Systems & Structures

The extent to which the structure of the education system affects the quality of education that children receive is an important and much debated issue.

Reforms in the English education system over the last few years have had a particular focus on structural reform, offering more autonomy for schools, new types of schools and alliances, and new 'middle tier' arrangements to support school management and improvement. But what impact have they had, and what challenges have emerged? Which elements have been successful, and how do education systems need to evolve? These are questions that NFER has been exploring for a number of years.

Our research and analysis uses UK and international data to look in depth at these issues and examines the key characteristics of effective systems and schools and what influences system and school performance. In recent years, we have focused on the ‘self-improving system’ and the contribution of its constituent parts, including:

  • school types, for example, academies, multi-academy trusts, university technical colleges and free schools, and the role of FE
  • decision making and leadership in schools
  • strategies for school-led improvement, including evidence-informed decision making, and school-to-school partnership and collaboration
  • the role of the middle tier, including Regional Schools Commissioners
  • understanding system drivers and planning for change, for example examining trends in pupil numbers
  • what we can learn from international comparisons.
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