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The Public Affairs Awards 2017

Think Tank of the Year 

The 2017 Public Affairs Awards are dedicated to celebrating the best work that the Public Affairs industry has to show. As Media Partner, PubAffairs is contributing to reward excellence by showcasing winning entries in a number of categories.

The below entry is the Education Policy Institute's submission in the Think Tank of the Year category. Click here to view the full list of winners


Since our formation just over a year ago, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has quickly established itself as the leading think tank in the country for education and young people’s mental health, regularly publishing authoritative and politically impartial research that has been both timely and influential to policy-makers.

Since November 2016, our newly recruited, modest-sized team have published several impactful reports and policy papers, achieving coverage across national, regional and international media. Recurrent coverage has included The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Sun, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Financial Times and The Economist – along with regular broadcast appearances featuring members of our research team across assorted BBC platforms, as well as ITV, Sky News and Channel 4.

Before the 2017 General Election, education policy was dominated by heated debates around the government’s plans for grammar schools, set out in the green paper Schools that work for everyone. EPI further consolidated its position as the lead organisation with respect to providing an evidence base for this policy area, after we launched our second major report on grammar schools and social mobility. This was also supplemented by a prominent report on the role of Ofsted, which drew formal responses from former and current HMCIs, Sir Michael Wilshaw and Amanda Spielman. Ofsted subsequently committed to reviewing two of the report’s key concerns in its recent 5 year strategy.

Additionally, we have continued to build on our influence in the policy sphere of young people’s mental health, convening numerous high-level stakeholders to the launch event of our report Time to Deliver – including Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP. This led to EPI giving evidence to a joint Commons Committee inquiry and presenting our findings at Facebook’s international conference in Washington D.C. In the area of higher education policy, our report on the sustainability of the system also garnered significant media attention.

The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study is widely regarded by national policy-makers as the authoritative source for evaluating and comparing education systems worldwide. In December 2016 EPI was selected by the OECD for the prestigious global launch of the latest PISA resultshighlighting our reputation as a leading think tank. The event featured the Secretary General of the OECD, was covered widely by UK and international media, and has amassed over 50,000 views on Youtube. In April 2017 we worked with the organisation once again for the worldwide launch of its international student well-being report – with a keynote from former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Following a highly active period which saw several major reports and events at the end of 2016, EPI carried momentum into the New Year with the launch of the 2017 Annual London Education Report, which was launched by London Mayor Sadiq Kahn in City Hall. Being selected by both the GLA and OECD highlighted EPI’s fast-growing reputation – and led to further commissioned work for highly-respected organisations such as the Royal Society and the Arts Council.

In March 2017, perhaps most notably of all, our analysis of the government’s national funding formula for schools secured coverage from every major national publication and broadcaster – dominating the news and discussion in the education sector, with changes proposed in line with EPI analysis in all major party manifestos. This analysis was presented by EPI to the Education Select Committee school funding inquiry, was debated by Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May in two separate sessions of Prime Minister’s Questions, as well as by Education Ministers in House of Commons Education Questions. A House of Lords debate was also held to exclusively debate the report’s findings. School funding subsequently evolved into a decisive issue in the run up to the General Election, with EPI research leaving a clear mark on policy debates at a critical time.

The 2017 General Election also saw EPI publish a comprehensive review of each of the main parties’ manifesto commitments on education. Once again, the report obtained coverage in all national news outlets, with our impartial, detailed assessment operating as an authoritative source, providing valuable scrutiny. As education (particularly school funding) subsequently developed into a key issue for voters, EPI secured several major broadcast appearances, with our findings also cited in the ITV General Election Leaders’ Debate. Following the election, and the government’s revision of its school funding plans, additional EPI research offered continued scrutiny in this contentious policy area.

As social media has become increasingly dominant in the lives on young people, internet companies and policy-makers have increasingly come under pressure to assess its impact on young people’s wellbeing. June 2017 saw EPI undertake a major review of the evidence on this area, with the report securing across-the-board media coverage, prompting a comment from the government, and drawing a personal response from the Secretary of State for Health. Crucially, the research also helped generate a consolidated evidence-base in this nascent, yet rapidly growing area of concern.

The same month also saw the Education Policy Institute mark its first anniversary. A Westminster-based event featured as keynote speaker former Secretary of State for Education Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP – and even drew ministerial praise in a subsequent House of Lords debate.

Shortly after in August, we published one of our most impactful reports to date. Examining the latest trends in the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers, the influential Closing the Gap? achieved far-reaching coverage across national news outlets – most notably featuring on the Today Programme, and BBC 6 O’Clock and 10 O’Clock News. Just two weeks later, ahead of GCSE results day, our report English Education: World Class? was released and found that England’s performance levels significantly lagged behind that of the top performing nations. The report generated lively debates among the national press, and kept up the pressure on the government with regard to raising educational standards.

As well as another global report launch with the OECD, featuring its head of education, Andreas Schleicher, the period of September and October saw EPI putting education at the heart of the party conferences. This included with 17 high-profile fringe events - featuring both the Secretary of State, Justine Greening and Shadow Secretary of State, Angela Rayner, as speakers. These events capped a highly successful year, and affirmed the Education Policy Institute’s standing, despite having only recently being established, as one of the country’s leading public policy think tanks.