Press release

Schools could turn to one another for support in time of budget constraints

19 July 2017

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) today publishes new analysis[1] of schools in England that shows there is considerable potential within the current state schools system to improve the quality of underperforming schools[2] ‘in need’ of support through school-to-school partnerships with high-performing schools[3] within a set radius[4].

The report suggests that, in the context of an overall cut to school budgets, leveraging existing, established sources of support for underperforming schools represents an effective use of resources. This, however, is subject to there being a willingness to collaborate, and capacity within high performing schools who may already be supporting other schools.

The analysis identifies and matches underperforming schools with neighbouring high-performing schools. It is supported by an interactive map of England, which allows exploration of the data in greater depth by primary or secondary phase and by region, local authority or parliamentary constituency. The schools are anonymised in the report and interactive map.

After analysing EduBase and school performance data, researchers identified 5,677 high-performing schools and 2,511 underperforming schools ‘in need’ of support. The number of high-performing schools exceeds the number of schools ‘in need’ in all government office regions at primary level and most regions at secondary level.

Our analysis found that:

The Government’s consultation paper Schools that work for everyone (2016) highlighted the importance of “leveraging the expertise of high-performing institutions to set up new good places in the state sector.” This latest research from NFER shows that local schools, across the country and across both primary and secondary phases, are well positioned to support each other and to work collaboratively within a partnership of their choosing – be it a MAT, federation or other type of cluster.

NFER Chief Executive, Carole Willis, said “We hope that this evidence will be used to support heads and governing bodies, showing them that they have a range of local, potential partnership options available.

“Harnessing support from same-phase high-performing schools in close proximity will maximise the potential for successful collaboration.

“We suggest that the Government prioritises facilitating school-to-school support within primary and secondary school phases in order to demonstrate its commitment to the self-improving school system that is establishing itself in England.”


For further information contact: Pippa Cox 01753 637177, Jane Parrack 01753 637245 or Sundip Gill 01753 637218

Notes for editors

  1. Wespieser, K., Sumner, C., and Bernardinelli, D. (2017). Capacity for collaboration? Analysis of School-to-School Support Capacity in England. Slough: NFER
  2. Underperforming schools ‘in need’ of support include schools below floor standards; Ofsted judgement of requires improvement or inadequate; or coasting.
  3. High-performing schools include outstanding schools; Teaching Schools or National Support Schools; good schools with outstanding leadership; and high levels of attainment and progress at Key Stage 2 or Key Stage 4. The high-performing schools identified in this research include academies that belong to existing multi academy trusts with the potential to take on more schools as well as high-performing single academy trusts
  4. Set radius = 2 miles for urban schools (major and minor conurbations); 5 miles for semi-rural schools (smaller cities and towns); 10 miles for rural schools (rural towns and villages)
  5. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is a leading independent provider of rigorous research and insights in education, working to create an excellent education for all children and young people. We are a charity and our robust and innovative research, assessments and other services are widely known and used by key decision-makers. Any surplus generated is reinvested in projects to support our charitable purpose.; @TheNFER
  6. SchoolDash is an education data analytics company, founded by Timo Hannay, a London-based parent, data geek and education obsessive, in September 2015. The site provides dashboards, maps, analysis and other statistics about schools in England (with other UK nations to follow.) The data provide a useful insight for parents, school governors, teachers, pupils, policy-makers, journalists and anyone who is interested in the achievements and activities of the nation’s schools.