Bit player or star?

Education isn't short of problems that seem impossible to crack: persuading boys to read, finding enough physics teachers, convincing young children that they should put on a coat before skipping out into an icy playground. But perhaps the toughest nut of all is the challenge of ensuring that a high proportion of educational research is useful to policy-makers or teachers.

It remains to be seen whether the action plan produced by the Department for Education and Employment (see page 18) will exert the necessary pressure. But the higher profile that this Government has given to research, and its declared aim of basing more policy decisions on evidence rather than hunches, are very positive developments.

However, research is in danger of remaining a bit player on the education stage - unless both researchers and teachers undergo Damascene conversions. Too many researchers seem more interested in methodology than in the practical effects their work might have (a trait that isn't confined to the British). And too many teachers are automatically sceptical about research, having found that it solves few of the conundrums they encounter in the classroom.

The action plan could be revolutionary, but it is only a start.

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