Click on a job title to find out more about the people in the following roles:

David Thomas

David Thomas – Senior Research Manager

I joined NFER in 2014 and have worked on a range of secondary assessment projects since then. I have really enjoyed the interesting breadth of work we do here and have been able to apply my previous research skills and educational knowledge, while developing new skills around managing teams and working with clients.

There are diverse departments at NFER, but we all work closely together on projects and it is a very supportive, cooperative environment. When things do get busy, NFER is very flexible in supporting a positive work-life balance and the well-being of its staff. Having beautiful grounds to the building and a park next door also means that the environment is calm and relaxing and a good place to unwind. It is also particularly interesting for a curious biologist to explore.

I see educational research as my third career. I came at it, rather logically perhaps, via previous careers in research and education. After graduating with a degree in Biology, I initially worked in science research gaining a PhD in cancer studies from the University of Birmingham. As well as contributing (in a very small way) to the understanding of the cell and molecular biology of cancers, I learned the importance of only ever coming to a conclusion once you have fully evaluated all of the evidence. Of course, this evidence-based approach is a central principle of all of the research work we do here at NFER.

After a decade in research, I changed career to become a secondary school biology teacher, working in a large comprehensive school. I really enjoyed teaching my subject and the challenges of working across a wide range of ages and abilities. As a head of subject I got to learn in detail about curriculum and assessment and I got to see the positives and the challenges of the education sector. I took an interest in teacher training and professional development, particularly in areas of formative assessment and evidence-informed practice, and this brought me into contact with the work of NFER.

Jenny Price

Jenny Price – Research Manager

I joined the NFER family in 2018, having worked in international development and evaluation for ten years. As a Research Manager working in the International Education team, I work with colleagues to generate evidence and insights on education policy and practice in low and middle income countries, specifically focusing on the East Africa region.

Soon after starting, I was immediately given the opportunity to sink my teeth into an interesting piece of research – taking on the role of qualitative analyst and lead author for a study looking at teacher attendance in Embu County, Kenya. It was really exciting presenting our research findings at the National Education Conference in Nairobi, organised by the Aga Khan Foundation.

Joining NFER has allowed me to develop a specialist focus on education, a sector in which I have been particularly interested throughout my career. The organisation has encouraged me to further build expertise and I am studying part-time for a Master’s Degree in Education, Gender, and International Development.

NFER places a huge focus on the well-being of its employees, and there is a friendly, supportive and sociable vibe, with colleagues getting involved in ‘extra curricula’ activities such as on-site yoga and t’ai chi sessions, lunchtime walks around nearby leafy parks and rivers, and of course the odd trip to the pub in the surrounding area!

Liz Kuhn

Lisa Kuhn – Researcher

Since I was little I wanted to either become a scientist or a teacher (as a ten-year-old I even set up my own ‘inline-skating school’ and taught all children in my neighbourhood). After finishing my A-levels in my home country of Germany, I came to England and completed a BSc, MSc and PhD in one go, funded by the Economics and Social Research Council. The natural consequence then was to pursue a career in academia. I had a few fun years conducting interesting and rigorous research in the UK and abroad. I learned the hard way how to get my paper through 100 rounds of peer-review before publication, but the flexibility meant I could also simultaneously work as a psychological practitioner. However, sadly even I had to acknowledge that, unsecure funding, short-term employment contracts and pressure to publish meant that academia wasn’t going to work for me in the long-run.

The solution: find a not-for-profit organisation that offers rigorous research methodology, hands-on data collection in schools, highly qualified colleagues and a great support system, as well as permanent yet flexible working patterns.

I joined NFER in January 2018 and almost every day has been different so far. Although not quite the traditional research role as I know it, my current position includes many different tasks, such as collecting and analysing data, learning about new statistical models, and also project management or liaisingwith clients or stakeholders. Just to name a few, I would work on projects developing assessments for non-cognitive skills in low-income countries, create reading or Maths assessments or investigate the success of reading interventions. We also have regular research meetings where we discuss research designs or interesting journal publications and are encouraged to attend national and international conferences. Fitting all this in means naturally some days will be busier than others, but a nice office atmosphere, a non-stop supply of cakes and regular social events make up for this. And I even have time for my hobbies such as windsurfing or some online-teaching after work

Tara Paxman – Researcher

After working as a teacher in primary schools and in Early Years settings, I found that I wanted to look for something a bit different. I already had an interest in educational research and had completed a Masters in Child Development before going into teaching in 2016, so I was keen to develop these skills further and explore their application to real-world research.

