Department of Education

Lena Gray

Honorary Norham Fellow

Lena started her career as a secondary teacher of English, before completing a doctorate in Feminist Literary Theory at the University of Strathclyde, where she also gained experience teaching and leading programmes of higher education.

Following that, Lena spent more than 20 years working for the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), latterly as Head of Policy, Assessment, Statistics and Standards. She was responsible for the organisation’s research, establishing policy, and introducing innovations to qualifications and assessment design. Lena’s role encompassed research into general as well as vocational qualifications, and brought her into contact with the UK regulators. She oversaw SQA’s programme of monitoring standards over time, and was responsible for its policies for quality assurance of internal and external assessment. Lena also played a major role in the review and development of learning, the curriculum and assessment at 3-18.

Since 2014, Lena has been Head of Research in the Centre for Educational Research and Practice (CERP) at AQA, England’s largest GCSE and A-level exam board. This involves taking the lead in planning, implementing and evaluating a broad research programme which supports AQA’s corporate aims. The work includes collaboration with researchers outside AQA, and strategically engaging external stakeholders, so as to maximise the impact of CERP’s work on the education and qualifications system.

Dr Gray will be working with Professor Jo-Anne Baird on a project entitled ‘Overcoming political and organisational barriers to international practitioner collaboration on national examination standard setting’. This project will enable Dr Gray to develop guidelines for specialists working in setting national examination standards. The guidelines will help assessment practitioners to be more transparent about the procedures they use and the challenges they face.

The project will encourage a wider conversation about best practice in settings standards for exams. It forms part of the wider project, ‘Setting and maintaining standards in national examinations’, which is a collaboration between OUCEA, AQA, Ofqual (the exams regulator), and the UCL Institution of Education.

Research interests

Examination standards
Assessment validity
Insider researchers

Baird, J. & Gray, L. (2016) The meaning of curriculum-related examination standards in Scotland and England: a home–international comparison, Oxford Review of Education, 43 (2). 266-284.
Gray, L., Jackson, C., & Simmonds, L. (2015). Examining assessment. Manchester, UK: Centre for Education Research and Practice.

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