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Who we are

James Croft, Founder and Chair

James Croft Editor of EducationInvestor Global magazine. James founded the Centre for Education Economics (CfEE) as CMRE think tank in 2011 and led its development into a leading contributor to education policy formation in England and internationally. He remains CfEE's Chair and convenor of its influential Education Executives' Policy Forum.

James has authored and co-authored a number of reports for the Centre and its partners, including most recently, Optimising autonomy: a blueprint for education reform (2017); Taking a lead: how to access the leadership premium (2016) and Collaborative overreach: why collaboration probably isn't key to the next phase of school reform (2015).

James speaks and chairs frequently on matters relating to education economics and reform, and writes and comments regularly in the press.


Karen Wespieser, Managing Director

From January 2018, Karen is seconded on a part-time basis from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to direct the day-to-day activities of CfEE and take forward its plans for development in the coming period, including the recruitment of a full-time director.
Beginning her career with the NFER, Karen has led research in the education sector for over fifteen years and has extensive knowledge and experience of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. She has worked at all levels of research – conducting fieldwork, managing research teams, commissioning and quality assuring agencies and producing research for policy. 
From 2008 to 2012, she was the Research Manager at CfBT Education Trust where she was involved in the Strategic Forum for Research in Education, the Educational Evidence Portal, and the Evidence Informed Policy and Practice in Education in Europe, the Coalition for Evidence Based Education, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Foreign Languages. From 2012-14, she worked as a Research Manager at BBC Media Action (the BBC’s international development charity) where she contributed to large scale multi-country longitudinal quantitative research, specialising in the Middle East and North Africa.
In 2014 Karen returned to the NFER as Senior Research Manager, later to become Head of Impact. Her recent published research includes: Capacity for collaboration? Analysis of school-to-school support in EnglandThe Performance of Partially Selective Schools in England and School Choice: the Parent View.

Gabriel Heller Sahlgren, Director of Research
Gabriel Heller Sahlgren is CfEE's Director of Research. He is also Affiliated Researcher at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm, Sweden, and a PhD student at the London School of Economics.
Gabriel is the author of Incentivising excellence: school choice and education quality, which discusses the conditions that need to prevail for choice to produce higher achievement, and of Real Finnish Lessons: the true story of an education superpower, published by the Centre for Policy Studies. 
He is also the author of the paper Schooling for money: Swedish education reform and the role of the profit motive, for which he was awarded the Arthur Seldon Award for Excellence. Gabriel is Editor of CMRE's Monthly Research Digest.