Where does a Research School land?
Imagine you were the person charged with ensuring that a Research School had a ‘soft landing’ in your area – the person focused on helping to connect the dots between the RS and all other schools in the community, to help enable its work to be successful. You’ve got money coming in to pay for a Research Lead, for administrative support. You have guidance on what to do, when and how. But what do you do next? How do you create the conditions for the RS to work efficiently and effectively? How do you build for its sustainability over time?
In Suffolk, they asked these questions long before their Research School began its work this month. One key part of their response was to offer to local schools EBE’s programme of Research Lead training (the Research Support Partnership) – six days of training for a group of committed and enthusiastic teachers and leaders who had previously designed evidence-based interventions which showed promise in improving outcomes for students. Through the RSP, the plan is to review these existing projects, design in robust evaluative measures, and to re-trial them. Thereafter, their outcomes will be shared.
From the ground up
The group of Research Leads-in-training has approached the RSP with enthusiasm, energy and great humour (we’re currently four days in to the six-day programme) – they’re fantastic to work with. Bringing more than a hundred years of collective teaching and school leadership experience with them, there is a wealth of practical understanding of how to get things done in schools, as well as the many challenges. Addressing issues such as effective student learning in alternative provision settings, writing skills for students identified with SEND needs, and increasing subject-specific vocabulary in English, the projects underway all address very specific needs that only teachers and leaders truly understand. The RSP is designed simply to offer a framework for bringing research evidence and evaluation into the process, with a view to embedding the skilful use of these for the long-term.
Amongst the band of trainee Research Leads are the forces of nature that are Maria Hough, from the county’s School-to-School Support Partnership, and Andy Samways, Director of the Suffolk Research School based at Samuel Ward Academy Trust. Having these people in the room and deeply involved in the programme is proving instrumental in developing the kinds of links the Research School will be able to strengthen over time, and it’s this that is creating the soft landing. Put simply, giving time, training, support and a voice to a group of talented professionals is beginning to show fruit.
The forward-thinking team at Suffolk County Council recognised that the RSP is one way of creating a receptive audience for the work of the Research School, but it’s turning into more than that with each session that we complete. Yes, Research Leads are learning skilful use of research evidence in intervention design, the application of effective implementation techniques and evaluation strategies, but they’re also engaged in ongoing conversations with one another (the text message group is proving pretty useful when we’re away from the training room), the School-to-School Support Partnership and the Research School. This inter-connected model is, I think, going to prove a key component in the successful work of the Research School over time.
Next week, the EBE team flies to Vancouver to begin another Research Support Partnership. We’ll take with us and share what we’re learning in Suffolk, as well as everything we’ve drawn from the RSPs we continue to run with the incredible Cheshire Vale Teaching School Alliance. And we’ll return with ideas and tips learned in Canada, and share these in the UK too.