Mixed picture according to Professor Coe
Professor Robert Coe ,in a recent introduction to a round table discussion at the Demos think tank said, in a debate on education standards ie have they gone up- “ The short answer is that we don’t really know because we haven’t collected the right kind of evidence. But when you look at what evidence we do have, it’s a mixed picture. There is some evidence of a modest rise across primary education, particularly in maths, but it looks as though that isn’t sustained into secondary school. So performance at the end of secondary school is more or less flat. Some studies suggest a decline; some suggest a rise. This is not consistent with the headline rise in GCSE or A-level performance. Those, I think we can say confidently, are not real increases. International studies—such as PISA and PIRLS—shed some light on outcomes but it is again a very mixed picture.’
Proof positive then, that the large scale investment in education during the last Labour administration, the like of which we are unlikely to see again, any time soon, did not deliver the expected returns. Moral-it’s the quality not the quantity that matters. And if you preach evidence led/ informed practice/ policy- then for goodness sake practice what you preach .
Indeed, while Professor Michael Barber, who headed Tony Blairs efficiency unit, was preaching ‘deliverology’ ie good project management, and trying to increase productivity, across public services, in education, during those years it actually fell.
One should not blame Labour for trying. Indeed its commitment to education during that administration was admirable . But politicians from all parties are predisposed to intervene in education to make things better, but often get it wrong or only half right, and dont pay sufficient heed to sound empirical evidence about what interventions work.
We know that turning a poorly performing school around is a huge challenge. We know its even harder to transform a system. We also know that everything we do has to be informed by good evidence of what works . The challenge now is to turn that theory into practice.