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The botanist who blossomed into an education guru

Professor Alan Smithers began his working life as a plant scientist, but his career quickly sprouted in a very different direction: today, he is one of the UK’s most cited exam experts. Eleanor Busby meets the man who for 30 years has been challenging the government – regardless of who’s been in power

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The prolific output of Professor Alan Smithers is apparent from the moment you step into his office. Rows of cardboard boxes, filled to the brim with reports, line each wall of the 79-year-old’s room at the Centre for Education and Employment Research, based at the University of Buckingham.

Smithers is the centre’s director, and his exam results day forecasts – added to his strident opinions on a range of topics – have made him one of the most cited education experts in the country. “I became a bit of a guru for a while,” he says.

The academic has continued to put his head above the parapet ...

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