Expanding the Research Schools Network

12 July 2017

Author: Jonathan Haslam

Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education, today confirmed the 11 new Research Schools in Opportunity Areas. They are:

  • Hastings Research School at Ark Blacklands Primary Academy
  • Stoke-on- Trent Research School by The Keele and North Staffordshire Alliance
  • Norwich Research School at Notre Dame High School
  • Oldham Research School by The Greetland Academy
  • Blackpool Research School at St Mary’s Catholic Academy
  • Doncaster Research School by Partners in Learning
  • Scarborough Research School by Esk Valley Alliance
  • Derby Research School at Wyndham Primary
  • West Somerset Research School at The Blue School, Wells
  • Bradford Research School at Dixons Academies
  • East Cambridgeshire and Fenlands Research School at Littleport CP School

The announcement doubles the size of the Research Schools Network. From an original project with eleven schools, we have now grown to 22. This brings significant benefits to the project as a whole.

The Research Schools Network aims to put the use of research evidence into the hands of schools and practitioners. Research Schools will share what they know about putting research into practice, and support the schools they are working with to make better use of evidence to inform their teaching and learning. The aim, of course, is to ensure that this improves the outcomes for children in the classroom.

With the expansion of the network there will be more opportunities for schools to engage with the Research Schools Network. Our original plan was for a Research School in each of the English regions. Now, most schools will have a Research School within 50 miles of them, and many will find there is one much nearer than that. There are gaps in the coverage of the network, of course, but Research Schools have already shown themselves to be willing and able to work across significant distances.

The expansion allows us to test the Research School model more thoroughly – how it works within different structures and cultures. The new Opportunity Area Research Schools will also face a slightly different challenge from the existing schools, given that they will first of all target schools within their Opportunity Area.

Research Schools have three main activities:

  • Communication – getting the existing evidence out there, in an easily accessible format. This is unlikely to change teaching practice, but it will encourage teachers and schools to get more involved in the opportunities that are available.
  • Training – more in-depth courses that, with intelligence and impartiality, use the best research evidence we have available to challenge existing practice. Using the evidence of what works for CPD, Research Schools will be developing an increasing number of courses on particular aspects of school practice.
  • Innovation – Research Schools are more focused on using research than carrying it out, but when a “best bet” from the research evidence is developed into a change in classroom practice, it is vital to know that it is having the hoped-for impact. And where there is insufficient evidence to suggest a best option, Research Schools will support schools in testing their own innovative answers.

Schools are best-placed to take the lead in putting research evidence in practice. Having looked at the evidence into research use, we think that the Research School model is the best way of supporting this effectively. The project is being evaluated, and over the next three years, we will learn much about how, and to what extent, research can become a valuable tool in school improvement.

Posted on 12 July 2017
Posted in: Blog

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