Department for Education

DCSF building on Great Smith Street

The DfE building on Great Smith Street, London.

Our work to raise the educational attainment of all pupils will affect the life chances of future generations and directly influences their employment outcomes, the economy and their personal well-being.

Our vision is for a highly educated society in which opportunity is more equal for children and young people no matter what their background or family circumstances.

We are responsible for:

  • the education and well-being of children and young people aged 0 to 19
  • funding the schools in which they are taught
  • improving the quality of teachers and teaching in those schools
  • reforming what is taught in the classroom, how it is assessed and measured
  • ensuring local services protect children
  • improving support for children, young people and families, focusing on the most disadvantaged

Operational Research at the DfE

Over 40 OR analysts work across the main policy and operational areas of the Department. The nature of our work is varied and fast moving, and we provide a wide range of broad analytical support, advice and scrutiny, in addition to some well-defined areas of more technical input. Typical examples of recent work across the Department’s three directorates and executive agencies include:

Infrastructure and Funding (including Education Funding Agency)

  • Building large resource allocation models, using SQL and VBA, to assess the impact of school funding reforms, such as redistributing £30 billion through the National Fair Funding Formula.
  • Forecasting the number of academies that we expect to open over the next five years and beyond using complex Excel modelling and @Risk software.
  • Developing an indicator to measure the efficiency of schools, exploring techniques such as multiple regression, stochastic frontier analysis, and data envelopment analysis.
  • Providing tools to support the department, local authorities, schools and academies in the calculation and understanding of funding allocations – supporting the efficient and fair allocation of a budget in excess of £40bn.

Education Standards (including National College for Teaching and Leadership)

  • Providing analytical advice on the number of teacher trainees needed to be recruited over the next two years, by optimising a mathematical model using Excel and Visual Basic.
  • Using forecasting techniques to project the number of pupils in the school system to 2022
  • Brainstorming and process mapping to develop performance monitoring systems that monitor the progress of policies aimed at improving quality of teaching.
  • Providing tools to support NCTL, DfE, Initial Teacher Training providers, and schools in the calculation and understanding of funding and place allocations relating to training new teachers.
  • Using multi-level models to assess progress of children through primary and secondary school and into further education.

Children, Young People and Families

  • Modelling the impact of changing qualification requirements for childcare workers and the potential for relaxing staff:child ratios for the Childcare Commission.
  • Developing an interactive Excel tool to enable parents and local authorities to compare the key indicators of early education services across local authorities to ensure transparency and support improvements in fairness and value for money
  • Building the evidence base around what factors cause children to become and remain poor, thus helping us to advise on effective policies for tackling child poverty.

What to Expect

The majority of OR analysts are based in London although the department also has analysts working in Sheffield, Darlington and Coventry. We're a friendly group working alongside statisticians, economists, social researchers, data collection and administrative staff and we work very closely with our policy partners. For the more experienced analysts, there is the possibility of working within a policy team.

As a new OR recruit you will be assigned a mentor to guide you through the first months of your career. In addition, we are committed to developing both your OR and consultancy skills, and each OR analyst is expected to undertake 100 hours of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) each year. Career development is a high priority, so you will be encouraged to change project responsibilities about every 18 months to 2 years.

We have all grades represented within the OR group: from Deputy Director (the Head of Profession) through to SO (GORS level 1) including fast streamers. Promotion up to and including GORS level 3 can occur within post and is based on displayed competencies and how individuals perform in work, through a process of bi-annual promotion rounds to assess suitability for progression. Thereafter, promotion happens by successfully applying for vacant posts.