Academics' dismay over strategy body;Research focus;Briefing

8th October 1999 at 01:00
Researchers are demanding a bigger say on a new Government forum that will critically influence their work. David Budge reports

MINISTERS are being pressed to review the membership of the "ridiculously lopsided" body that will develop a national strategy for educational research.

The British Educational Research Association is disappointed that only one of its six nominees, Professor Jean Rudduck of Homerton College, Cambridge, has been chosen to sit on the National Educational Research Forum that has been set up by the Department for Education and Employment.

Professor Michael Bassey, the association's executive secretary, said that research funders and users are well-represented on the 19-member forum but not senior researchers. "There is nobody on the forum from either of the top-rated research departments, the Institute of Education and King's College, London."

The association is now urging Malcolm Wicks, minister responsible for educational research, to make more appointments to the forum, which is to be chaired by Sir Michael Peckham, director of the School of Public Policy at University College London.

The negative reaction to the forum's membership will disappoint - though hardly surprise - the DFEE officials who are trying to win "intellectual and moral support" for the Government's new approach to commissioning, reviewing and disseminating research.

The DFEE is about to commission two research centres that will each receive pound;250,000 a year to investigate the economics of education and the wider benefits of learning. It is also establishing an education version of the medical network - known as the Cochrane Collaboration - that prepares, updates and distributes reviews of research.

The forum, which starts work on October 19, is another important piece of the new jigsaw. Mr Wicks believes it will stimulate high-quality research and "forge stronger links between major research programmes in this and other countries".

Its establishment is a personal victory for one of its members, Professor David Hargreaves, of Cambridge University, because he has been lobbying for such a body - and a medical-style reviewing network -- for several years. His influence can also be detected in the appointment of Sir Michael Peckham, who was responsible for establishing the National Health Service's research and development programme.

Sir Michael, however, has no plans to "slavishly" copy the NHS model. "It's a useful template to start with, but we can ask how we can do things better," he said. "I believe the forum will help to identify research priorities, advise on funding, and consider the mechanisms for turning research findings into policy and practice. We want the forum's business to be open to public scrutiny."

The forum members are: Carol Adams, chief education officer of Shropshire and chief executive-designate of the General Teaching Council; Parin Bahl, deputy director of education, Newham; Michael Bichard, permanent secretary, DFEE; Penny Brown, headteacher, West Down primary, Devon; Professor Richard Daugherty, head of Department of Education, University of Wales, Aberystwyth; Professor Charles Desforges, director, Economic and Social Research Council's Teaching and Learning Programme; Anne Diack, series producer, BBC Open University Production Centre; Professor Alan Dyson, responsible for University of Newcastle's Special Needs Research Centre; Sir Brian Fender, chief executive, Higher Education Funding Council for England; Rhondda Garraway, Hackney Community College's community development and regeneration unit; Dr Christopher Grey, Judge Institute of Management Studies; Professor David Hargreaves, University of Cambridge; Paul Lincoln, director of learning services, Essex; Dr Helen Quigley, assistant director of education, Nuffield Foundation; Pat Reynolds, headteacher, Rushden secondary, Northamptonshire; Professor Jean Rudduck, director of research, Homerton College; Lesley Saunders, principal research officer, National Foundation for Educational Research; Dr Meryl Thompson, head of policy, Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

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