Researchers need to learn political skills if they want to make a difference


Titus Alexander. 

This week the government published its much postponed childhood obesity strategy, to a chorus of criticism from experts in public health. Doctors, health charities, and cancer and diabetes specialists have warned that the measures can’t stop the growing obesity crisis, which costs the NHS an estimated £4.2bn a year and is projected to cost £22.9bn per year by 2050. Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, has often said obesity will bankrupt the NHS unless action is taken now.

Researchers from CLOSER, a consortium of longitudinal studies led by the IOE, have documented the growing epidemic of obesity and concluded that the UK needs to target public health interventions at young people to stem the spread of obesity. Research into health promotion also shows what measures would reduce obesity. Government ministers and officials know this, and the evidence has been part of past consultations and guidance. But Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative MP who chairs the health select committee, says of the strategy: ‘big interests have trumped those of children’.

Bitter public health battles over tobacco, alcohol, pesticides and other enjoyable or useful Read more ›

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Posted in Evidence-based policy, Further higher and lifelong education, Social sciences and social policy

Is a preschool PISA what we want for our young children?

Peter Moss

Since its first outing in 2000, the Programme for International Student Assessment, widely known as PISA, has become highly influential in the education world with its three-yearly assessment of 15-year-olds in a growing number of countries around the world. Now the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), PISA’s midwife and parent, plans a new offspring, the International Early Learning Study (IELS). An international assessment of early learning outcomes among 5-year-olds, IELS is intended “to help countries improve the performance of their systems, to provide better outcomes for citizens and better value for money…[by showing] which systems are performing best, in what domains and for which groups of students…[and providing] insights on how such performance has been achieved”. Read more ›

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Posted in Childhood & early education, International comparisons

The school bosses investigation: the deeper questions

Ron Glatter. 

The accountability of academy chains, also known as ‘multi-academy trusts’ (MATs), is once more in the public spotlight. A Channel 4 Dispatches programme ‘How school bosses spend your millions’ aired at the end of July following a joint investigation with The Observer based on expenses claims released under the Freedom of Information Act. It alleged that chiefs of these trusts were wasting taxpayers’ money on unnecessary luxuries such as posh hotels and restaurants and executive cars.  Read more ›

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Posted in Education policy, Leadership and management, Schools

If staff shortages mean prisoners can’t reach education, no amount of good practice will help

Brian Creese

The large attendance at last month’s Centre for Education in the Criminal Justice Sector (CECJS) conference at UCL Institute of Education attested to the new profile prison education enjoys. It comes on the back of the recently completed Coates Review, soon to be published review of the youth justice system by Charlie Taylor and the Lammy review into racial bias in the system. As we all know, history moves quickly these days, so the question on everyone’s mind was how long Michael Gove would last as Justice Secretary; we soon had the answer…

Even longer ago, a couple of months perhaps, the former Prime Minister made the former Justice Secretary’s prison reforms the centrepiece of a government Queen’s Speech. Where are those reforms now, we ask?

The official answer from our new (and already beleaguered) Justice Secretary Liz Truss is that it is all safe in her hands, but the reality seems to me to be more complicated. I had the great Read more ›

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Posted in Further higher and lifelong education

Digital Economy Bill: how academic research + government data = a rich mine of information

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Alison Park

Government departments and agencies build up routine information about all of us as part of their everyday activities. Who should have access to these data?

Were it not for Brexit, it’s likely that the last few weeks would have seen far more discussion about this topic. On 5 July the Cabinet Office published the response to its consultation on the ‘Better Use of Data in Government’. The document’s proposals  form the basis of a new Digital Economy Bill, which includes legislation to help researchers access data. The next day Dame Fiona Caldicott, the National Data Guardian for Health and Care, published her review of data security standards and proposed a new consent model for data sharing in the NHS and social care.

Researchers are interested in this so called ‘administrative data’ because its volume and detail can vastly exceed what it’s possible to collect through other routes such as surveys. As a result, bodies like the Economic and Social Research Council have set up special Read more ›

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Posted in Evidence-based policy, Research matters, Social sciences and social policy
This blog is written by academics at the UCL Institute of Education.

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