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Research School Network: Leading the way with evidence in Essex Find out more about the Unity and East London Research Schools’ first cohort of Evidence Leads in Education within Essex

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Leading the way with evidence in Essex

Find out more about the Unity and East London Research Schools’ first cohort of Evidence Leads in Education within Essex

by Unity Research School
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In collaboration with Chafford Hundred Teaching School Hub and Saffron Teaching School Hub, Unity and East London Research Schools are excited to have launched our first cohort of Evidence Leads in Education within Essex. Read on to find out more about the role, meet some of the team and see what their take-aways were from the first of the training modules…

What is the role of an Evidence Lead in Education (ELE)?

ELEs can provide support for schools beyond their own. Typically, this is based around a general understanding of evidence and evidence-informed school improvement, with specific areas of deep specialist knowledge. They do this through:

  • communicating with schools about evidence in a particular area, to an audience from teachers, middle leaders to senior leaders
  • providing follow-on support to enable schools to structure and plan change in particular areas
  • delivery of specific training (around subject or topic)

The role encompasses a wide variety of potential activity with deployments drawing on a host of professional skills, aptitudes and expertise. Future deployments will see members of the ELE team working alongside schools in Essex, active in:

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The ELE training programme

Working with their host Research School, Unity and East London Research Schools in this case, ELEs follow a modular training programme exploring key aspects of the role and associated evidence base within:

  1. Evidence and use of evidence in education
  2. Implementation and evidence-informed school improvement
  3. Adult learning and facilitation
  4. Specialist knowledge

The 14 ELEs came together for Module 1 earlier this term. Led by Unity Research School Director, Andy Samways, they explored a range of themes and resources from the Education Endowment Foundation and other trusted sources associated with making best use of evidence within education. Seven key take-aways included:

  • How evidence supplements experience, it doesn’t supplant it
  • Evidence provides best bets’ … at best!
  • Evidence tells us what has happened in the past
  • Rather than looking for what works, we should seek to identify what worked and under what conditions (paraphrasing Dylan Wiliam)
  • Not all evidence is equal… beware red flags’
  • Context matters
  • Implementation matters

The Team

The new ELE team have a wealth of experience, expertise and interests which shone through in rich professional dialogue and reflection. Our next focus is on putting evidence to work – the vital aspect of effective implementation.

Over the coming months we will keep you posted on the team’s professional learning and early activity as we extend the Research School Network within Essex. To get us started, thanks to three of the team, Nina, Cate and Deb for sharing an outline of their interests, experience and reflections on the first module.

Introducing ELE team members, their experience and reflections on module 1

Nina Kemp

Throughout my time as a Deputy, and then as a Headteacher, I have always tried to root changes in evidence-based strategies that I have researched. I recognise the need to pace myself and the school when implementing change and have done this successfully as the Headteacher at Whitmore, moving the school from Inadequate to Good in just 3 years. I recognise that identifying the change you want to make, reading widely around the topic and setting out a clear plan to implement the change is really important. This is something that needs the commitment of everyone involved to make it work. I believe strongly that collaboration is at the heart of successful change and that as an individual, you need to be the inspiration and lead the charge! I am excited about this role as I think it is a good opportunity to widen my expertise in research and the delivery of high-quality training to larger audiences, as well as being able to apply this new knowledge, skills and understanding in my own school and academy.

Reflecting on the first training session:

I found that the first training session for ELEs was extremely interesting and really helped me to see the Big Picture’ of evidence-led improvement. Having access to the resources and training is going to be so powerful moving forward. I have already started to follow the 5‑step process for a new initiative in my school. I am really excited about being a new ELE and the impact this will have on others I will be working with.

Cate Peeters

I am currently an AHT at Anglo European School, a nonselective comprehensive comprising a rich diversity of students with different ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and abilities. My particular responsibilities are for Teaching and Learning: ITT/NQT and CPD as well as Performance Management. Prior to taking up my position as AHT, I was Head of Department for Languages. I have led projects in other schools to support and enhance learning of languages. I have also participated in research conducted by Cambridge University to establish how teachers might boost languages learning, the findings of which suggested that encouraging students to form multilingual identities could help address a decline in language learning. AES also has links to UCL, and we have participated in their SWERL (Supporting Wellbeing, Emotional Resilience and Learning) project which I have incorporated into our school CPD programme.

Reflecting on the first training session

The opening ELE group meeting was a great opportunity for us to connect with like-minded school leaders to consider the role that evidence-based practice plays in our own schools. Culture and climate were my two takeaways and the sense that through our new Teaching and Learning policy at AES, I have the perfect base upon which to infuse research evidence into the life of the school.” We acknowledged that professional expertise coupled with the best available evidence from research provide a solid foundation for school improvement and through my work as ELE, I am excited to be part of this Hub-wide initiative.

Deb Nemhara

As an experienced senior leader, and through my work as a Mastery Specialist with the London North-East Maths Hub over the past six years, I have seen the impact of using research-informed approaches to drive improvements in the classroom and at a whole-school level. My areas of interest and expertise are the strategic leadership of mathematics, the effectiveness of teaching and professional development. My approach to school improvement is collaborative; I have supported teachers and leaders at all stages of their careers to identify what best practice looks like and how they might work to develop it in their own context. I am committed to supporting an improved professional culture in local schools, with the ultimate aim of improving children’s educational opportunities and outcomes. I am incredibly appreciative that I can be part of this movement towards a more informed approach to education and I feel that the work of research schools will have a huge impact on the profession as a whole.

Reflecting on the first training session

My takeaway was the how’, as leaders we need to be careful of over-stating the benefits or making grand causal claims when using evidence or an intervention. Education is littered with grey areas’ as there are often too many factors which intervene to affect pupils’ outcomes. Evidence can be a starting point for a discussion – we have to really understand what the evidence does/​doesn’t say and then consider this within our own context, knowing what we want to achieve. Another key takeaway was how using a well framed inquiry question we can be more precise in seeking to identify the impact of what we are seeking to evaluate.

Andy Samways

Director of Research School

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