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A new report sets out findings from a narrative literature review and an expert consultation conducted at the University of Oxford’s Rees Centre to inform recommendations to the Department for Education (DfE) on how to improve information sharing.

The Health and Care Act 2022 requires the Secretary of State for Education to report on government policy in relation to information sharing. The DfE commissioned Newham Council, Social Finance and the Rees Centre through the Data and Digital Fund to consider the barriers and potential enablers to better information sharing and to make recommendations for improving the ways information is shared among safeguarding partners such as the NHS, police and local authorities, as well as within educational settings. The Rees Centre and Social Finance both provided research input to support Newham’s recommendations to DfE.

The Rees Centre was delighted to collaborate with Mary Baginsky and Rick Hood in undertaking this work, which was conducted at pace to feed academic knowledge in to skilled policy work. This report provides the background literature and analysis that Rees fed in to the discussions to inform the recommendations. The report emphasises challenges for implementation based on a rich analysis of the barriers to behavioural change and the history of reforms and attempts to improve information sharing.

The report is available on the Rees Centre website. The DfE report was presented to the House of Parliament on 6 July 2023.

Jamie Stiff and colleagues have looked at the 221 academic publications on the Progress in International Reading Study, the world’s largest reading assessment.  They found that:

  • Most articles used PIRLS data for secondary data analysis.
  • Research related to attainment gaps has increased since 2015.
  • 20% of articles were critiques of PIRLS constructs and/or procedures.
  • PIRLS remains underutilised for researching reading literacy.

The full article can be found here:

Stiff, J., Lenkeit, J., Hopfenbeck, T.N., Kayton, H. and McGrane, J.A. (2023) Research engagement in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study: A systematic review. Educational Research Review, 40.


Strengthening the design and implementation of the standardised student assessment reform of the Flemish Community of Belgium

The Flemish Community of Belgium has been a stronger performer on international tests, however, performance has been deteriorating and more students are failing to reach basic proficiency levels than before. In response, a series of reforms have been initiated including the introduction of standardised tests, initially in Dutch and mathematics, to evaluate student, school and national performance. Michelle Meadows worked with Marco Kools, Inés Sanguino Martínez and Claire Shrewbridge from the OECD Implementing Education Policies team and Professor Inge de Wolf from Maastricht University to support the successful design and implementation of the tests.

The report presents the analysis, key findings and recommendations including the need to clarify the main purpose of the tests. As the current policy gives equal weight to the use of the data at system, school, classroom and student level, the tests may not meet all the expectations for their intended use. For example, the design decisions taken so far best support system level monitoring of student performance rather than the use of test data by teachers to improve their pedagogical practice.


The Review, led by Professor Louise Hayward recommended

  • Scottish Diploma of Achievement comprising Programmes of Learning, Project Learning and the Personal Pathway.
  • Removal of external examinations in fourth year
  • A national strategy for standards
  • A cross-sector Commission on Artificial Intelligence
  • Cultural change processes, including professional development for teachers

Professors Jo-Anne Baird and Gordon Stobart were members of the Independent Review Group and led the Qualifications Community Consultation Group, composed of:

Dr Lena Gray (Qualifications and Assessment Consultant/Researcher) • Emeritus Professor Jenny Ozga (University of Oxford, Department of Education) • Professor Pasi Sahlberg (Southern Cross University, Education) • Emeritus Professor Dylan William (University of London, Assessment) • Professor Ewart Keep (University of Oxford, Education, Training and Skills) • Professor Anne Looney (Dublin City University, Executive Dean of the Institute of Education)

Some news coverage and reactions:

Hayward Review: Expert says blueprint to scrap S4 exams in Scotland will benefit pupils, teachers and Scottish society.  The Scotsman

7 key messages as Hayward report on assessment unveiled, TES magazine

Hayward Review: Considering the future of qualifications and assessment. FE News

NASUWT comments on Hayward Review


With a different set of purposes, GCSEs could  be designed differently.

