Obituary: Professor Desmond Nuttall

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The Independent Online
Desmond Lewes Nuttall, educationalist: born Devon 12 February 1944; Professor of Educational Psychology, Open University 1979-86; Director of Research and Statistics, Inner London Education Authority 1986-90; staff, Centre for Educational Research, LSE 1990-92; Professor of Curriculum and Assessment Studies, Institute of Education, London University 1992-93; died London 24 October 1993.

DESMOND NUTTALL was one of Britain's leading educational researchers. He possessed a high level of creative energy and a rare ability to address complex technical issues in straightforward language. His early work on school examinations helped shape the Certificate of Secondary Education.

Although now superseded by the General Certificate of Secondary Education, the CSE for the first time enabled the achievement of most 16-year-olds in Britain to be formally recognised. His more recent work on League Tables highlighted the value-added component of effective schools. Internationally, he was involved with the creation of the Education at a Glance indicators for the OECD, and collecting statistics for Unesco.

Born in 1944, Nuttall was educated at Desmoor, one of the Parents' National Educational Union (PNEU) Schools, and at Bradfield College. At Trinity Hall, Cambridge, he obtained a First Class honours degree in Psychology and a PhD. He then worked in the Examination and Test Research Unit of the National Foundation for Educational Research at Slough. Periods followed at the Schools Council and at the Middlesex Regional Examination Board, where, aged only 32, he was appointed its Secretary. His understanding of assessment was much valued, and he served on the boards of several School Examination Groups, most recently chairing the Research Committee of the Examinations and Assessment Council at London University.

Nuttall entered academic life in 1979, as Professor of Educational Psychology at the Open University. There he pioneered courses on learning, intelligence and assessment. In 1986 he became the Director of Research and Statistics for the Inner London Education Authority and used this opportunity to develop analytical techniques for large data sets containing information on a thousand or so schools, and to further the development of the London Record of Achievement.

When the ILEA was abolished in 1990 Nuttall endeavoured to save the Research Unit and, at the last minute he, and a number of his fellow researchers, transferred to the Centre for Educational Research at the London School of Economics. From this base he broadened his interests to include vocational training, carrying out several studies for the Further Education Unit. Last year he joined the staff of the Institute of Education at London University, as Professor of Curriculum and Assessment Studies. He was President-Elect of the British Educational Research Association (BERA).

Desmond Nuttall had a warm and engaging personality. He was a regular opera- and theatre-goer and loved visiting exhibitions - he went to the Matisse exhibition in Paris earlier this year.

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