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Insight paper

Preparing for power: Policy making around the school curriculum from 2010

What political parties can do to best support good school policy making ahead of entering government.

Tim Oates
Department for Education

In this guest paper Tim Oates, who was closely involved in the development of the new school curriculum for England launched by Michael Gove in 2014, shares his views on what constitutes good policy making, and what political parties can do to best support this ahead of entering government. 

Key takeaways include: 

  • Do the hard yards in opposition. The Gove team entered DfE in 2010 with a detailed plan of action that had been carefully and intensively composed in opposition in the years preceding the election; the team hit the ground running. 
  • Build on what came before. The term ‘revolution’ is convenient rhetoric, for all sides, but is misleading. There are important strands of continuity with New Labour policy of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some of the most important discontinuities with the past were with key elements of preceding Conservative policy – particularly removal of the long-standing Conservative commitment to assisted places in independent schools and the creation of more grammar schools. These shifts had been carefully secured while in opposition.
  • Learn from others. Key aspects of policy in 2010 were grounded in international comparisons and strong evidence. There was significant appetite for research evidence even if it ran counter to some of the assumptions in policy – for example, the focus on oracy in all subjects, the removal of ‘levels’ as assessment and reporting of attainment.
Public figures
Michael Gove
Institute for Government

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