The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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Who’s interested in education?

By Karen Wespieser

One of the challenges of working in the education sector, is everyone has an opinion because everyone has been to school. Whilst this can be unhelpful in some contexts, it should be a real strength during a general election campaign. Yet, for nearly 20 years, education has not been a priority issue for politicians or the electorate. In 1997, nearly half the population thought that education was the most important issue facing Britain. Since 2007, this figure has been less than a quarter. 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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Is evidence good for absolutely nothing?

By Ben Durbin

“What is evidence good for?  Absolutely nothing!”  This was one of the memorable moments from Campbell Collaboration CEO Howard White’s opening speech at the What Works Global Summit this week (quickly followed by the qualification: “Unless it gets into policy and practice”) 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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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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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