Research for policy development: Swimming with sharks

Year: 1994

Author: Galton, Maurice, Williamson, John

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In the United Kingdom a feature of recent Government policy initiatives in education has been the use of commissioned research to support these changes. The obvious example was the Three Wise Men's Report (Alexander, et al., 1993) which was used to justify, among other things, the increase in school-based teacher training. More recently the White Paper, setting out revisions in the 1988 Reform Act, indicated a change in the law governing links between clusters of small schools to enable them to seek Grant Maintained Status. This change was justified by research commissioned by the Department for Education and carried out by one of the authors.

Alexander has complained that his research findings were misused. A similar claim can be made for the small schools research carried out at the University of Leicester. As a result, Hammersley and Scarth (1993) have argued that those who carry out research for governments with known ideological biases are at the best naive and at the worst unprincipled.

The paper is in two parts. In part one the British experience will be explored to see how far policy research of this kind is possible or desirable. In part two the Australian contributor will look at the implications of the British experience for developments in future Australian policy making on teacher education.