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Dons tell politicians to butt out of pedagogy

Pressure is growing for politicians to stop micromanaging teachers and set up an independent body that draws on research to improve standards.

In a letter published in The TES today, 14 professors of education call for a research-informed National Education Council to guide schools in developing curricula, pedagogy and assessment.

The council would sit between "rejuvenated" local authorities and central government and would have a scrutinising role in areas including monitoring children's attainment through sample tests. Government's role would be reduced to setting the overall systems and structures, but not what is taught or how it is taught.

Michael Bassey, emeritus professor at Nottingham Trent University, said: "This is something which has been brewing for a long time. With an election coming up, we are hopeful that something could happen.

"The National Education Council would in a sense be another quango, but I'm stressing it is really independent of government and its members come out of the teaching profession, academic community and some prominent people in our culture, like poets."

Peter Tymms, of Durham University, said: "We have seen enormous meddling with what goes on in the classroom. Now is the time to change it, because all those initiatives cost hundreds of millions of pounds and have had very little impact."

The call comes after the Social Market Foundation (SMF) held a seminar on how to create a more evidence-based education system.

David Furness, head of strategic development at SMF, said there was a lot of talk from politicians about greater autonomy for teachers but there needed to be a way of ensuring that they had access to the best evidence on what worked.

Studies into setting up a centre which could give guidance to schools on the best research evidence were set in motion by David Blunkett, then education secretary, in 1999, but abandoned in 2006.

Andrew Morris, who directed that feasibility study, said education could benefit from a model similar to the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE), a central point of information for social workers.

"Scientific evidence needs to be distilled and adapted into practical products that public and professionals can use rather than just sitting there," he said.

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