the woeful predictions about the economy in last week’s budget, the Government is hoping to change the narrative and regain the initiative. NFER agree with the Government that ‘investment in education is vital to address challenges facing the economy.’ Continue reading


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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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International school spending – how does the UK compare?

By Maire Williams

Over the last six months, school funding has been an almost constant feature in policy debate, from the proposed introduction of a National Funding Formula to the longer running cuts and freezes schools are facing to their budgets. However, far less has been said on how the UK compares internationally. While there are obviously some ‘health warnings’ around comparing international data, including recognising that different countries may be pursuing different priorities, international comparisons can still give us insight into how outcomes vary (or don’t vary) with expenditure.  Continue reading


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Are teacher pay reforms having an impact on schools?

By Matt Walker

Growth in pupil numbers as well as the increased costs associated with pensions, national insurance and inflation are putting pressure on school budgets in England. At the same time, school workforce and teacher retention are high on the education policy agenda. 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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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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The ups and downs of teacher recruitment

By Maire Williams

Teacher recruitment has been a widely reported and challenging issue for the education sector for some time. The Government has responded by running recruitment campaigns and offering financial incentives to attract new trainee teachers. The latest Initial Teacher Training performance statistics for the 2015/16 academic year, released today, show a small increase in the total number of trainees for the first time since 2009/10. In part, this is because Teach First trainees have been included, but even excluding these figures a small increase remains.  Coming at a time when more teachers are needed in the next ten years to cope with the large projected increase in pupil numbers, this increase looks promising. Yet, due to the longer-term trend, the number of trainees (including Teach First trainees) remains 13 per cent lower today than it was in 2009/10. Continue reading


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More teachers are joining than leaving the profession, but will it be enough to meet demand?

By Sarah Lynch and Jack Worth

School workforce and teacher retention are high on the current education policy agenda and are the subject of on-going NFER research. The latest statistics from the 2016 School Workforce Census (SWC), published today by the Department for Education (DfE), shed some more light on the current state of the teacher labour market. Continue reading