REF results: what’s the spin and what are the real stories?

Chris Husbands

In 1993, Shane Warne, the great Australian spin bowler bowled to England’s Mike Gatting. The ball, heading towards the leg stump was played by Mike Gatting, and then, at the last moment, in a twist of pure genius from Warne, the ball turn sharply and took out Mike Gatting’s off-stump. You can see the ‘ball of the century’ on any number of video clips: the most remarkable spin bowling any one can recall.

But as spin, it pales in comparison with the efforts of university communications departments following the publication – at one minute past midnight on December 18th – of the results of the 2014 REF. Read more ›

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Posted in Chris Husbands, Further higher and lifelong education

Higher education’s X-Factor: everything you always wanted to know about the REF

Bench in Bloomsbury[crop1308] copy

Chris Husbands

Imagine – if you do not work in a UK university – a cross between the Olympics, the X-factor and a visit from Father Christmas. That will give you some – some – idea of the REF (the Research Excellence Framework), and its importance in academic life. The results of REF2014 are published this week. Around the country, vice-chancellors, pro-vice-chancellors for research, deans, heads of department will be looking anxiously – not just at their own results, but at their competitors. As Gore Vidal famously put it: “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail”.

Research funding matters enormously to government, and to universities. For government, it is how new knowledge is generated, new science supported, innovations which will eventually strengthen national competitiveness developed. For universities, research is the lifeblood, motivating
academics and defining their purpose.

In the UK, the bulk of research funding is offered competitively, through bidding to research councils and charities, but the research infrastructure is funded through a grant – now called ‘QR’ (quality-related) funding. This system was developed in the 1980s; with public spending under pressure, Read more ›

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Posted in Further higher and lifelong education, Research matters

Is research evidence informing government policy in education?

David Gough

Recently there has been increased interest in the use of evidence from research studies to inform policy making by government. This research evidence can be of many types. It can include empirical findings on things such as educational attainment, and evidence of effectiveness (‘what works’) of different strategies (such as how to teach phonics). It can also include explanations of how things work and how the world can be understood. Research is of course not the only thing that can influence policy Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Research matters, Schools

Middle leaders as catalysts for change in schools: an active, collaborative process

Chris Brown and Louise Stoll

Over recent years, there’s been greater awareness in England of the important role middle leaders – people such as department heads, key stage leaders or pastoral leaders – can play in school improvement. Middle leaders are the key link between teachers and a school’s senior leaders. As such, they are well positioned to offer support and challenge to teachers and lead their learning both within their own school and across partner schools.

How successful they are at this, in an evidence-hungry policy environment, will depend at least partly on their capacity to engage with and share knowledge about high quality research and practice and track its impact on learning and teaching. In short, middle leaders have the potential to be catalysts for evidence-informed change.

We had the opportunity to explore this issue in a year-long R&D project, funded through the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC’s) Read more ›

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Posted in Leadership and management, Teachers

Selection at 11 – a very English debate

Chris Husbands

Originally posted on SecEd

It is a persistent undercurrent in English educational debate, but it is peculiarly English: should academic selection at the age of 11 be restored?

Boris Johnson, perhaps in response to perceived UKIP pressure, has declared himself in favour of more grammar schools, and Teresa May, more cautiously, has welcomed plans for a satellite grammar school in her constituency of Maidenhead. In Kent, the Weald of Kent grammar school is preparing a new proposal to establish what is either (depending on your view) a new grammar school in Sevenoaks or a satellite site in Sevenoaks.

The arguments for restoring grammar schools are couched in terms of opportunity and social mobility: Boris Johnson called them mobilisers of opportunity. But the evidence to support this is almost non-existent. Read more ›

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Posted in Chris Husbands, Education policy, eleven-plus
This blog is written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education.


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