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Public events

Forthcoming events


Evening lecture and drinks

'High performance learning: a new reform standard for education'

When: Tuesday 28th March, 6 for 6.30pm to 8.00pm (with drinks following)

Where: Swedenborg Hall, 20-21 Bloomsbury Way, London, WC1A 2TH

Please register your interest here and we will get back to you to confirm your place.
School Improvement has had a shaping influence on the education reform landscape in England for twenty years or more. As an approach to reform, it has delivered significant gains, but there are signs that it may now be plateauing. Most schools are now deemed by Ofsted to be good or outstanding, but education is still seen as substandard when judged against international norms. How do we move forward from this position? Deborah argues that we need a new reform standard – one which builds on the school improvement gains, but is more ambitious.
A key feature of the best schools in the world is that they focus strongly on pedagogy and how to optimise gains in teaching and learning.  This, she argues, is particularly significant in the light of research suggesting that far more pupils than we previously thought are capable of high performance. So the next phase of school reform should recalibrate expectations regarding how many of these high performers can be produced and be clearer about the type of student we are looking to create.
Evidence suggests that to obtain these new gains, new accountability structures are also required. School leaders and teachers must be repositioned as the professionals who are challenging themselves to become ever more effective in creating high performance for the many, not just the few. Hence internal accountability will precede external accountability – the function of the external system regulators being to oversee and ensure that all is working as it should be. This is already happening in a small minority of the best schools: the challenge is to systematise it.
Please register your interest here and we will get back to you to confirm your place.
Deborah Eyre is the Founder of High Performance Learning, an advanced pedagogy that helps schools become world class through systematically developing superior cognitive performance in all students. Prior to founding this new venture, Deborah held a variety of senior executive roles both globally and in UK as well as advising governments and educational foundations in UK, Hong Kong, South Africa, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, USA and Singapore. From 2010-2014 she was Education Director for Nord Anglia Education. Formerly she served as Director of the UK government’s innovative National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY), based at the University of Warwick, where she is an Honorary Professor at the Centre for Education Studies. She is a Freeman of the Guild of Educators and has served on a number of national and international boards including the UK TDA (Training and Development Agency for teachers), NCSL (National College for School Leadership), WCGTC (World Council for Gifted and Talented Children), Council for British International Schools (COBIS) and Centre for Talented Youth Ireland (CTYI). She also serves as a Board member for CMRE. A widely published author, Able Children in Ordinary Schools (1997) is a seminal text still in publication. Her most recent policy publication was 'Room at the Top' (Policy Exchange, 2010). A new book for teachers, High Performance Learning: How to Build a World Class School, was published in January 2016.


Past events


Panel discussion
'The London advantage, The London Challenge, immigration, and deprivation'

When: Wednesday 1st March, 6 for 6.30pm to 8.00pm (with drinks following)

Where: Offices of The Key, 2nd Floor, 29 Ludgate Hill, London EC4M 7JR

ChairGabriel Heller Sahlgren, Director of Research, CMRE; Affiliated Researcher at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm, Sweden; PhD student, London School of Economics
Professor Simon Burgess, Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol;
Dr Jo Blanden, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Department of Economics, University of Surrey; and
Jon Coles, CEO of United Learning (and from 2002-05 Director of the London Challenge at the DfE)
The advantage enjoyed by London’s young people, in terms of degree of progress they make at Secondary in relation to those outside the capital, is well documented, but little understood. In the debate about how we should account for this success, much emphasis is placed on the effect of school leaders coming together collaboratively, in an effort, between 2003-11, known as ‘the London Challenge’, to implement a variety of school improvement strategies. Unfortunately,
assertions about the success of the London Challenge are generally made on the basis of research that cannot, properly understood, speak to whether, what, and to what degree aspects of the policy contributed causally to improvement. 
Seeking a clearer picture of what was going on, a handful of researchers have sought to focus on what can, with confidence, be measured. In 2014, Professor Simon Burgess of the University of Bristol (then Director of CMPO, the Centre for Market and Public Organisation, there), focused in on pupils’ ethnic background and found that by merely holding it constant, the London advantage evaporated. Changes in pupil composition, most likely related to immigration, which in turn would influence pupil work ethic and aspiration, were also recognised as important by a team of researchers from CASE/LSE led by Jo Blandon, who found in addition that improvements in Primary level attainment and a reduction in the negative contribution made by having lots of peers from a deprived background, were even more significant – neither of which have anything to do with the London Challenge initiative.
So what are the implications of these findings for other such initiatives, and how we understand and evaluate school improvement interventions, and finally, is there a broader, more important message here for London and the country?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hosted by


