Education through evidence: the Major on fixing schools

Sutton Trust’s Lee Elliott Major channels Bananarama with his education philosophy: “it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it”. He spoke to The Mandarin about building an evidence base and putting it into practice.

Lee Elliott Major

Lee Elliott Major

It may sound like common sense to say policy should be based on what we know actually works, but in reality it’s never that simple. There are all sorts of challenges, from doing the initial research to convincing often sceptical stakeholders to rolling out reforms and scaling them up.

Lee Elliot Major, CEO of England’s Sutton Trust, understands these issues all too well. The charity he runs was founded in 1997 to help improve social mobility through education. Calling itself both a think tank and a “do tank”, the trust has funded over 200 programs, commissioned more than 140 research studies and advocates for a more evidence-based approach to education policy.

Sutton is particularly focused on helping smart students from poor backgrounds reach the same kind of opportunities better off students have access to. After running for 18 years, there are now Sutton Trust beneficiaries running for parliament.

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