The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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Are secondary schools making enough progress in closing the attainment gap?

By Caroline Sharp

I read the latest DfE Statistical First Release on 2016 GCSE results with great interest. Although most of the press coverage focused on the league tables of schools and the relative performance of grammar, academies and local authority schools, I was drawn to the section on the attainment gap in state-funded schools. This was a case of good news/bad news. Good news: the attainment gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and others reduced slightly in 2016, as it has in four of the last five years. Bad news: progress is slow and the position of disadvantaged pupils in 2016 is almost the same as in 2013. In fact, the gap would have been the same as last year if you exclude the recent addition of results from students in FE colleges. Continue reading


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Schools that work for everyone: Measuring disadvantage

By Joana Andrade

The UK government has recently been consulting on new proposals for ensuring good school places and opportunity for all young people in England, regardless of disadvantage (the consultation closed earlier this week). In my previous post I argued that any such policy should be based on a broad concept of disadvantage, taking account of economic, social and cultural capitals. Continue reading


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Can schools in the most deprived areas hang on to their teachers?

By Susie Bamford

Teacher recruitment and retention is still high on the political agenda with claims that it is the biggest challenge facing England’s schools and cries that a crisis is unfolding. One current focus is on recruiting teachers to schools in deprived areas. But once they get there will they stay?
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Is education the key to social mobility – or a hidden chain?

I read the recent press coverage of the OECD’s latest research on academic performance and poverty – suggesting the poorest students in high performing countries can outperform the richest in the UK and which featured a quote saying the report ‘debunks the myth that poverty is destiny’ – with interest that turned to concern. Continue reading