Ian Menter, president of the British Educational Research Association and director of professional programmes at the University of Oxford, made the comments in a presentation to the Westminster Education Forum on using academic research and pupil data in education.
He added that creating a successful system where research is embedded in practice would be dependent on growing “strong alliances” based on “shared commitment to educational improvement for all children and young people”.
“We see that teacher education in England has been at risk of becoming something of an outlier compared with developments elsewhere in the UK and internationally, not least through the threatened sidelining of the university contribution to teacher education, if the more extreme versions of the school-led systems were to take hold,” he said.
Marilyn Leask, professor of educational knowledge management at the University of Bedfordshire echoed these views, suggesting that political ideology was hampering best practice and driving people from the profession.
“We’re in a horribly political situation in education which is stopping a lot of good practice happening, making people afraid and getting them to leave,” she said in response to a question from the audience. “We’re trying to provide the infrastructure that can give people pride and confidence going forward.”
Professor Menter stressed that he believed things were “moving in the right direction” and there was recognition from the school and higher education sectors that academic research was needed and wanted by teachers to improve standards.
Kay Graham, assistant director of the Teacher Quality Division in the Teachers Group of the Department for Education, agreed, saying there is an “expectation” that higher education and schools work closely together.
“We’ve got some really good examples of that around the country,” she said. “Professional expertise is crucial. It is only through this lens that a teacher can understand the context and the approaches on which to draw to make it real in practice.
“But the use of evidence in schools, by leaders and classroom teachers must become far more widespread than is currently the case. It’s not yet universal and systematic.”
Professor Menter said it was reassuring that the Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training, published last month, “encourages the development of evidence-based teaching”.
“We know, from the results of the research excellence framework that university-based educational research in the UK is now firmly established as world-leading,” he said. “We must ensure that those resources, skills and expertise are available to the teaching profession and our wider professional community.”