Evidence-based policy? I don’t think so!

Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan recently provided a post for Mumsnet, in which she defended the government’s policy of compulsory academisation for all schools.

BBC Radio 4’s More or Less programme was asked to investigate the evidence she cited. It is worth listening to the report on the programme, which lasts about five minutes from approximately 10’00″ and can be accessed here for the next few days.

I am not going to discuss the whole issue here today, but suffice it to make two points:

  1. Any policy that is being even remotely advanced on the basis of questionable or selective evidence (which probably makes most of them) opens itself to doubt that it can be more substantially justified. What are we to make of a government that needs to justify its policies on the scantiest of evidence?
  2. Given that we are constantly being exhorted to make teaching an evidence-led profession, then one might have expected a more robust case from the originator of national education policy.

I work in a ‘converter’ academy with an Outstanding Ofsted rating; without attempting to pin down specific reasons for this, I think it is fair to say that professional experience has become leaner and meaner for a large number of the staff since this happened. Some of this may be down to ‘circumstances’, some may be more structural.

The government’s claim to be returning decision-making to classroom teachers is becoming more laughable by the week. What local management has always done is put teachers increasingly at the mercy of often minimally-accountable school managements. This can cut both ways – one might have hoped that this could be seen as an opportunity for a virtuous cycle – but in the majority of cases I know about, it has led to worsening treatment of staff. And now even school managements are having their right to determine fundamental circumstances removed from their hands. So much for the Conservative principle being the devolution of power.

And meanwhile, the next time anyone demands that I provide evidence to justify my teaching decisions, I think I will refer them to Nicky Morgan.


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