Report launch

'Who’s to produce and who’s to choose? Assessing the future of the qualifications and assessment market'
When: Tuesday 18th October, 6pm for 6.30pm till 8.30pm
Where: 2 Lord North Street (Great Peter Street entrance), Westminster, SW1P 3LB
Tim OatesCBE, Group Director of Assessment R&D, Cambridge Assessment, in conversation with Gabriel Heller Sahlgren, CMRE Director of Research
For many years, schools in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have had the right to decide which qualifications their pupils take from a range of options offered by multiple independent providers. This allows an element of diversity in assessment and qualifications, and stimulates competition between different exam boards.
Yet over the last few years, this model has faced increasing criticism. Because of perverse incentives, it is argued, competition induces exam boards to dumb down their examinations and inflate grades.
As a result of this criticism, former Education Secretary Michael Gove proposed to abolish exam board competition, and instead introduce procurement, by which exam boards compete to be able to deliver all examinations in a specific subject for a set number of years. While the proposal was abandoned – partly because of fears that it would be challenged courts under EU competition, and internal opposition within the governing coalition – it subsequently resurfaced under Michael Gove’s successor Nicky Morgan, and continues to be considered a feasible policy option.
In a new report, 'Who’s to produce and who’s to choose? Assessing the future of the qualifications and assessment market', CMRE's Research Director, Gabriel Heller Sahlgren investigates whether consumer choice or procurement is preferable in the field of assessment and qualifications. The report discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and, based on a cost-benefit analysis, it suggests which model is likely to be preferable – and which reforms should be implemented to make sure that model works as well as possible.
At this event, Tim Oates discusses with Gabriel Heller Sahlgren what is the first in-depth economic analysis of the topic.
Sponsored by


Report launch panel discussion: 
'Taking a lead: how to access the leadership premium'
An evening panel discussion to mark the publication of a CMRE report 'Taking a lead: how to access the leadership premium'.

James Croft, Executive Director, CMRE, and author of the report, with

Professor Daniel Muijs, Director of Research, Southampton Education School, University of Southampton

Download a .pdf copy of the research report here.
When: Tuesday 28th June, 6pm for 6.30pm till 8.30pm
Where: 2 Lord North Street (Great Peter Street entrance), Westminster, SW1P 3LB
Much of the present government’s education reform strategy turns on being able to maximise a leadership premium. Attracting new leaders from outside teaching has been a key focus, but growing capacity in the existing system may be more important to keeping pace with the government’s expectations and achieving scale solutions.
Sir Michael Wilshaw has said that the need to recruit good future leaders for England's schools is urgent but that we lack a strategy for identifying and developing talent. What constitutes effective educational leadership, and whether it may be learned or the skills transferred, is a subject that tends to elicit strong convictions, however.
A survey of the substantial research literature concerning the relationship between school leadership and effectiveness reveals a far weaker evidence base than many of the claims made for the importance of leadership, on one or another model, would suggest. It also indicates that the role of contingency and school context in shaping leadership effectiveness is not given the attention that it warrants. 
If effective leadership practices are both learned, and embedded, in context, a more refined understanding of contextual and situational leadership and management may therefore be necessary in turn for effective policy geared towards taking advantage of the leadership premium.
Sponsored by  
Download a .pdf copy of the research report here.
Download a .pdf copy of the Executive Summary here.
Ahead of northern launch events in Manchester and Leeds, One Education interviews James Croft, author of the report.

Lunchtime launch and panel discussion:
'Steps forward, steps backward: What to make of the government's plans for higher education market reform'

     A lunchtime panel discussion to mark the publication of a
     collection of essays evaluating the government's plans for
     higher education market reform.
      When: Tuesday, 21st June 2016, 12.30pm to 2pm
     Where: 2 Lord North Street (Great Peter Street entrance),
     Westminster, SW1P 3LB
     Download a .pdf copy of the report here.
Introduced by Baroness Perry of Southwark
Chaired by James Croft, Executive Director, CMRE
with panelists Alison Goddard, Editor, HE; Louisa Darian, Deputy Director, Wonkhe; Emran Mian, Director, SMF; and Professor Len ShackletonProfessor of Economics, University of Buckingham and CMRE Fellow.
The UK Higher Education sector is regarded as one of the best in the world, but in an increasingly global market-place, is looking increasingly uncompetitive. Despite recent efforts to induce greater competition through the introduction of tuition fees and opening the market to new supply, it remains dysfunctional in significant ways.
Most institutions charge top tuition fees because the availability of state-backed loans means that they can. Despite the removal of recruiting caps, few universities have expanded significantly. Demand is so great that universities still hold much of the leverage and incentives to improve the quality of provision are lacking.
There is also clearly a need for more useful, and reliable information for students: the present ranking system is not grounded in empirical evidence, and indeed the quality of the data that students base their decisions on in general is at best poor, and at worst misleading. As a result, across the system as a whole, there is little evidence of flexibility, creativity and sensitivity to consumer demand. 
In face of these, and other, challenges, policymakers are looking for more efficient, cost-effective ways of delivering higher-quality, and more relevant, higher education. The government has presented its view of the priorities in a new Higher Education and Research Bill: we assess whether they are the right ones, and if the proposed measures are likely to achieve their intended aims. 


