Policy Diffraction

Last night I asked Dylan Wiliam to explain the weird way that when you read the National Curriculum, the OFSTED framework, or innumerable other policy publications you get the message of something really positive and useful but once you see it at the school level it’s been bastardised into something nightmarish. He answered using the term “policy diffraction” which I think is a really useful concept. He gave great examples- Christine Gilbert (head of OFSTED) has apparently stated that schools shouldn’t be expected to give OFSTED grades for lesson observations or pupils to know their level. Yet inspectors’ are continually obsessed with checking up on these when they come to call. More amusingly, he told us about a period when primary school teachers went running around hanging drapes all around their classrooms thinking that “OFSTED like that”.

I wonder if there’s been any research into this Chinese whispers process that morphs central policy guidance into increasingly absurd interpretations by the time it reaches the coalface. Some of the crazy decisions on Health and Safety that come out of Local Authority’s would probably come under this theme. 

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