The Perils of Policy: Success, Amnesia and Collateral Damage in Systemic Educational Reform

The Perils of Policy: Success, Amnesia and Collateral Damage in Systemic Educational Reform

Date & Time

18 March 2010, 00:00


Auditorium, Civil Service College


Office of Education Research (OER)

Events Details

Time: 3.30pm - 5.00pm

By Professor Robin Alexander, University of Cambridge

In the space of just two decades, England’s school system has been transformed from one of the least centralised to one of the most centralised in the developed world. During the past decade in particular, the UK government has launched numerous initiatives aimed at raising educational standards. As levers of reform, it has used high stakes testing and inspection, nationally-prescribed teaching strategies, school league tables and micro-managed curricula for schools and teacher training. Efforts have also been made to import the policies and practices of those countries which head the international achievement survey league tables. Given that a similar reform trajectory is being followed by an increasing number of countries in the pursuit of ‘world class’ educational standards (sometimes even citing England’s supposed success as justification), the English experience provides a significant case study.

The independently-funded Cambridge Primary Review, the most comprehensive enquiry into English primary education for 40 years, recently published its final report. The review was not set up as an audit of policy - its remit was much broader and more forward-looking than this - but the reforms of the past two decades, and the claims made for and against them, were an inescapable part of its total picture. Robin Alexander, the review’s director, will draw on the review’s evidence to offer a commentary on the English experiment in centralised reform and will invite consideration of its lessons.

Professor Robin Alexander is Fellow of Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, Professor of Education Emeritus, University of Warwick, and Director of the Cambridge Primary Review.

Please register your interest to attend this lecture with your name, designation and organisation at email: by 16 March 2010.

A pdf version of the poster can be downloaded here.