Stop moaning, start researching

12th November 2004 at 00:00
I have a lot of empathy with the letter on dodgy theories (TES, September 24) but have to take issue with who is forcing whom. My experience as an inspector, head and consultant tells me that it is ill-informed individuals, particularly primary heads, who are responsible for these poorly researched ideas being taken on board. I accept that heads have lots to do at any one time, but they are also paid good salaries for informed decision-making and taking a long-term strategic view.

If heads do not have the time to research these theories before making them whole-school practice, then they need to delegate. Once local education authorities filled this role but they are being systematically undermined by central government, with the approval of many heads and governors. As a result LEAs have to sell their services. This appears to cause them to provide tips on teacher-training rather than investing in long-term professional development and projects based on sound, well-researched practice.

The Department for Education and Employment commissioned an excellent, easy-to-read report from Dr Carol McGuinness in 1999 to explore the approaches for developing pupils' thinking. She concluded that too many ideas were not properly researched and clearly identified those that were well-researched and beneficial.

The recent publications by Paul Black, Christine Harrison and Dylan Wiliam also provide guidance on raising standards through classroom assessment.

So come on heads, teachers and governors, stop blaming others, make good use of your autonomy and make well-informed decisions by reading the available research into these issues before you jump on the bandwagon.

S Howard Melbourne, Derbyshire

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