New research from the National Foundation for Educational Research

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has published two new pieces of research. The first looks at the “latest available performance data” to gain a deeper understanding of the issues faced by the regional schools commissioners including the capacity of multi-academy trusts. The second looks into the factors which influence headteacher retention based on school workforce census data and interviews with headteachers.

Report exploring the impact of the Regional School Commissioner

A new report from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) has examined the impact of the RSC on school improvement. Initially appointed to oversee the establishment and performance of academy trusts in 2014, the powers of the RSC have subsequently been expanded to deal with underperforming local authority schools. The report gives an overview of the “core functions” of the RSC and the impact that they have had on schools; breaking this down by phase and region.

NFER’s analysis of the “latest performance data” revealed that:

  • A quarter of secondary schools, as opposed to one in seven primary schools, are classed as “underperforming”.
  • Some RSC regions perform significantly worse than others. The NFER suggest that this may be due to the number of schools under each RSCs remit; with some having around 500 and others half that amount.
  • The number of schools with poor Ofsted ratings, or those falling below the floor standard, has fell since 2014. The NFER state that it is inconclusive whether this is due to actions taken by the RSC.
  • As the number of academies increase, this inevitably means that there are more underperforming academy trusts. Overall, single school academy trusts account for 10% of the underperforming schools, with schools in MATs for more than three years making up an additional 20%.

Governing boards of both academy trusts and local authority schools should be aware of who their RSC is and how they may impact upon their school. Academy trusts may work very closely with the RSC, whereas local authority schools will encounter them if converting or facing forced conversion to an academy. For more on academy schools in general, visit the NGA guidance centre.  

New report into headteacher retention

The National Foundation for Education Research (NFER) has also explored the factors which influence headteacher retention. The report drew on figures from the School Workforce Census data from 2011-2015; looking at the factors which make a school likely to retain a headteacher. In addition, the research team also conducted interviews with headteachers exploring the trends identified in the School Workforce Census data further.

The findings from this analysis suggest that:

  • Ofsted ratings have an impact on retention rates. Those schools rated “Good” or “Outstanding” were more likely to retain their headteacher compared to those graded “inadequate”.
  • The lower the level of attainment across a school, the more likely it is that the school will struggle to retain its headteacher.
  • Retention rates are different depending on the type of academy trust. Those schools that are “convertor” or “single academy trusts” are more likely to retain their headteacher than those who are “sponsored” or those in larger trusts.
  • The “pace and nature of policy changes” and poor support has an impact on whether a headteacher is likely to stay in their role.

The NFER recommend that there should be: more clarity around headteachers’ “career pathways”; more guidance for governors on how to hold a headteachers to account – including developing timetables and “sustainable improvement”; and a formal induction process for headteachers as they enter a new school.

The National Governance Association welcomes the research into headteacher retention rates. NGA is also exploring headteacher recruitment with the University of Bath and York St John’s, as well as exploring the headteacher appraisal process.

Published: 28/04/2017, by Sam Henson
Last Updated: 05/09/2018, by Tom Fellows