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Prof Peter Blatchford
UCL Institute of Education
University College London
20 Bedford Way
Prof Peter Blatchford profile picture
  • Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Education
  • IOE - Psychology & Human Development
  • UCL Institute of Education

Peter Blatchford is Emeritus Professor in Psychology and Education at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), where he has spent most of his academic career. He was Head of the Dept of Psychology and Human Development 2001 – 2003 and Acting HOD in 2017.

Peter’s academic roots are in developmental psychology, and throughout his career he has been seeking to better understand social and developmental processes in classroom settings. He has published 18 books and over 100 peer reviewed papers and book chapters. He directed a large-scale programme of research on the educational effects of class size differences and pupil adult ratios (CSPAR) based at the IOE. In the course of this longitudinal research, Peter had the privilege to work with a large team – including Penelope Barton, Paul Bassett, Harvey Goldstein, Clare Martin and Tony Russell. A key publication was the book: Blatchford, P., and Russell, A. (2020). Rethinking Class Size: The Complex Story of Impact on Teaching and Learning. London: UCL Press.  Free to download: uclpress.co.uk/size Most of these researchers then moved on to the large-scale five-year Deployment and Impact of Support Staff (DISS), which Peter also directed, and which was funded by the English and Welsh governments. Rob Webster joined the DISS research team and then subsequently co-directed with Peter two Nuffield-funded projects on pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schools – the Making a Statement (MAST) and the Special Educational Needs in Secondary Education (SENSE) projects.  Work with Tony Russell and Rob Webster on alternative ways of deploying TAs has led to publications including Webster, Russell and Blatchford (2016), and extensive impact national and internationally. 

Peter returned to the topic of class size and directed a Leverhulme-funded international network on ‘Class Size and Effective Teaching’. In addition, Peter co-directed with Maurice Galton and Peter Kutnick an ESRC-funded programme of research on collaborative group work (SPRinG) and, with Peter Kutnick, studies of grouping practices in primary and secondary schools. He has worked with Dr Ed Baines for a number of years on peer relations and social life in schools and school breaktimes with research funded by Nuffield and Spencer Foundation – see Blatchford, P., Pellegrini, A. and Baines, E. (2016) The Child at School: Interactions with Peers and Teachers (2nd Edition). Routledge.


Peter was Honorary Professor at the Educational University of Hong Kong and the collaborations there led to the 2016 book Class Size: Eastern and Western Perspectives (edited by Blatchford, Chan, Galton, Lai and Lee). 


Most recently he is mapping out the idea of an eco relational approach to classroom learning, as part of a three-year Leverhulme-funded Major Research Fellowship.

Research Summary

1.Support Staff in Schools Deployment and Impact of Support Staff (DISS).  Directed a 5 year study of the Deployment and Impact of Support Staff (DISS) in primary, secondary and special schools in England and Wales, funded by English and Welsh Governments (2003-2009). The largest study worldwide on paraprofessionals in education. Showed need for radical rethinking of Teaching Assistant’s pedagogical role – to make best use of valuable resource. Followed by: 1. Esmee Fairbairn funded project (2010-2011) which developed an alternative way of deploying and preparing TAs (see Webster, R., Russell, A.,and Blatchford, P. (2016) . 2. Nuffield funded project 'Making a Statement' (2011-2013). Studied classroom experiences of pupils with SEND in mainstream schools. SENSE project (2014-17) followed up pupils with SEND into secondary schools, funded by Nuffield. Collaborated with EEF on guidance for deployment of TAs (Sharples, Webster and Blatchford). This work has had proven impact on policy and practice nationally and internationally. See also www.maximisingTAs.co.uk 

2.Class Size Effects Directed a pioneering UK longitudinal large scale research project on the effects of class size differences at reception, Key Stage 1 and 2 (i.e., 5-11 years) on pupil academic attainment and classroom processes. It was funded by the Government, Local Authorities and the ESRC. Of international significance, it was unique in its scale and methodology, and conducted by a large team at the Institute of Education. Many presentations and publications, e.g., 'The Class Size Debate', (Open UP, 2003). A further study at primary and secondary school level using data from the DISS project found that at secondary level low attaining pupils in particular were more likely to be off task in large classes.  Commissioned to write a major review of 'the three generations of class size research' for the American Psychological Association Educational Psychology Handbook, published in 2012, and has given many keynotes here and overseas. Directed Leverhulme funded  'Class Size and Effective Teaching' international network. It was concluded that most narratives about class size effects are misleading and in Blatchford and Russell (2020) ‘Rethinking Class Size’ ( uclpress.co.uk/size)  effects on class size and teaching, peer relations and classroom management are presented to show complex story of impact on teaching and learning. See www.classzizeresearch.org 

3.Group Work www.SPRinG-Project.org.uk Co-directed a major ESRC project on developing and evaluating a programme to improve the effectiveness of pupil group work in classrooms. (SPRinG project). This was one of the nine successful proposals to the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme, Phase 2. Despite teachers' worries it would take time from curriculum, found successful effect of collaborative group work on science attainment and interactions. Earlier co-directed (with Prof Peter Kutnick) two Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded studies of the nature and uses of within class grouping practices in primary and secondary schools. Full account of this work in 'Effective Group Work in Primary School Classrooms: The SPRinG Approach' (Kutnick and Blatchford, 2014)

4.Breaktimes/recess in schools www.breaktime.org.uk International reputation for work on school breaktimes/recess. Playtime in the Primary School, and Breaktime and the School: Understanding and Changing Playground Behaviour (both Routledge publications); Social Life in School: Pupils' experiences of breaktime from 7 to 16 years (Falmer Press). 'Peer relations' in school often overlooked but can be very important for learning and social development.


Teaching Summary


MA/MSc Psychology of Education and MA Education (Psychology) MSc Child Development MPhil/PhD Supervision EdD Programme. Doctorate in Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)


Research students

Also supervising several other students with colleagues


Postgraduate Research

Doctoral students working in his main areas of research interest, i.e., collaborative group work, class size effects, peer relations and school breaktimes and support staff in schools.

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