IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Q&A with Sam Sims

Sam is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities (CEPEO).

About your role

What attracted you to take up your position at IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society?

I studied for my PhD here and never left! I was initially attracted by the great researchers working here, using large datasets and rigorous methods to answer important policy questions. The newly established Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunity (CEPEO) is going to push further in this direction. It is the ideal place for me to be working.

What do you most enjoy about your position and why?

Having the autonomy to pursue my own research interests is a real privilege. I also enjoy working with the team in CEPEO – they are fun and smart in equal measure.


What's the most important thing you've learned from your students about the subject you teach? 

Our student body at UCL is very international, which is great as I am always learning about how education is organised in other countries. It is easy to forget that there are many other ways to run an education system.

I find teaching extremely valuable because it forces me to ask the question: ‘what is the most important thing here?’ Honing the way I explain something helps clarify my own thinking."


What is the focus of your research and what benefits do you hope your discoveries and insights will bring?

I want to provide a precise answer to the question of how schools should be organised and managed in order to promote teacher effectiveness and retention. Research on this has come a long way in the last five years but we still have a way to go until we can provide actionable, evidence-based advice to school leaders. Answering this question requires combining insights from the education literature, theory from psychology and methods from the quantitative social sciences.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

My PhD focused on the recruitment and retention of teachers. In early 2019 the government released a strategy to address the current shortage of teachers in England and it referenced two of my papers (below). It is good to know that somebody is at least reading my research!

    How has being in London benefited you?

    The Department for Education is three stops away on the Victoria Line, which is very convenient!


    What would it surprise people to know about you?

    I am the proud owner of three Sussex Ranger hens. They live in our back garden and keep us well stocked with fresh eggs.

    What other subjects outside of your area of specialism interest you?

    I am interested in cities, economic geography, demography, politics – pretty much anything that touches on the public sphere. At the weekend, I am more interested in walking my dog, getting out on my bike and good wine!