I joined NFER in 2019 and have had the opportunity to work across different projects which cover everything from analysing qualitative research to developing innovative questions to assess children’s learning and misconceptions. NFER values the experience and insight which teachers, psychologists and other practitioners bring to their roles, and use this to inform their approach to evidence-based research. I have used my practical knowledge from teaching Key Stage 1 and Reception to support my work on projects in these areas, whilst also gaining a new perspective on my previous experience. I also enjoy the collaborative nature of my role and the opportunity to work with other members of staff from a range of backgrounds, from economics to statistics.

Working as a researcher in the Centre for Assessment has also enabled me to develop my research skills, and NFER as a whole maintains a strong focus on professional development. I particularly enjoyed the induction process which introduces new members of staff to the departments within NFER and the projects they work on, as well as guiding and supporting you with initial project work. We have regular seminars, research meetings and well-being days covering a variety of interesting topics and current work across NFER. At the heart of it, improving outcomes for children is what took me into teaching and is also what brought me to NFER.

Neal Hepworth – Research Manager

I joined NFER in 2017, having qualified as a primary teacher before going on to work at summer camps in the USA, followed by a UK based exam board. One of the things I like most about working at NFER is the diversity of work available. During my time in the Centre for Assessment I have worked on assessments covering critical thinking, reading, mathematics and grammar, randomised control trials, international large scale assessments and bespoke training for clients from as far afield as Australia and Botswana. It generally means that you’re unlikely to find yourself spending an entire day working on a single task, something that I find keeps the work feeling fresh and interesting.

In 2018, the opportunity arose for me to complete an MSc in Education (Research Design and Methodology) at the University of Oxford. NFER were flexible enough to allow me to take a period of sabbatical leave to complete the course before returning to my job. I’ve greatly appreciated the organisation’s focus on my personal development and this is just one of the ways I’ve been able to do so in my time here. Between that and the frequent internal training sessions, my knowledge of the research process has increased enormously since I joined the organisation.

Most importantly, NFER is a place where you’d be hard-pushed to find someone who isn’t friendly and interesting. I’ve made some great friends during my time here so far which creates a stimulating and enjoyable office environment to be in. When I’m not at work, I’m a keen follower (some would say too keen…) of the football, Middlesbrough FC in particular, as well as a 10k runner and bass guitarist.

Sarah Lynch

Sarah Lynch - Senior Research Manager

My time at NFER started 20 years ago when I spent a placement year here as an Assistant Research Officer while studying for my degree in Sociology at the University of Surrey. Not wanting to leave, I then worked here during the summer holidays after finishing my degree, carrying out telephone interviews with employers. I was then offered a permanent role and have been here ever since! I have worked my way ‘up the ranks’ and am now a Senior Research Manager. I have a range of qualitative and quantitative skills, so often work on mixed-methods projects. I am also a member of NFER’s Trials Unit, which carries out randomised controlled trials. I have had a number of subject interests over the years, including health education and social mobility, and more recently school workforce and teacher retention.

NFER is a friendly, supportive and flexible place to work. A few years ago I took some time off to start a family and came back part-time. I am very lucky to still be able to do an interesting, varied and challenging job on a part-time basis at the same time as being a mum.

Personally, I have always been interested in law and criminology, I love a good true crime book! I’ve wondered in the past whether my career should have taken me down that path instead, but I have always enjoyed the work I do at NFER, and the fact that having an impact on children’s education is at the centre of it all has meant that I have wanted to stay.

Paul Milsom

Paul Milsom - Senior Bid Manager

After studying economics at The University of Manchester I worked in marketing and media research for 15 years. I left the corporate world in 2008 to run my own business. Having sold my business, I was drawn to education research and I joined NFER in 2018.

I work in the bid team. We find and evaluate new research projects for NFER. We’re particular about what we choose to bid for; only projects that lie within our core interests and areas of expertise. Once opportunities are selected, we support colleagues in the bidding process. The role entails a broad range of skills including analysis, writing and project coordination. It’s great if you enjoy working as part of a team as our bids require contributions from across the organisation.

There’s a very strong ethos here. Everyone wants our research to have a positive impact by helping to shape government policy and improve education for children. The level of expertise among the staff is impressive, making it an inspiring place to work. There are frequent internal seminars on education-related issues and research methods – all great for developing knowledge. Colleagues are very active participants in external conferences as well. Socially, there’s lots to get involved with at lunchtimes and outside of work. The holidays are generous, too! Having recently moved to the area I’m busy exploring the walking opportunities and country pubs of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

Amanda Taylor

Amanda Taylor – Head of Policy, Library and Reviews

I originally joined NFER way back in 1998 initially as an administrator in our then international information team. I was keen to develop my career in information services while using the language skills from my first career in the airline industry. I was lucky enough to be promoted within a few months to an information role and began studying part-time for an MSc Econ in Information and Library Services. It was sometimes a hard slog combining full-time work with study (and then parenthood!) but it was a brilliant way to apply my learning immediately and I am still very grateful for NFER’s support. When my family grew I left NFER in 2007 and for the next five years combined raising my three children with freelance information consultancy work, for NFER and other clients, and being a school governor. In 2012 I re-joined NFER, initially to cover a colleague’s maternity leave but was delighted to become a permanent employee again working firstly on the Eurydice (the information network on education in Europe project) before promotions to Senior Information and Reviews Librarian and then to my current role leading our Policy, Library and Reviews team.

