The Cambridge Primary Review had four main strands of evidence:
Submissions. Following the convention in enquiries of this kind, submissions were invited from all who wished to contribute. By March 2009, 1052 submissions had been received. They ranged from brief single-issue expressions of opinion to substantial documents of up to 300 pages covering several or all of the themes and comprising both detailed evidence and recommendations for the future. The majority of the submissions were from national organisations, but a significant number came from individuals. In addition, the Review received several thousand informal submissions and comments by email.
Soundings. This strand had three parts. The Community Soundings were a series of nine regionally-based one to two day events, each comprising a sequence of meetings with representatives from schools and the communities they serve. The Community Soundings took place between January and March 2007, and entailed 87 focus group sessions with groups of pupils, parents, governors, teachers, teaching assistants and heads, and with educational and community representatives from the areas in which the soundings took place. The National Soundings were more formal meetings in 2008-9 with national organisations both inside and outside education. These helped the team to clarify matters which were particularly problematic or contested, in preparation for the writing of the final report. In addition to the formal evidence-gathering procedures, the Review’s director and other team members met representatives of many national and regional bodies for the exchange of information and ideas. By February 2009, 146 such meetings had taken place or were scheduled, in addition to the 94 community and national soundings, making a total of 240 sessions.
Surveys. Several months before the launch of the Review, 28 surveys of published research relating to the Review’s ten themes were commissioned, on the basis of competitive bidding and peer review, from 66 academic consultants in leading university departments of education and allied fields. The resulting research reports and their accompanying briefings and media releases were published in cross-thematic groups over several months, starting between October 2007 and May 2008. They provoked considerable media, public and political interest, and provided the top UK news story on several occasions.
Searches and policy mapping. With the co-operation of DfES/DCSF (now DfE), QCA/QCDA, Ofsted and TDA the Review tracked recent policy and examined official data bearing on the primary phase. This provided the necessary legal, demographic, financial and statistical background to the Review and an important resource for its consideration of policy options. The Review also searched relevant OECD and other international data.
The balance of evidence. The four evidential strands sought to balance opinion-seeking with empirical data; non-interactive expressions of opinion with face-to-face discussion; official data with independent research; and material from England with that from other parts of the UK and from international sources. This enquiry, unlike some of its predecessors, looked outwards from primary schools to the wider society, and made full but judicious use of international data and ideas from other countries.