Evidence, Policy and the Reform of Primary Education: a cautionary tale

FORUM - ISSN 0963-8253
Volume 56 Number 3 (2014)

Evidence, Policy and the Reform of Primary Education: a cautionary tale
ROBIN ALEXANDER, pages 349-376
https://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2014.56.3.349

Abstract

Here, at FORUM's invitation, is the text of the 2014 Godfrey Thomson Trust public lecture at the University of Edinburgh. Its backdrop is the centralisation of educational decision-making in England since 1988 and the power and patronage exercised by the Secretary of State. Taking as examples recent policies on childhood, curriculum and standards of pupil achievement, and referring to the evidence and experience of the Cambridge Primary Review, the article revisits and tests the claim that in England educational policy is now more problem than solution. While making necessary distinctions between policy as promulgated and enacted, and while showing that across a diverse canvas some policies have been better conceived and received than others, the article identifies three tendencies that all too often divide policy from truth and the prospect of effective and sustainable action: policymakers' selective use of evidence; the prior but as yet under-investigated mediation of that evidence by government officials as well as its more familiar distortion by the press; and the Manichaean narratives of progress, its architects and its enemies to which too many policymakers remain addicted.

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To cite this article
ROBIN ALEXANDER (2014) Evidence, Policy and the Reform of Primary Education: a cautionary tale, FORUM, 56(3), 349-376. https://doi.org/10.15730/forum.2014.56.3.349

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