How research creates change in Educational Policy

20 October 2017 - Elisa Mascellani (Senior Policy & Public Affairs Officer)


Although we all find ourselves wondering on occasion whether government uses evidence and experts in forming education policy (the recent Grammar schools debacle comes to mind), it is my experience that one cannot go far with engaging in government if you have little evidence to back you.

Indeed, the UK Government has joined an international trend towards evidence-based approaches to educational interventions that has been increasingly gaining momentum over the past ten years. For example, The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) was established in 2011 with £125 million endowment from the UK Government - it invests in evidence-based projects with focus on tackling the attainment gap for disadvantages pupils. More recently, 11 Research Schools will be receiving government funding to become focal points of evidence-based practice in their region and develop a programme of support and events to get more teachers using research evidence in ways that make a difference in the classroom. This has been coupled with practitioner led initiatives such as ResearchED which has increased the demand for research and evidence in our schools.

However, too often we forget that although evidence is invaluable in helping to inform and guide practice to ensure the best outcome for all pupils, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Asking simple questions such as ‘why should I be doing this?’ or ‘what is the evidence behind that?’ can save a lot of trouble both in the classroom and in government. Furthermore, too much research is far too distant from the classroom, carried out by those who do not understand children – we want more teachers to engage with and drive future research.

Ultimately, children’s lives are too precious for school leaders, ministers and educational charities not to be taking the time to engage with and shape the research that will someday change these children lives. That is why at NGN, we ensure all practice is backed by robust evidence and that we never campaign for educational policy changes without it.