19 Mar 2018

What Can Schools Learn from the ‘Boot Room’?

What Can Schools Learn from the ‘Boot Room’?

Shankly, Paisley, Fagan, Dalglish, Souness, Evans. Liverpool’s Boot Room.

Between 1959 and 1998 these six men were the successive and successful managers of Liverpool Football Club. 13 league titles, 4 European Cups and 9 domestic cups were won during this time.

Much of this was attributed to the fact that each time a manager left, the next had been lined up within the organisation: someone who already knew the players; the culture; the inner workings of the football club.

In the twenty years since the Boot Room conveyor belt ceased, Liverpool have only won 6 domestic cups.

So how can schools begin to establish their own ‘Boot Room’?

It’s hard to keep the conveyor belt going at school because life happens and people leave, or their roles shift. However, in nascent evidence-related roles, such as a Research-lead, it is perhaps even more difficult to start establishing a broader base of knowledge across the staff, and preventing all the research information being tied up in one person…perhaps the very person who is reading this blog.

At Huntington, we have a group of Research Associates: eight volunteers who attend termly sessions designed to dig a little deeper into some of the research, including contributions to blog content, and even delivering small sections of our training.

One of training programmes is ‘Leading Learning’, and as part of this we consider the EAST model, from the Behavioural Insights Team (otherwise known as the ‘Nudge’ unit) as a guide for trying to ‘nudge’ new behaviours in school. Because ultimately, having a dozen or so research aware colleagues is not the end goal: we want it to permeate the practice of all classroom staff, hence it is a cornerstone of our Disciplined Inquiry CPD model.

How can we ‘go EAST’ and develop the ‘Boot Room’?


Easy: Dedicated time is given to staff to complete their inquiry, supported by fortnightly training time after school closes an hour early on a Monday. Some of this includes content delivered to all staff on staff; sometimes departments may work together exploring an issue further; and staff are given time to complete further reading, as well as write their findings up (see Social).

Attractive: staff can choose their own inquiry question, enabling them to start thinking about solutions to questions they have for their own classroom. This is not abstract research that is separated from day-to-day teaching.

Social: the year ends with all classroom staff completing a summary poster of their inquiry, which is shared at a celebration afternoon in the summer term.

Timely: creating a regular rhythm of training throughout the year is crucial, as well as embracing the current openness of educators for a research based approach.

What is our currency of success? There are no European cup competitions for research that I am aware of. Do we arbitrarily attribute success to the process if exam results go up? Do we attribute failure if they go down?

With something as intangible and difficult to measure as embracing research, it will involve a range of approaches: staff surveys, performance management meetings and staff retention can all be considered. And yes, perhaps pupil assessment scores, both internal and external, will play a part. But ultimately, there will always be something more difficult to measure: culture. A culture of interest, engagement and improvement, with someone always ready and willing to take up the challenge.

After all, it worked for Liverpool.

* If you are interested in joining our Leading Learning‘ course in the summer term, we still have a few places, and you book your place here.

Lead&Learn F Feb 2018