News release

Next government must put evidence at heart of education policy, says NFER

NFER has announced its messages for the next government in a bid to put evidence at the heart of the education debate in the run up to the May 2015 General Election.

Chief Executive Carole Willis presented the messages to an audience of guests from across the education sector at the Foundation’s Annual Reception yesterday (20 November). She said: “We have already seen many organisations set out their election manifestos, and NFER will be playing an active part in this debate too; challenging the myths, and using evidence to address some of the key questions in education.”

While recognising that evidence is not the only thing driving decisions, NFER’s core message for all political parties - and for the education system as a whole - is that evidence needs to be at the heart of the debate. However, the extent and quality of evidence varies enormously across the education and wider children’s services sector. Ms Willis said: “In this context, the next government would be well advised to let the many current reforms – to the curriculum, to qualifications, to the accountability system - settle down, and take time to evaluate how they are working, before considering more change.”

Against this background, NFER believes policymakers should focus on three key areas:

1. Using data at a national level, a classroom level, and an international level - used properly, good quality assessment data is an extremely powerful tool for identifying which groups of children need the most support; what kind of help individual children need to improve; and where we can learn from other schools and countries.

2. Supporting evidence-based teaching – by setting expectations about the use of evidence through head teacher and teacher standards; encouraging the creation of a College of Teaching, and giving it a role in setting professional standards; and providing funding to build the evidence base.

3. Preparing all young people for education and employment - the efforts from across the political spectrum on strengthening the quality of our vocational education system need to be accompanied by a step change in understanding and attitudes towards different qualifications.

All NFER Election 2015 work can be found on the new election pages of the NFER website.