The NFER blog

Evidence for excellence in education


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Executive Headteachers: What’s in a Name?

By Karen Wespieser

The naming of reports can be a tricky affair. Try to be too witty and the meaning becomes obtuse. Try to be too literal and it sounds boring. But the naming of our new report on executive headteachers (EHTs) didn’t suffer from this problem. One of the considerations we faced from day one of the project was understanding the great variety and breadth of the role. There is more than one kind of executive headteacher and the role is still evolving in response to the self-improving school system, so understanding what’s in a name was a pivotal part of the project. 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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The power of collaboration: what schools can achieve through effective school-to-school partnership working

By Robert Smith

In a recent blog post I described what emerged from NFER’s evaluation of the Lead and Emerging Practitioner Pathfinder Project in Wales. I looked particularly at the characteristics of effective collaboration between schools. In this post I’ll describe the activities that resulted from this collaboration, and their perceived contribution to school improvement.
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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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Is change in the air for RSCs?

By Ben Durbin

Despite Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw urging that debate should move away from school structures, the first report from the House of Commons Education Select Committee since the general election focused on one of the key structural developments of recent times. The report examines the role of Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs), which were established in September 2014 to oversee the growing number of academies across eight regions, and which were subsequently given increasing responsibilities and powers to address underperformance across the school system in England.

One of the recommendations of the Committee’s report is a re-definition of the RSC regions – but what impact will this have on schools and the RSCs? I’ve crunched the numbers to find out. Continue reading


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Coasting schools and the cliff edge

Ben Durbin

When you walk along a coastal path close to the cliff edge, it’s hard to concentrate on anything other than the sheer drop below. It’s more difficult to hold a conversation and positively risky to look too far ahead for fear you might slip. This situation becomes all the more exaggerated for someone who does slip towards the edge, scrabbling to regain their footing.

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Regional Schools Commissioners and the performance of multi-academy trusts

By Ben Durbin

Substantial and increasing numbers of English schools are run by Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs), and yet we currently have no consistent and agreed upon method for assessing how well these MATs are performing.

This is one of the issues that was touched upon during yesterday’s Select Committee hearing on Regional Schools Commissioners (RSCs), which I was invited to appear before. Continue reading