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The place to be for early career researchers

by Erin Early, PhD student, Queen's University Belfast and ADRC-NI

As an early stage researcher, I recently attended the ADRN Annual Research Conference in Edinburgh. 

With a research interest in education, the sessions focusing upon attainment were of particular interest to me. It was extremely interesting to listen to each speaker and the different perspectives they are implementing when studying attainment. Research topics ranged from the influence of health on attainment to income supplements, early years education and government initiatives to improve educational outcomes. 

Having also attended sessions considering the importance of public engagement and value of administrative data, it re-emphasised the important role the public play in any research using administrative data. The importance of receiving their support and consent before using data is of utmost importance. This provides the potential for research to have a wider impact and greater engagement with the public. 

My PhD study aims to analyse the relevant contributions of religion, residential location and socio-economic status on primary school attainment. At the conference, I presented a poster of my study and received useful feedback to consider from both academics and public sector individuals. As an early stage researcher, the conference was therefore an extremely useful experience. 

To provide context to my current study, in Northern Ireland, statutory data on primary school attainment is not actively gathered. This contrasts GCSE attainment that is annually collected to allow for attainment trends according to socio-demographics to be analysed. The lack of primary school attainment data collected leaves an apparent gap in our understanding of attainment trends in primary school. As a result, attainment trends over time cannot be analysed to determine whether the attainment gap at GCSE is evident in primary school and widens over time. 

This study aims to address this gap in our knowledge by studying primary school attainment from Year 3 to Year 7 to provide an insight into the apparent trends. This study proposes to use a dataset combining Granada Learning Assessment data and the Census. This will be the first dataset to combine these two sources to explore the attainment disparity between primary pupils according to the socio-demographic factors of interest. 

Overall, attending the ADRN Annual Research Conference was extremely beneficial as an early stage researcher as it provided the opportunity to consider different approaches to the topic of educational attainment, whilst also re-emphasising the importance of public engagement and using administrative data to benefit services and policy. Attending the conference also provided me with vital feedback on my work, whilst providing the opportunity to explain to others the importance of the current study. I think all that attended the conference will have found it beneficial given its wide range of topics being presented and discussed throughout the two days.


Written by ADRC-Northern Ireland and published on the ADRN Blog under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

Published 15 June 2017


Page last updated: 17/07/2017