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Plenty of ideas, but where's the evidence?

Over 50 years I have corresponded with local and national policymakers and met many of them. They seem to welcome ideas and respect evidence, but when taking action they always first consider party or personal advantage, not least electoral prospects. That involves public perceptions fed by party allegiances and other ideologies that reflect prejudice and anxiety more than wisdom informed by evidence. Marriage between such superficiality and much-needed reform is difficult.

Education secretary Michael Gove deserves credit for challenging tired orthodoxy. If only he were interested in the evidence for what my grandchildren actually need: a national, equal-access, effective experience of teaching and learning fit for a life of a century or more. We need a balance between monolithic uniformity and the lottery that still disbars common-sense education. We have to work with all the pieces not just bits at a time. But today that change would be too radical to preserve electoral prospects.

Mervyn Benford, Information officer, National Association for Small Schools.

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