CfBT's Instinct or Reason: How education policy is made and how we might make it better by Adrian Perry, Christian Amadeo, Mick Fletcher, and Elizabeth Walker "investigates the factors that lie behind the formation of educational policy". It is "based on discussions with an expert group, a desk based literature review (including academic research and politicians' memoirs), interviews with stakeholders and an extended process of draft revision".
Meanwhile the report's main recommendations, which make me think that in less straightened times there'd be mileage in the establishment of an Educational Research Council along the lines of the Medical Research Council, are as follows.
(a) The recommendation that the prime role of ministers is to bring their values to inform goals and ambitions, rather than tactics and methods, where expert analysis should play the larger role.
(b) An expert commission, analogous to NICE in healthcare, should be established to create and interpret educational research, evidence and analysis. Such a body should advise institutional leaders as well as politicians and civil servants. Ministers would be encouraged to share their thinking when their analysis differs from that of the commission.
(c) An office of Chief Officer – analogous to the Chief Scientific or Medical Officer – should be established. He or she should build strong links with the Select Committee system.
(d) Evaluations should be independent, commissioned outside the Department and published. Research and evaluation should be brought together to share a budget.
(e) Given the short career life of ministers and the limited life of governments on one hand, and the need for long-term implementation of educational reform on the other, there should be a search for consensus between political parties on non-controversial ground.
(f) Attention should be given to the perception that little useful research is being generated for education policy makers. We recommend that a portion of the budget for educational research should be directed to topics which can be seen to relate closely to identified needs of the system.
(g) Researchers should remain independent, but be given help to present their conclusions in a way that will give the best chance of calm consideration rather than rejection. (h) A prize should be established for well evidenced policy.
(i) Better links should be built between practitioners, researchers, civil servants, politicians and quangos – represented in shared career paths.
(j) International comparisons should be encouraged as part of a managed learning system.