Tim Oates CBE

Tim Oates

Tim Oates CBE joined Cambridge Assessment in May 2006 to spearhead the rapidly growing Assessment Research and Development division. He was previously at the Qualifications and Curriculum Agency, where he had been Head of Research and Statistics for most of the last decade.

Work included advising on a pan-European 8-level qualifications framework. He has advised the UK Government for many years on both practical matters and assessment policy.

He started his career as a research officer at the University of Surrey. He moved to the FE Staff College in 1987 where he helped run the Work-Based Learning project. London University's Institute of Education then appointed him as NCVQ Research Fellow. In 1993, he joined one of the QCA's predecessor bodies, the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, as Head of GNVQ Research and Development. Promotion to Director of Research followed two years later.

Tim was awarded CBE in the 2015 New Year's Honours for services to education.



What we did before PISA
Blog (20 December, 2017)
More like work or more like school? Insights into learning cultures from a study of skatepark users
Johnson, M. and Oates, T. (2017). Presented at the Journal of Vocational Education and Training International Conference, University of Oxford, UK, 7-9 July 2017


Making Sense of a Learning Space: How Freestyle Scooter-riders Learn in a Skate Park
Johnson, M. and Oates, T. (2016). Informal Learning Review, 140, 17-21.
Finland - old stories, new headlines
Blog (27 October, 2016)


Rank ordering and paired comparisons - the way Cambridge Assessment is using them in operational and experimental work

Bramley, T. and Oates, T. (2011). Rank ordering and paired comparisons - the way Cambridge Assessment is using them in operational and experimental work. Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 11, 32-35.

In this article we describe the method of paired comparisons and its close relative, rank-ordering. Despite early origins, these scaling methods have been introduced into the world of assessment relatively recently, and have the potential to lead to exciting innovations in several aspects of the assessment process. Cambridge Assessment has been at the forefront of these developments and here we summarise the current ‘state of play'.


Changing Qualifications: A review of qualifications policies and practices
Coles, M. and Oates, T. (2010) CEDEFOP, Reference Series 84
Resisting the English urge towards self-destruction - in defence of A levels
Oates, T. (2010)
Changing qualifications - a review of qualifications policies and practices (Commissioned report - CEDEFOP)
Coles, M. and Oates, T. with Charraud, A., Clematide, B., Hanf, G., Leney, T., Raffe, D. and Watters, E. (2010)


Considering alternatives to national assessments in England: possibilities and opportunities
Green, S. and Oates, T. (2009) Educational Research, 51, 2, 229-245
The Cambridge Approach - principles for designing, administering and evaluating assessment
Oates, T. (2009)
External Evaluation of the European Baccalaureate
Puntis, A., Gaultier, J.P. and Oates, T. (2009)
'Happy Birthday to you'; but not if it's summertime

Oates, T., Sykes, E., Emery, J., Bell, J.F. and Vidal Rodeiro, C.L. (2009). Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 8, 43-45.

For years, evidence of a birthdate effect has stared out of qualifications data for the United Kingdom; summer-born children appear to be strongly disadvantaged. Whilst those responsible for working on this data have tried to bring public attention to this issue, it has been neglected by agencies central to education and training policy.
Researchers at Cambridge Assessment have had a long interest in the birthdate effect because it is so readily observable in the assessment data with which they have worked. More recently, Cambridge Assessment decided to review the issue with the intention to advance the understanding of the extent and causes of the birthdate effect in the English education system. Although the review focuses on understanding the birthdate effect in England, it uses international comparisons as one means of throwing light on key factors. This article outlines the findings of the review.


The future of assessment - the next 150 years?

Oates, T. (2008). The future of assessment - the next 150 years? Research Matters: A Cambridge Assessment publication, 6, 36-40.

‘Prediction is very difficult, particularly if it’s about the future’ - Niels Bohr. 

This article examines the theoretical and practical issues surrounding prediction of future approaches to assessment as well as describing areas of likely development - and the form which assessment might take. It uses theory from sociology, philosophy of science and public policy analysis to examine the possibilities of prediction. It then examines emergent areas of development and interest, discussing issues, tensions and possibilities. The specific areas covered comprise: adaptive testing; authentic tasks; on demand testing; influence of technology; outcomes-based learning; teacher assessment in high accountability settings; tiered examinations; ‘levels’ and grades; and maintenance of standards and measurement error.

Alternative Approaches to National Assessment at KS1, KS2 and KS3
Green, S., Bell, J. F., Oates, T. and Bramley, T. (2008)


Protecting the innocent
Oates, T. (2007) The need for ethical frameworks within mass educational innovation, pp144-175 in Saunders, L. (ed) Educational research and policy-making - exploring the border country between research and policy (Routledge)
'Underachieving boys' and 'overachieving girls' revisited
Oates, T. (2007) Rhetoric and reality, in Myers, K. (ed), Genderwatch - still watching (Trentham Books)
Techniques for monitoring the comparability of examination standards
Oates, T. (2007) General commentary, in Newton, P. et al (eds), Techniques for monitoring the comparability of examination standards (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority)
How to promote educational quality through national assessment systems
Green, S. and Oates, T. (2007) International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA) Conference, Azerbaijan


European reference levels for education and training
Coles, M. and Oates, T. (2004) An important parameter for promoting credit transfer and mutual trust (the draft European Qualifications Framework - CEDEFOP)

Research Matters

Research Matters 28: Autumn 2019

Research Matters is our free biannual publication which allows us to share our assessment research, in a range of fields, with the wider assessment community.