Research makes teachers ‘less likely’ to accept decrees

Janet Downs's picture
“Schools that take research seriously - both their own and published studies - are less likely to accept edicts from central bodies and more likely to trust their own judgment, according to Research Engagement for School Development,” said an article in TES. The book’s author, Raphael Wilkins, an assistant director at the Institute of Education, said: "Practitioner researchers tend not to adopt unquestioningly something that someone else has labelled as 'best practice', unless there is ample empirical evidence to support that claim, and ample reason to suppose that the practice is transferable."

Mr Gove has said that teachers, not politicians, should decide what happens in schools, yet his actions contradict his words. As more teachers become aware of what research actually says, rather than what the Department for Education says it says, and the more teachers undertake their own research into what works, then perhaps they will resist many of Mr Gove’s “reforms”. As published elsewhere on this site, even a Government Select Committee has found that the evidence cited by Mr Gove to justify one his flagship policies, the Ebac, doesn’t show what Mr Gove claims it shows.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


JimC's picture
Sat, 12/11/2011 - 17:38

Excellent - goodbye SEAL then.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 10:16

JimC – you might be interested in this analysis of the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) programme in secondary schools. It found very mixed results. Recommendations included:

“Future school-based social and emotional learning initiatives should more accurately reflect the research literature about ‘what works’ in this area” and

“A greater emphasis needs to be given to the rigorous collection and use of evidence to inform developments in policy and practice in this area; in particular, there should be proper trialling of initiatives like SEAL before they are rolled out on a national level.”

This seems to support Wilkins's conclusion in the book cited above that initiatives should be underpinned by robust research. Autonomous schools should be able to decide for themselves whether to adopt or drop such initiatives. They should be neither universally mandated nor prohibited by central edict.

Full details of the secondary SEAL evaluation report are available here:

JimC's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 10:50

Thanks for these - I've read a bit and they seem very good.

One question about the e-bacc. Are the government actually 'telling' schools to impose it or are they encouraging/pressuring schools to impose it through accountability measures? My perspective of my own school is that the management seem more bothered about the % of students gaining five A*-C than the % students gaining the e bacc. This may of course change.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/11/2011 - 11:21

The EBac is a "performance measure [which] records the percentage of each school's population which achieves the award." Nick Gibb has said that EBac is not an accountability measure and five or more GCSE C+ will remain the accountability measure. When giving evidence to the Commons Select Committee looking at EBac he was challenged about EBac being viewed as an accountability measure:

"We are already seeing evidence that schools are trying to cram youngsters through history in just over a term, in order to qualify for the English Bac. Do you actually see that? If it’s not an accountability measure, why are schools doing that?"

Mr Gibb said schools shouldn't be doing that. However, at a video showed at the time of the Conservative Conference the Government boasted that the take-up of subjects such as History and other EBac subjects had risen since EBac was introduced. It would appear, then, that EBac is being used to judge schools (see TES article referenced below). (uncorrected oral evidence to Select Committee 27 April 2011)

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 14/11/2011 - 17:24

Nick Gibb has contradicted himself in a debate on 8 November: "The E-bac sets a high benchmark against which parents can hold schools to account, and it helps to narrow the gap between those from the poorest backgrounds and those from the wealthiest backgrounds."

In his evidence to the select committee (see above post) he said EBac was not an accountability measure but last week he says that it is. I think we should be told which is the correct answer.

In the debate Mr Gibb again used the discredited OECD 2000 UK figures to demonstrate how UK pupils were falling behind in international league tables. He knows that the OECD has found these figures to be flawed and that they should not be used for comparison but still he keeps doing it.

Using discredited data - contradicting himself about the EBac - Mr Gibb really should do better. Is he just "coasting" and "muddling through"?

Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.