By Helen Aberdeen, Director Education Policy and Research Service (EPRS) School of Education, University of Bristol
For many who work in education, the summer break provides a welcome breathing space to clear those little jobs which we have been meaning to do for ages. It also gives us some time to look back and reflect.
As Director of our Education Policy and Research Service (EPRS), I have had a busy year – in a good way. In addition to summarising 110 research and policy reports, we have developed a new EPRS toolkit based on the Core Content Framework for Initial Teacher Training – we will be officially launching the toolkit in September, hoping to persuade many ITT institutions of its usefulness.
We have continued to provide weekly updates to subscribers, and I have personally been encouraged to see a significant uptick in the number of subscribers who are opening the emails and clicking on the links!
As I look back over the academic year 2022-23, I have in front of me a list of the year’s Top Ten – the summaries which were most often downloaded by subscribers. As in previous years, the list is dominated by Ofsted and the DfE. There are three Ofsted reports in the Top Ten. A Return to Inspection (in the no 1 spot) charts the story of schools which were previously exempt because of an inspection rating, and finds that of 370 previously exempt schools which had a graded inspection in 2021-22, only 17% retained this grade. The Research Review of Art and Design was also a big hit, as was the summary of Ofsted’s Annual Report for 2021-22. The Top Ten also includes a report about the future of inspection from the Association of School and College Leaders, calling for a radical overhaul of the inspection system.
Moving to the DfE reports, there were two in particular which caught subscribers’ attention. One was the National Behaviour Survey report which was published in June 2023. I think that, for me, one of the most striking things about this report was the disparity between teachers’ and senior leaders’ views about behavioural issues at the chalk face!
The other popular DfE report was State of the Nation 2022: Children and Young People’s Wellbeing. Some rather concerning findings in this report, including a sharp increase in rates of probable mental disorder in 17-19 year-olds to a rate of one in four. On a positive note, the survey found that most secondary-age children and young people are motivated to learn, feel safe at school, and enjoy being there.
In second place in the Top Ten charts is a report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER) which explores the benefits or otherwise of the transition to an education system led by Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) – a current government priority. After weighing up the evidence, the report advises the Government to ‘prioritise a slower transition which would provide more time to build MAT capacity and ensure the transition is supported by the appropriate resources’. The NfER has another report in the Top Ten, which I suspect was mainly downloaded by those, who like me, are involved in teacher education – it describes and critiques some of the main classroom observation tools currently in use.
Literacy is always an area of interest to our subscribers, so it was no surprise to see the National Literacy Trust’s report Young Children’s Reading in 2022 in fourth place. This was the first summary produced in 2022-23 and it sounded a positive note, with children reporting that they enjoy reading and that reading gives them added confidence and helps them to feel better. Long may it continue!
The Top Ten also include two reports which may be of particular interest to parents. One is the Policy Exchange report on the controversial topic of how to engage with children who present with gender dysmorphia at school. The other was a survey report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner looking at the impact of online content on children and young people.
If you are a subscriber, it may be worth going back and checking out our Top Ten. And if you are not yet a member of our EPRS subscriber community I hope that the above has given you a flavour of the range of report summaries which we publish and might tempt you to join! You can find out more about the service and view sample summaries here.
Director Education Policy and Research Service
The Education Policy and Research Service (EPRS)
To find out more about the EPRS, please visit our webpage: EPRS at University of Bristol