Schools should follow official research

14th March 2008 at 00:00
Professor wants consumer guides for teachers and cash incentives to adopt programmes

Teachers should be given summaries of research evidence, modelled on consumer magazines such as Which? or What Car?, Robert Slavin, founding director of York University's Institute of Effective Education, said this week.

He believes this would help them choose programmes that have passed rigorous academic research.

But Professor Slavin would also like to see funding for schools based on their willingness to take up these recommended programmes. Those who adopted them would be awarded "incentive grants" and would receive positive credit from Ofsted; those who chose not to would be penalised financially and by inspectors.

Speaking at a lecture organised by Tribal Group consultancy, Professor Slavin said that such measures would ensure that teachers adopt methods proven to be effective. He drew comparisons with a hygiene checklist provided to hospitals. Doctors, he said, hated the checklist, but it had cut the rate of hospital infections by two thirds.

"The practice of education today is at much the same pre-scientific point as medicine was 100 years ago," he said. "Just as medical research informs physicians, educational research tells us a lot about effective teaching. Yet until those well-established principles are formed into detailed, replicable programmes and evaluated in comparison to traditional methods, we're unlikely to make systematic, broad-scale progress."

The Government would then commission programmes specifically designed to help meet its performance targets.

Professor Slavin said: "Researchers, developers and entrepreneurs could develop and evaluate programmes in every area of pre-school to secondary education, within a period of five to 10 years."

John Bangs, head of education for the National Union of Teachers, welcomed Professor Slavin's emphasis on classroom practice, rather than restructuring schools or forming academies. But, he said: "This is the antithesis of an autonomous profession confident in its own learning. He talks as if teachers are empty vessels, into which you pour good practice. There's no awareness of professionals at the edge of their game. The very reason teachers come into the profession is so that they can make a positive difference to children's lives. This scheme will drive away all sorts of brilliant teachers who have their own ideas."

Janet Huscroft, head of Hook Primary in East Yorkshire, agreed. Her school has no set timetable: pupils work on an activity until it is finished. "Prescription fills me with dread," she said. "Your curriculum and what you deliver to children should match the starting point of your children at your school."

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