30 March 2023

Witness(es): Dr Michelle Meadows, Associate Professor of Educational Assessment, Department for Education, University of Oxford; Gavin Busuttil-Reynaud, Director of Operations, AlphaPlus; Sharon Hague, Senior Vice-President, Pearson School Qualifications; Tim Oates CBE, Group Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment

View the full session here:


The Scottish Qualifications Authority have today released reports on stakeholders’ views of national assessments in Scotland, four of which were conducted in conjunction with the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment and Glasgow University.

Professor Jo-Anne Baird at the University of Oxford and one of the co-authors of the research, said: “Public confidence in national qualifications is incredibly important for learners.

“Our findings show that people want a qualification system that fits modern Scottish society – one that is learner-focused, with choice, flexibility, and the capacity to adapt to the needs of learners with different skills and in a range of contexts.”

The research has been published on SQA’s website to support discussion around the future of assessment in Scotland.

See the article on our findings in the TES magazine.

The British Educational Research Association (BERA) has named the University of Oxford’s Teacher Education and Professional Learning group as this year’s joint winner of its prestigious Public Engagement and Impact Award. The team receiving the award are John Furlong, Katharine Burn, Hazel Hagger and Trevor Mutton.

The award is in recognition of the way that research undertaken by the group over many years has supported a radical re-conceptualisation of initial teacher education (ITE) across the whole of Wales. These reforms have shaped the experiences of all trainee teachers in Wales, (approximately 2,700 per year) and have had a major impact on hundreds of participating schools and their partner universities.  In both schools and HEIs there is now a significantly greater emphasis on increasing capacity to undertake and use research.

The Director of the Welsh Government’s Education Directorate notes that the reforms have resulted ‘in a strengthened ITE provision, and a deeper collaborative architecture across our school and university systems.’


Underpinning research

Oxford’s rich history of research on the professional education and training of teachers dates back to the 1980s.

Successive studies have addressed questions such as:

  • What skills and knowledge might student teachers only learn through direct experience in schools?
  • What is Higher Education best placed to contribute to teacher learning?
  • What sort of partnership between schools and HEIs is needed to provide this training?

Key research leading to the changes in Wales included Hagger and McIntyre’s (2006) Learning Teaching from Teachers and Furlong’s (2013) Education: An anatomy of the discipline, which drew together much of the earlier work undertaken by the team.  This led directly to the study commissioned by BERA and the RSA (2013), Research and Teacher Education, chaired by Furlong, which included an important, widely-cited paper by Burn and Mutton (2015) on the development of ‘research informed clinical practice’ in teacher education. Their emphasis on tightly-integrated forms of university-school collaboration as essential to the successful implementation of research-informed practice became a key element in the Welsh reforms.

Details of impact

In 2014 Furlong was appointed as an independent adviser on ITE to the Welsh Government. Drawing explicitly on Oxford research, Furlong’s subsequent report (2015) recommended the complete reform of ITE with the establishment of a new accreditation system, new partnerships between HEIs and schools, a changed approach to ITE inspection by Estyn (the education and training inspectorate) and a significant strengthening of, and investment in, educational research to underpin ITE provision. These recommendations were adopted in full by the Welsh Government.


Drawing directly on the Oxford research, Furlong led the development of a new accreditation process. New Criteria insisted that all ITE ‘should be based on learning that is both rigorously practical and intellectually challenging at the same time’. New legislation made the criteria mandatory and established a Teacher Education Accreditation Board (TEAB). Furlong was appointed the first chair of the TEAB and Hagger a member. Hagger became Chair in 2019.

The new Criteria required Lead Schools to accept ITE as a core responsibility and universities to assume a clearer role in making available knowledge that is not always accessible in schools: knowledge from research, from theory and from good practice internationally.


In 2020, Estyn aligned its inspection frameworks to the new Criteria, as the Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales notes ‘often using the language of the Criteria and its vision, to support key concepts’.

Research Capacity

In universities, all ITE teaching staff must now have qualifications at a higher level than the courses on which they are teaching, and must be ‘research active’, taking leading roles in assimilating, conducting, publishing and supervising research. As one head-teacher makes clear, schools too are developing greater research literacy: ‘Teachers have also needed to develop a very conscious understanding of research practices, pedagogical methodologies and subject depth’ which were ‘new territories for many schools in terms of our theoretical understanding’.

