The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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NFER Vice President David Whitbread dies after long and distinguished career in education

NFER news release (29/01/18)

We were very sad to hear the news last week of the sudden passing of NFER Vice President David Whitbread.

A well-known and highly respected figure in education, David maintained his interest and enthusiasm for the sector following his retirement in 1998. David was a strong supporter of NFER for many years whilst working for the Local Government Associations, and served as Treasurer and Vice Chair on our Board.  He was appointed Vice President of NFER in 2012. He always gave his time generously, and we are extremely grateful for his sage advice and tireless support. Continue reading


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Spotlight on multi-academy trusts: Teachers and schools

By Karen Wespieser

Last week, in the first part of our blog series on multi-academy trusts (MATs), we looked at what pupil performance data could tell us about MATs and found rather inconclusive evidence. In this blog post, we will look at three areas where there is a growing evidence base about MATs; teacher career paths, collaboration and financial efficiencies. Continue reading


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Spotlight on multi-academy trusts: Pupil outcomes

By Karen Wespieser

Just before Christmas, I was invited to present at a conference on establishing or joining multi-academy trusts (MATs). My role in the event was to share what the research tells us so far about MATs and I was given two questions to answer:

  • What does the research say about the success of the MAT movement?
  • Has enough research been conducted to present tangible arguments about the benefits of MATs?

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Popular NFER blog posts of 2017

By Sundip Gill

From the shock general election to the long-awaited careers strategy, what a year 2017 has been in the world of education. Throughout this year, we have tackled some of the hottest topics in education here on the NFER blog. Our researchers have also been delving into data produced by the Department for Education (DfE), in a series of new blog posts focusing on Statistical First Releases. We will have more of these in 2018. You can subscribe to our blog (top right) to get notifications of all new posts direct to your inbox.

So in this final post of the year, here are some of the most popular NFER blog posts of 2017: Continue 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