Academics told to stop moaning about funding

Academics attending this year's British Educational Research Association conference are in for a rougher ride than they might expect, writes Jon Slater.

While the association's leadership will use the stage to complain once again about the lack of money for education research one of the leading lights of their community is set to challenge the idea that more cash is needed.

Professor Stephen Gorard of Cardiff University, in a keynote address, will tell colleagues that it is possible to do high-quality research with little money.

The Government's research assessment exercise, which grades research done across the country shows the quality of education work falling behind that in other areas.

"By and large education is not a paradise of research. There is some excellent work going on but the research assessment exercise basically says we haven't got any better," Professor Gorard told The TES. He speaks from a position of strength. Cardiff University was, along with Bristol, one of only two education departments to gain the maximum five stars from assessors.

He dismisses claims by the BERA leadership that assessment of education was more stringent than other subjects as "complacency".

But Colin Rogers, BERA executive member and chair of the organising committee, said more money was needed if the Government was to meet its aim of making teaching a research-based activity.

"Departments which have worked hard to improve their rating are still getting inadequate funds. There is an insufficient amount of funding so we are pushed into a choice of either giving the money to our internationally renowned institutions or spreading it more thinly so that every teacher training institution can carry out its own research."

More than 900 researchers will make presentations at the three-day conference in Exeter which begins on Thursday.

Subjects covered will range from "Understanding the apostrophe at key stage 2" to eating disorders in education. Key themes will include teacher training, school effectiveness and pupil behaviour. The conference will also include presentations from academics from as far afield as Hong Kong and New Zealand.

However, the number of international contributions may be affected by a clash with the European Educational Research Association conference in Lisbon, which is happening at the same time, and also features a number of leading British academics.

Conference report next week. www.bera.ac.uk

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