Government Ministers have often said that they are committed to evidence-based policy. Here we have presented evidence from the recent past, based on comprehensive and independent Reviews covering education and training ‘from cradle to grave’’. From that evidence we emphasise the following broad recommendations.
- Start with (and continue to ask): ‘What counts as an educated person in this day and age?’ This may seem an obvious question. Yet it is rarely asked in a systematic way. There may not be total consensus in the answers which are given. But the constant asking of this question reminds of the profoundly moral nature of educational policy in terms of the values of personal well-being and of public good.
- In the light of the no doubt rich answers we get from asking about the development of ‘the whole person’ (regardless of class, ethnicity or gender) and their contribution to an ever better society, we should maintain a wide vision of worthwhile learning. This should be practical and vocational as well as academic. It needs to draw on the ‘different voices in the conversation between the generations of mankind’ within the sciences, arts and humanities. It must build upon the experiences and informal learning acquired in home and community. It should provide the motivation for lifelong learning. It should be flexible enough to provide for very different personal, social and economic needs.
- Recognition must be given to the central role that teachers play in any educational and training system. No policy, howsoever well thought out, has merit unless it is thoughtfully implemented by those who teach. They alone, have the pedagogical expertise for communicating the knowledge, values and skills, which we have inherited, to the developing minds, interests and aspirations of the learners. But that expertise needs to be nurtured through rigorous initial training and then through high quality continuing professional development.
- We should make sure that the provision of educational opportunities begins with the needs of learners, not with the interests of providers. No school or other institution can alone provide continuity of learning experiences. Local collaborative partnerships need to be created and funded. These bring together schools and colleges, employers and independent training providers, higher education and youth workers, third sector organisations and members of the local community. All bring to the partnership their respective and much needed expertise, opportunities and resources for realising that wide vision of worthwhile learning.
- Finally, Government needs to be modest about what it can achieve – for two reasons. First, there are limits to how interventions can change a complex system; that requires the daily difficult and professional work of teachers. Second, governments and their ministers change, often at frequent intervals. Policies come and go. Too much power gained by one Minister may be used for the opposite purposes by the next.
In conclusion, we invite everyone (Ministers, civil servants, advisers, head teachers, college principles, teachers and many more) to review the twelve challenges which arise from the evidence of these Reviews, and to seriously consider the principles which we have proposed.