The Department for Education (DfE) in England seeks to determine the actions of educationists in both the public and private sectors through the use of targeted instructive documents and white papers where broader policy intention is presented. Since 2010, as we will show, there has been a shift in the nature of such papers towards justification with ‘evidence’ and transparency through referencing in a ‘scientific’ style, with ramifications for both how policy is justified and the contestation of practices in education. This leads us to suggest that we are in an ‘evidence era’ where a dominant rationalized myth centres on the use of ‘evidence’ to justify practice. Meanwhile, how ‘evidence’ is constructed as research is undertaken, and how it is transformed as it enters a political environment, are important questions that are often overlooked. In this text, we analyse the change in ‘evidence’ practices before and after 2010, consider why the practices changed, and infer the effects the changes have had on the wider education environment.
Journal of Education Policy, published online 6 April 2020