Government Small-Scale Research Projects


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What is the Department for Education currently researching and funding?

There is an analytical community that comprises of statisticians, economists, social and operational researchers. These specialists feed into the analysis and research that government use to design strategy, policy development and delivery across England.

Throughout the pandemic, Research Questions About Education has been a trending topic on this website since March 2020. This document provides insight into the projects the Department for Education is funding.

Where the DfE do not have the internal expertise or capacity, they have a pool of analytical associates (I once was accepted for this role) who can bring specific specialist expertise, knowledge and skills into the department to supplement and develop their internal analytical capability. “Most projects cost less than £15,000, and more than 180 projects have been commissioned since the pool opened in September 2014” write the DfE.

What are the current projects?

On 4 March 2021, the government updated its projects commissioned through the DfE’s analytical associate pool. I’ve taken a look through the 15-page document to offer a summary.

  1. What constitutes a high-quality workforce in Alternative Provision? (page 5)
  2. Review of international requirements to become a teacher: literature review (page 9)

Since November 2020, the following have also been published.

  1. International progression report: good practice in technical education (Nov 2020)
  2. Exploring the relationship between teacher workload and target setting (Nov 2020)
  3. Children’s social care cost pressures and variation in unit costs (Jan 2021)

Alternative Provision

The Alternative Provision research was to explore what constitutes a high-quality workforce in AP and the challenges to achieving this. APs were sampled across North West, Outer London, South East, West Midlands, North East and the East Midlands.

No surprise to learn that “although there is limited research in this area, most studies identify workforce skills and the relationship between staff and pupils to be key in successful and high-quality provision.”

Headteachers reported “feeling that they were working at capacity” and tended to be “satisfied with both the size and composition of their workforce.”

Funding, quick responses to pupils on-roll and recruitment were identified as the key workforce challenges in AP. Staff external CPD was also very expensive and backfilling staff absence to attend meant much has to be delivered in-house.

Teacher Training in 38 countries vs. England

The ‘international requirements to become a teacher‘ research was to understand of how other countries’ teacher training and induction requirements compare to England’s. This is something I am very interested in! ITT post-2015 and professional development requirements for 38 countries were sampled.

  1. In the review, 20 countries (including England) require primary teachers to have at least a bachelor’s degree; for 13 of those, the degree is required to be in primary education
  2. In primary, 15 countries require teachers to have a master’s degree and,
  3. In 4 countries (Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China) it is possible for recognised teachers to hold sub-degree qualifications
  4. In 18 of the countries, including England, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for secondary teaching
  5. In 16 countries, a master’s is required for secondary teaching and, for a further three countries (Belgium, Denmark and Romania), for teaching in upper secondary.
  6. Three countries (Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore) recognise teachers without degrees
  1. Only 5 countries in the study offer a three-year option for a degree in primary education
  2. It generally takes trainee primary school teachers in England between 1-3 years less to qualify than trainee primary school teachers in those countries in which a master’s degree is needed to qualify.
  3. Like England, 18 of the countries in the review provide routes into secondary school teaching through three-year or four-year programmes (or similar) at the bachelor’s level.
  4. Induction varies in length from a few months to three years – which is assessed
  5. Teachers are obligated to take part in a specified amount of continuous professional development (CPD) in 27 of the countries in the review, unlike England where there is not a legally specified amount of CPD.

Only Finland’s programmes require longer school placements than the required minimum of 120 days in England. We also need to move away from this bog-standard model of teacher-training which currently offers teachers 5 days a year!


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