Jake is an Associate Professor in Educational and Social Statistics, based in the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities.
What is the focus of your research and what benefits do you hope your discoveries will bring?
My research focuses on trying to better understand the causes and consequences of educational inequality and, importantly, on rigorously evaluating policies and interventions that aim to reduce that inequality. In particular, I have developed an expertise in designing and running randomised controlled trials in education, although I also critique the way these are currently carried out. I’m interested in learning from other fields, such as public health research and implementation science, to improve the way we introduce interventions sustainably and test them taking into account the complex nature of the environment into which they are introduced: schools.
What other subjects outside of your area of specialism interest you?
Does this count if it wasn’t intentional? I’ve learned an awful lot about the legalities of data protection in the past few years. Of course, this is extremely important, but I think I’m becoming interested in it for its own sake - that’s possibly something of a “Stockholm Syndrome” interest!
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
The importance of randomised trials in education and social science more widely is growing, and I’m extremely proud to be part of the group of researchers who are leading that. There’s much more to learn and do better in this area, so in a few years’ time I also hope to be proud of playing a part in improving the way randomised trials are done in education, helping them engage better with the rest of the education research environment when they can have a tendency to be a bit separate.
“What do you most enjoy about your position and why?
I’m passionate about the research I carry out and the importance of its findings for improving educational outcomes and reducing inequality, whether those messages are relevant to policymakers, teachers or other researchers – hopefully. all three sometimes.
Ultimately, I am a data geek – and do enjoy crunching the numbers on a new dataset!"
What attracted you to take up your position at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE)?
Having carried out my PhD here a few years earlier, when taking up my position at the IOE I knew I was coming to such an amazing hub for education research in this country. Few places have the breadth and depth of experience that can be found here, meaning not only can you easily find a group with whom you can work on areas of joint interest and expertise, but there are also ample opportunities to learn from those with different knowledge, skills and perspectives, strengthening your research.
How long have you been at the IOE and what were you doing before that?
I joined UCL as a member of staff in 2016. However, I’ve been here before, as I was previously a PhD student at UCL, too, during which time I also worked as a Committee Specialist at the UK Parliament House of Commons Education Committee. Immediately prior to joining UCL, I was a Research Fellow at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR): an independent research institute elsewhere in London.
Do you think being in London benefits your work?
Although I don’t actually live in London, I love working here. First, there is an amazing density of scholarly and cultural resources, especially around UCL’s campus in Bloomsbury. Second, London is (rightly or wrongly!) the hub of policy-making for education in England; so many fascinating events about education policy happen near here and it’s much easier to attend or be a part of them when I’m working close by.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I have performed at the National Theatre!