Silly ideas and poor research

31st January 2003 at 00:00
Walter Humes ended the year with a TES Scotland piece about Tell Them from Me, a research report of 1980 from the educational sociology stable in Edinburgh University.

He was supportive of research. Your first leader of the year asks the Executive "to restablish the primacy of properly funded research". The above report and another from the same stable, An Improper Sixth, caused much annoyance in the Scottish Education Department of the time, when I headed the research division.

The civil servants who tried to rubbish the reports were badly bruised.

Overwhelming arrogance coupled with job security was not a match for proven facts and the ability to present them.

This was the beginning of an anti-research movement which has culminated in the Scottish Council for Research in Education losing its identity and becoming a stepbairn in Glasgow University. Sam Galbraith, the education minister some time back, opined that he had been reading some educational research and found it of poor quality.

HM Inspectorate of the time echoed these thoughts. In the last 10 years we have been given expensive reports by consultancy companies whether financial, fanciful or farcical which, on a scale of one to 10 for added value to the class floor, would rate minus one.

Assertion is king. Proof is of no account. Silly ideas like having 50 per cent of pupils going to university are accepted without justification.

Similarly, that boy wonder, ex-future Prime Minister David Milliband in the education ministry in London, plans to have all secondary schools in England special by about 2006.

Why? When every school is special, no school is special. He has stumbled on comprehensive education without recognising it. Hadrian, build your wall again - this time to keep at bay daft ideas from the south and give us devolution of educational thinking.

Ian Morris Ravelston Dykes Edinburgh

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