NAHT
Home Menu

Research round-up 5 January 2018

Research icon v1.jpg
Here's a round-up of education research published in the last fortnight.   


English education: world class in primary?

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has released a report, in partnership with the Institute of Education, to look at the performance of primary schools in England. This report looks at how well pupils in England perform in the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and compares their performance against that of the top-performing nations and jurisdictions. 

Key findings 

  • The main finding is while England compares reasonably well with other nations at primary, this hides a long tail of underperformance among low attaining pupils.
    • According to the TIMSS data, only New Zealand and Turkey have a significantly greater variation in performance than England among developed jurisdictions
    • When TIMSS performance is converted into estimated key stage two scores, it is found that in the top-performing nations the difference between the highest and lowest attaining pupils is around 12 points. In England, this increases to 18.6 points
  • The expected standard in key stage two mathematics is broadly in line with the average performance of the top-performing countries
  • For top-performing nations, the study estimates that an average of 90 per cent of pupils would have achieved the expected standard compared with 75 per cent in England. This means that around an additional 90,000 primary pupils in England would need to achieve the expected standards in mathematics for our system to be considered world class.
    • According to their estimated key stage two analysis, around 80 per cent of pupils in Northern Ireland are reaching a world-class standard
  • Of the top-performing 20 local authorities, 17 were in London. Conversely, there are no local authorities in London or the North East in the bottom 20 local authorities. 

About the research 

  • TIMSS is conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). It takes place every four years, and it attempts to measure the knowledge and skills relative to an internationally-determined mathematics and science curriculum for pupils in both year five (4th grade) and year nine (8th grade)
  • TIMSS was last conducted during May and June 2015. For the purposes of this report, the focus is on the mathematics results of the year five cohort who took the TIMSS test in 2015. They look at how they then went on to perform one year later when they took their key stage two assessment at the end of primary school. 
Access to high-performing schools in England

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) has released a report that looks at the density of good secondary school places across England and compares the spread of good quality places in 2015 with that in 2010. 

Key findings 

  • In both 2010 and 2015, around one-fifth of local neighbourhoods (as defined by Lower Super Output Areas) had no high-performing secondary schools within reasonable travel distance of pupils. In these areas, pupils cannot easily access a place at a high-performing school
  • Access to high-performing secondary schools has become more geographically unequal over the period 2010 to 2015 in spite of the government's policies aimed at improving school performance outside higher performing areas such as London
  • Access to high-performing secondary schools is good in areas such as London and in parts of the South, but it is poor in areas such as the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, and parts of the Midlands
  • From 2010 to 2015, local authorities with consistently good access to high-performing secondary schools saw the proportion of pupils gaining access to such schools rise from 49 per cent in 2010 to 58 per cent in 2015. Many of these are in London
    • But in local authorities with consistently low densities of high-performing school places, the proportion of pupils gaining access to such places fell from just six per cent in 2010 to five per cent in 2015. All these areas were outside London and the South East
  • Of the 20 local authorities with the biggest increases, 16 were in London. In these areas, the proportion of high-performing places rose from 36 per cent to 60 per cent from 2010 to 2015. Of the 20 local authorities with the largest decreases in high-performing places, none of these were in London. In these areas, the proportion of high-performing places fell from 31 per cent in 2010 to 20 per cent in 2015. 

About the research 

  • This report calculates the ‘density’ of high-performing school places per pupil. The density of places at high-performing schools was calculated for each lower layer super output area (LSOA) in England by comparing estimates of the demand for, and supply of, places at high-performing schools; these estimates were based on information derived from the key stage four National Pupil Database (NPD), which is linked to the School Census data. 
 Childcare and early years survey of parents in England, 2017

The Department for Education (DfE) has released a statistical report that looks at the survey of parents who use childcare and early years provisions. 

Key findings 

  • In 2017, 79 per cent of families in England with children aged 0 to 14 had used some form of childcare during their most recent term-time week. This equated to 4.4 million families or 6.3 million children
  • Formal childcare was used by 66 per cent of families - up from 63 per cent in 2010-11 because of increased use of breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and day nurseries
  • Informal childcare was used by 36 per cent of families - down from 40 per cent in 2014-15 because of lower take-up among families with school-age children
  • Around two in five (42 per cent) of parents in 2017 felt the number of local childcare places was ‘about right’ - that's a fall from 2014-15 (46 per cent)
  • Most parents (62 per cent) felt the quality of local childcare was very or fairly good, in line with 2014-15
  • Two in five (39 per cent) of parents in 2017 rated the affordability of local childcare as very or fairly good, while 34 per cent rated it as very or fairly poor
  • Just more than half (52 per cent) of parents who paid for childcare said it was easy or very easy to meet their childcare costs, with one in five (21 per cent) finding it difficult or very difficult. 

About the research 

  • The 2017 survey reports the findings of face-to-face interviews, conducted between January and August 2017, with a nationally representative sample of almost 5,700 parents in England with children aged 0 to 14. 
Economic returns to GCSEs: region and disadvantage

This publication by the DfE presents estimates of the economic value of reducing the disadvantage attainment gap in each region in England so that it is the same size as the attainment gap in London and improving the attainment of disadvantaged pupils in all regions to the same level as in London.

Key findings 

  • In the academic year 2013-14, a greater percentage of pupils who were not disadvantaged achieved at least five GCSEs at A*-C, including English and maths, compared with those who were disadvantaged. This was consistent across all regions of England for both boys and girls, and it is referred to as the attainment gap throughout the publication
  • The size of the attainment gap is smallest in London at 21 percentage points. In some regions, the attainment gap exceeds 30 percentage points
  • If the attainment gap in all regions could be reduced to the same size as London, this would lead to an increase of around 125,000 disadvantaged pupils achieving the equivalent of five or more GCSEs at A*-C, including English and maths, if effects were replicated for children currently of school age across England
  • If the attainment gap could be reduced across the country to the same size as it is in London, some disadvantaged individuals would increase their lifetime productivity by the equivalent of approximately £110,000 in present value terms for each pupil who improves their attainment. This would lead to an overall economic benefit of around £12 billion in present value terms over the lifetimes of the individuals analysed
  • If disadvantaged pupils in all regions performed as well as disadvantaged pupils in London, this would lead to an overall economic benefit of around £20 billion in present value terms.

 About the research

  • Data from 2013-14 is used because it is the most recent data for which a regional and disadvantage split is available, and it is applicable to the published returns estimates. This data was published in January 2015 and is available here  
 Other recent research