My work focuses on ensuring that NFER colleagues have access to the policy and research information they need in a fast-paced and changing environment where information overload is a daily challenge. I also work on literature review projects for internal and external clients. To thrive in my role I think you need to be service driven, see the bigger picture as well as the finer details, and be naturally nosey and inquisitive to dig out the golden nuggets of information from the noise.

NFER is a stimulating place to work with interesting colleagues from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds who care about the part we play in improving education for children and young people. Our Slough address may not sound all that glamourous but in fact our offices are in leafy grounds adjoining a beautiful park with views across to Windsor Castle. When I’m not at work my big passions in life, in no particular order, are body combat, reading (currently Freud!), red wine (Malbec) and walking in beautiful places at home and abroad.

Chris Hope

Chris Hope - Psychometrician

I joined NFER in 2017. In my role as a psychometrician, I use my skills to statistically analyse the educational assessments we produce during the development phase to check that they work in a reliable fashion and that the difficulty level is correct. Part of this work also entails running mathematical models to generate psychometrically valid measures and generating age standardisation tables to allow teachers to make sense of their pupil’s performance in comparison with the national average. In terms of research work, I regularly work on analysing international survey data such as PISA and TIMSS, which often involve a substantial psychometric component. Development work includes an exploration of Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT), an area that involves an in-depth knowledge of psychometrics to produce computerised tests that adapt to the person taking them in order to deliver questions that are appropriate for their ability level.

NFER is a great organisation to work for. When I joined NFER, I had no formal education in psychometrics which was remedied by the Foundation sending me on both an introductory and an advanced course in the area run by David Andrich, a world-renowned psychometrician. I have also been lucky enough to attend several conferences and workshops across Europe.

NFER is a very friendly and supportive organisation where people are always willing to help and problems are usually solved through collaborative effort. The work-life balance is better than other places I have worked before. Our organisation is growing and we’re always on the lookout for psychometricians to join the team, so feel free to get in touch if you are curious!

Matt Walker – Research Manager

I joined NFER in 2004. As a researcher, I have had the opportunity to work on a wide range of interesting research projects, spanning early years education right through to further and higher education. I have particular expertise in professional development, school improvement and STEM research, but have also worked on projects focusing on edtech, phonics, health and character education. No two projects are quite the same, and this variety of work means that I am constantly challenged to learn about new areas of educational practice.

As a Research Manager, I am involved in all aspects of the research process, including writing proposals, ‘pitching’ our proposals to clients, leading the delivery of research projects, and sharing/disseminating the findings. Indeed, NFER has provided me with lots of great opportunities, including developing and delivering training, secondments to other roles, and some overseas travel.

I can’t say that I always wanted to be a researcher – as a child, I first wanted to be a farmer and then a pilot! However, after completing a Master of Research Degree at Lancaster University and a gap year teaching English in China, I knew I was interested in education and research, and NFER has provided me with an opportunity to bring these two interests together.

It is great to work with such talented, driven colleagues, both here in York, and in NFER’s Slough and Llanelli offices. This is just one of the many great reasons to work for NFER, as well as the generous holidays and flexible working hours.

Matthew MacGregor-Stubbs

Matthew MacGregor-Stubbs – Research Director

I work as a Research Director specialising in International Assessment in the Centre for International Education at NFER. Before joining NFER in 2018 I spent 12 years working overseas, eight of which were with the British Council in a range of education and examinations management roles in four countries. After a lot of movement my family and I decided we wanted to move back to the UK and put some roots down – the opportunity to contribute to growing the Foundation’s international work in assessment and to keep my links to international education came about at the right time, allowing me to combine my interests and experience.

As a Research Director I have responsibilities for various different projects and also work collaboratively with colleagues on developing proposals and opportunities for new pieces of work. I also input into the strategic direction for the international assessment portfolio, helping to ensure that we are prioritising the right areas to develop into. Working internationally is something relatively new for NFER so it is an exciting time to be working here, especially as there is an increasing global focus on the use of assessment and its contribution to children’s learning through, for example the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


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