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Ministers point to evidence

THE MARKED increase in government spending on research is being cited as proof that education ministers are now committed to evidence-based policies.

In 1997, the Department for Education and Employment spent pound;5.4 million on research - about a tenth of the total sum spent on education research - but by next year that figure is expected to rise to pound;10.4m.

The lion's share of DFEE research funding has traditionally been allocated to employment but officials say more will now be spent on education.

Much of this extra funding will go to "dedicated research centres". Two of these new centres (which in fact operate across several sites and institutions) have already been commissioned.

The Centre on the Economics of Education is a collaboration between the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and London University's Institute of Education. It is headed by Professor Steve Machin of the LSE. His team will assess the cost-effectiveness of different policies.

The Wier Benefits of Learning Research Centre is based at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at London's Institute of Education and Birkbeck College and is headed by Professor John Bynner. This centre will examine the non-economic benefits of learning such as social cohesion, active citizenship and improved health.

The DFEE has also commissioned a new Centre for Evidence-Informed Policy and Practice that will be based at the London Institute of Education's Social Science Research Centre. Under the direction of Professor Ann Oakley, it will establish a comprehensive database of research evidence, initially on education but ultimately on employment as well. Each centre is to receive about pound;1 million over three to five years.

A fourth centre on the use of information and communication technology in education is being planned.

Researchers will also be invited to present their ideas and findings directly to ministers and officials at seminars. These will be chaired by Malcolm Wicks, the minister for research.

David Budge

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