SERA Online 2020 speakers: Professor Pamela Munn

Title of talk/provocation: Should researchers get actively involved in policy making? Lessons from the National Debate

Professor Pamela Munn, University of Edinburgh


Professor Pamela MunnI was Professor of Curriculum Research from 1994 at the then Moray House Institute of Education and Dean of the Moray House School of Education 2002-2007. I taught history in London schools before moving back to Scotland where I began my research career at the University of Stirling, moving to  a lectureship at the University of York before returning to Scotland as Senior Research Fellow and latterly Depute Director of the Scottish Council for Research in Education. I was President of the British Educational Research Association 2007-2009 and remained an active member of BERA, in particular working on a project with others, highlighting the role of research in teacher education. I have been a member of various national committees, including those concerned with behaviour in schools, teacher education and Curriculum for Excellence. I was on the advisory board of several academic journals and a member of the steering group for the ESRC Teaching and Learning Research Programme. I was awarded an OBE for services to education in Scotland in 2005. I formally retired in 2010 although I have remained professionally active until the recent past. My main research interests were in behaviour in schools, education policy and education for citizenship.

Overview of talk/provocation

At a time when the role of research in informing Covid-19 policy is under scrutiny, this provocation draws on the presenter’s experience of working with the then Scottish Executive Education Department during the national debate on education which took place in 2002. It focuses on the processes of involvement not the detailed substance of the debate.* The national debate could be seen as an innovative approach to policy making as it attempted to seek views from a wide range of people not normally involved in consultations about policy. Furthermore, its ambition was to set out a policy agenda for the future of schooling from 2002-2013 – a much longer time scale than was typical. The debate was initiated when a Labour/Lib Dem coalition was in power and not long after the establishment of a Scottish Parliament in 1999. It focussed on a key element of Scottish identity – education – and many hoped it signalled a new politics in its efforts to encourage participation in policy making. What were the opportunities and pitfalls for the presenter? Having heard about my experience my question is: Do the benefits of active participation in education policy making outweigh the risks?

*See  Munn P et al (2004) ‘Schools for the 21st Century. The National Debate on Education in Scotland.’ Research Papers in Education Volume 19, Number 4 pp 433-452.

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