Research in Schools

The NFER Research Mark

The mark of quality research engagement in your school or college

Application Guidance

Your application will look at ten subjects that are important factors in engaging in research in education. These have been written by Professor Graham Handscomb who is a specialist in this field.

These ten subjects have questions related to them and you must respond to each question. You will be given guidance on how to respond, which includes a maximum word count. You are also told why the criteria ask the questions. You can upload additional evidence to support your application.

The ten subjects are grouped into three main areas. There are a total of 16 questions and you must respond to each question. The questions are as follows:

Area Subject Question
The school as an enquiring, learning community 1. Vision, values and goals 1.1 Do you have a clear vision for research in your school?
1.2 How outcome focussed and rigorous is research in your school?
2. Research ethos and climate 2.1 How does the school foster a research culture?
3. Leadership and support 3.1 How is effective leadership provided for research and participation?
3.2 What support is provided for a range and depth of research engagement?
4. Research communities and collaboration 4.1 How are collaboration and research partnerships promoted and supported?
4.2 How does your school promote and support pupils' / young people's research engagement?
5. The research journey 5.1 How does your school carry out research investigations?
Improving teaching and learning 6. Enhanced teaching and learning 6.1 How does research underpin your approach to teaching and learning and its improvement?
7. Research and professional learning 7.1 How are enquiry and research built in to professional learning?
7.2 What is the extent of the research engagement by staff?
8. Reflection and self-evaluation 8.1 How is reflection and self-evaluation built into the school's approach?
Impact on pupils and young people 9. Benefits to learners 9.1 How do learners benefit from the school's research activity and engagement?
9.2 How is research activity and engagement used to identify and address learner needs
10. Impact, improvement and sustainability 10.1 How do you ensure the range of research activity has improvement impact?
10.2 How do you ensure research engagement is sustained into the future?

'Guidance for responses' is provided below each question and gives help on what the assessor will be looking for. This is not intended to be prescriptive but rather to give you examples of the kind of evidence that would be appropriate to draw on when responding to the question. The maximum word count is intended to help you focus your evidence succinctly. You will not be penalised for using a smaller word count; the important factor is the evidence of practice, not your write up. Be creative! Consider using video diaries, meeting notes, plans and more as evidence! You will have the opportunity to upload additional evidence to support your application.

You can complete the application form online in stages, saving it and returning to it later. Remember to 'Save Progress' to ensure your answers are saved. Once you are happy that it is complete, click ‘submit’. After a visit date has been agreed, you will be sent an invoice for £750 (+VAT). Part of NFER’s charitable purpose is to help build capacity for schools to do their own research. The price of £250 (+ VAT) registration and £550 (+ VAT)  application covers the administrative cost of the programme and the researcher time.

Marking scheme

The assessor will look at your answers to each question. They will then give a mark in the form of a ‘level’ to each of the ten subject fields. The ‘levels’ are shown in the table below:

Level Description of Level Additional Rules
1 Applicant has not passed this subject and there is significant room for improvement There must be no more than one Level 1 out of the ten subjects
2 Applicant has met the criteria in this subject but there is room for improvement.  
3 Applicant has met the criteria in this subject and has exceeded expectations There must be a minimum of five Level 3s out of the ten subjects

For some subjects, it is not acceptable to get a Level 1. This is because NFER believe that the criteria in that particular subject are an essential element of the NFER Research Mark and you must demonstrate you have met those criteria. For subjects 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10 you must reach a minimum of Level 2 in order to pass.

This will all be explained by the NFER assessor during their school visit and you will have an opportunity to ask questions.

If you have passed the NFER Research Mark, your report will show what level you have reached for each subject. If you have exceeded expectations (level 3), the assessor will highlight what you have done well to achieve this. If there are areas for improvement (level 2), the assessor will give guidance on what you can do to improve. If there is significant room for improvement (level 1), the assessor will show what you need to do to pass. NFER hope this guidance, whatever your result, will help you to plan improvement for the future.

If you have not passed the NFER Research Mark, your report will show what is needed to pass. You will have the opportunity to re-apply by completing the application form again. An NFER assessor will assess your application against the same criteria. The assessor will not visit your setting again, but may phone you to discuss what you have done to improve. Your report will then be updated, giving your new levels and highlighting what additional work you have done. There is no additional charge for this. If you have passed, you will be granted the NFER Research Mark.

If you have failed and you wish to apply again, NFER recommends you wait another year to give time to make the improvements, and then go through the whole process again from the beginning. This will include a visit from an NFER assessor and will cost the full price again.

See also: Terms and Conditions and NFER's Privacy Policy.


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