Read the announcement of the award on the British Educational Research Association’s website


The Nuffield Foundation has awarded £2.8 million for an ambitious research programme to improve the lives of children and families by better understanding their needs and experiences.

Over the next five years, Professor Leon Feinstein, Director of the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford, will lead this innovative collaboration between local authorities and universities to transform how information about and from children and families is gathered, interpreted and used in child and family social policy at both local and national level.

The project will focus on children and families who need additional support from local authority children’s services, who are often the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. For example, this will include children and families referred to children’s social care services; younger children who need help to have a good start at school; and children in care and young people leaving care.

Statistical or ‘administrative’ information about children and families – commonly known as data – can improve practice and policy, but there are gaps and complexities in how this information is used. Other types of information, particularly the views and expertise of children and families, are vitally important. This project aims to ensure children’s and families’ voices, and the views of practitioners, are heard and used to improve practice, services and policy.

The project includes five Local Sites. Greater Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, North Yorkshire and Hampshire local authorities will work with academics from Oxford University, the University of Sussex and London School of Economics and Political Science, University College London and Manchester Metropolitan University to build capacity and understanding about how to better use administrative data, children and families’ voices and information from practitioners to improve services.

Researchers will collaborate with children, young people, parents, carers, professionals and policymakers to understand and shape how information can be used ethically and effectively. Local Sites will also explore how the use of these different types of information can be co-designed with children and families, and how to support sustainable learning and change. The project has not yet been named, as the intention is to include children and families and practitioners in deciding the name.

A series of workshops, webinars and podcasts will share learning with all those working with children and families, including researchers, practitioners and managers, and policymakers. Academic thinking in this field will also be shaped by a range of research outputs. A Learning Network, run by Research in Practice, will bring together 20 local authorities to test out the findings from the five Local Sites and to develop learning materials to support better information use across England.

Tim Gardam, Chief Executive of the Nuffield Foundation, said:

“We established the Nuffield Foundation’s Strategic Fund to encourage ambitious, multi-disciplinary projects that would re-frame the social policy agenda and improve people’s lives.

“This project stood out for its originality and intent to work closely on the ground with local government and practitioners, as well as children and families. It aligns with our focus and priorities across the Foundation’s interests in Education, Welfare and Justice. By transforming the quality and use of information and data by local authorities, this project has real potential to reduce inequalities and improve the lives of the most disadvantaged children and their families.”

Professor Leon Feinstein, Principal Investigator and Director of the Rees Centre at Oxford University, said:

“We are thrilled to be leading a project with such a strong and committed group of local authorities, academics, and leaders in social policy. The Nuffield Foundation has provided us with a tremendous opportunity to bring evidence into policy and practice in a new way and to really support improvement to the lives and experiences of children and families. If we get this right, we can make sure data and information are used for and with people, rather than, as so often is the case, for and by government.”

Further information about this collaboration can be found here.

To stay informed about this project as it develops, contact with the subject header ‘keep in touch’.

We are delighted to announce new funding at the Rees Centre from Diverse Care for The Hazel Project research, which builds on our work focused on teenagers in fostering placements.

The first incarnation of the Hazel Project began in the 1970s with the development and introduction of a placement project for adolescents in Kent (1974-1979). This project aimed to arrange foster placements for adolescents thought likely to benefit from a fostering environment. The Hazel Project was developed at a time when fostering for adolescents was not conceived of as a wholly viable option, with residential group care being the dominant placement type and the level of foster family breakdown at a high.

The Hazel Project research at the Rees Centre  – in collaboration with Diverse Care – will explore, contemporarily, the promises and constituents of effective specialist and therapeutic fostering for adolescents. The research will also address re-emerging debates around the professionalisation of fostering and how best to meet the needs of adolescents within the family environment.

Dr Caroline Cresswell, who joined the Rees Centre in April will conduct an extensive systematic review in the area, the findings of which will be disseminated to contribute to persistent debates and the development of policy and practice concerning looked after adolescents. Caroline will be joined by a DPhil student in October 2020, whose research will contribute to the field.