The Role of Policy Exchange: Part 7

Thanks to @RachellBull and her research paper, we have discussed The Role of Policy Exchange (part 1) and selection and choice (part 2); that funding requirements are less rigorous for private sponsors, making it easier for anyone to open up an academy or free school. For-profit schools can only be the next thing that is championed, as alluded to in these 3 PX blogs. Along with Cameron’s synchronised announcement, A Rising Tide (part 3) publication by PX made the headlines across the UK. To understand the power and importance of the PX report, it is vital to understand its origins, we looked at the Legacy of Thinking (part 4): a strong causal relationship between politicians and think tanks make policy development much easier to do in a think tank as Parliamentarians and their staff don’t have much capacity”.In part 5: Behind the Thinking including trustees, I published the names from Rachel Bull’s paper. I have been told these are easily available on request, but a question 1000s of others would have asked: why the lack of transparency in the first place? For 12 years, individual reports have not included details of funders since 2004, the majority of the publications, including A Rising Tide, merely offering vague acknowledgements to people and corporations. Apparently, transparency is now on the agenda and is a step forward. As profiled on Who Funds You?, a site which asks think tanks to reveal their funders, providing a score out of five for transparency and accountability. PX rates ‘D’ on its scale (A-E) of transparency. On PX’s website, we can observe that trustees listed here, but there are no donors.Finally, in part 6, the final post of this series, the paper discussed ‘Who is Paying for the Thinking?’ and ‘Who is Doing the Thinking?‘ Without information about PX’s donors, we can only speculate about the impact of funds on the “thinking” that it is producing. The danger that an epistemic community might lead to the creation of an inward- looking institution, risks the influence of vested interests influencing research – even without the direct influence of money. Meanwhile, although the quality of their research does receive some analysis and critique (granted mainly just in the margins of the educational cybersphere), the origins do not.If PX, and other think tanks like it, are to continue to influence both policy – particularly in education – and the press, we must demand a reevaluation of how finances are managed and regulated (or at least made transparent), and their findings are reported.TT.You can download the full research paper here.Rachell Bull is a former teacher who is now a Fulbright Scholar and Leadership Development Officer at Teach First. The work published in this paper are her own views.

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