The second annual CMRE Friedman Lecture: 'School competititon is key to school reform'

Presented by Professor Paul E. Peterson

When: Tuesday 26th January 2016, 6.30-7.45pm

Where: Hoare Memorial Hall, Church House (Great Smith Street entrance), Westminster 



Challenging the OECD PISA Analysis: Implications for Education Reform

Gabriel Heller Sahlgren, CMRE Director of Research, James Croft, CMRE Executive Director, and Lindsey Burke, Will Skillman Fellow in Education Policy, The Heritage Foundation.

When: Tuesday 17th October, 2015, 10am to 11.30am

Where: Lehrman Auditorium, The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington DC

Over the past 15 years, the education debate has become increasingly internationalized following the birth of the OECD’s PISA survey. PISA scores measure the skills and knowledge of students internationally and have become widely interpreted as a measure of countries’ education policy success. Policymakers in countries with lower PISA scores often look to countries that fare well on PISA for ideas to improve student performance. But is this a good way to conduct education policy? This forum will discuss the value of PISA and alternative measures for school reform. Often, a country’s success is more complex than a PISA survey can capture and ignores the potential of free market solutions. Using a range of education policy examples, with Finland, Sweden, England and the United States as case studies, the forum highlights the pitfalls associated with “best practice” and the OECD’s analyses for finding out what works. It will also consider implications for U.S. policy within the context of growing school choice options.

View video of the event here.



Why schools can’t do without politicians

James Croft interviews Sir Michael Barber about his latest book How to run a government and discusses its implications for education policy and the business of schooling 

with opening remarks from CMRE's President, Neil McIntosh CBE

Sponsored by Dukes Education

When: Tuesday 6th October 2015, 6.30 for 7.00 to 8.30pm

Where: 2 Lord North Street (Great Peter Street entrance), Westminster

The effectiveness or otherwise of governments is fundamental to the prosperity and well-being of society, and of markets. In a time when politicians struggle to make and fulfil meaningful promises in face of the weight of expectations on them and the sheer complexity of delivery, fresh thinking is required to overcome the barriers to implementation presented by the public bureaucracies that have developed as a result. Interviewed by CMRE's Executive Director, James Croft, Sir Michael Barber explores the issues as they relate to education services.

Sir Michael Barber is Chief Education Advisor at Pearson, leading the development of its worldwide programme of efficacy and research into the learning impact of its education services offering.

Read more about the event here.



Transferable expertise and contextual realities: does the independent schools sector really have all the answers for state school improvement?

Presented by Jon Coles, Group Chief Executive of United Learning

Chaired by Lord Lucas, Member, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education,

with panel contributions from Sam Freedman, Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First, and Richard Harman, Chair of the Headmasters' & Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) and Headmaster of Uppingham School

When: Wednesday 19th August 2015, 6.15 for 6.30 to 8.30pm

Where: 2 Lord North Street (Great Peter Street entrance), Westminster

Faith in the capacity of the independent schools sector to effect improvement in state school provision has been an enduring feature of the policy debate about how to raise pupil attainment for many years. Since the introduction of the Academies programme, securing independent school leadership and resources for the most challenged schools in particular has been a key part of the government’s strategy. But is this faith well placed? At this event, Jon and panellists explored the implications of contextual realities for the prospects of system-wide school improvement, for policy-making in general, and for the relationship between central government and autonomous state schools.

Read more about the event and subsequent media coverage here.



Real Finnish Lessons: the true story of an education superpower

Tim Oates in conversation with Gabriel Heller Sahlgren

When: Wednesday 22nd April 2015, 6.30-8.30pm

Where: 55 Tufton Street, Westminster

At this joint event, co-hosted by The Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education (CMRE) and The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), and sponsored by Cambridge Assessment, Tim Oates and Gabriel Heller Sahlgren considered Finland's rise, and demise, in the international PISA rankings, drawing lessons for policymakers, educational practice, and research.

Read more about the lecture and access a video of the event here.



The Inaugural CMRE Friedman Lecture: 'School choice matures: lessons for policymakers'

Presented by Professor Julian Le Grand

When: Tuesday 27th January 2015, 6.30-7.45pm

Where: Hoare Memorial Hall, Church House (Great Smith Street entrance), Westminster

Read a summary of the lecture or listen to an audio recording.



Good teachers are crucial – so how can we make them better?

Presented by Professor Olmo Silva with a panel discussion chaired by Gabriel Heller Sahlgren and panel contributions from David Weston and Laura McInerney

When: Thursday 27th November, 6:30-9.30pm

Where: 23 Great Smith Street, Westminster, the offices of the Adam Smith Institute. 

Read more about the event here.