The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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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


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Keeping up with the Jönses: European mechanisms for evidence-informed policymaking

By Sigrid Boyd and Claudia Sumner

Second of a three-part blog series on evidence-informed policymaking.

Promoting the use of evidence in policymaking is something to which politicians often pay lip service – no-one wants to appear ill-informed or unaware of the outcome of previous policy initiatives. But many politicians are not experts in the field prior to ministerial appointment and they, consequently, rely heavily upon the structures in place to inform and support their decisions. In our previous blog post, NFER looked at the ‘what works’ centres that exist in England to synthesise research findings into evidence that policy-makers can actually use. Continue reading


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Importance of evidence in a post-truth world

By Julie Nelson and Claudia Sumner

First of a three-part blog series on evidence-informed policymaking.

Following a bruising election campaign, which saw an ideological fight seldom witnessed in British politics, the Prime Minister and her ministers must get down to the business of policy-making. Continue reading


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Education funding – time for more than just talking

By Karen Wespieser and Maire Williams

In the two televised debates that have taken place so far, a teacher has been in the audience each time to ask the politicians about their education pledges. In the first debate, a teacher asked a panel of leaders “what would you do to support teachers in schools to make sure every child gets the best start in life regardless of background?” Last night, even though education didn’t feature highly, a teacher asked Theresa May “how will you ensure schools are adequately funded?” Continue reading


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‘When I saw the opportunity to take the prime minister to task over grammar schools, I had to take it’

By Karen Wespieser

This blog first appeared on TES, Monday 22 May 2017.

We all know that in the British political system, the electorate doesn’t actually vote for the prime minister – they vote for their local MP. Except I do. I live in Maidenhead – Theresa May’s constituency. So next month, her name will be on my ballot sheet. She therefore pops up at all the local events that one expects a constituency MP to attend: the local marathon, visiting local businesses and opening fetes. Continue reading


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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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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