The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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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


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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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