I have been a teacher for 25 years, a Headteacher for 10 years and, at the age of 49, this much I know about how you can be involved in our EEF Research Project.

Research-leads Improving Students’ Education – RISE

Research-leads working through a structured school improvement process, involving external research and evaluation.

IOE-logo-400x168 eef-logo-small Huntington-School-York cem_1

Political consensus is notoriously difficult to achieve. Consensus in the world of education is nigh on impossible. Tentatively, I would say that the use of research evidence in education has united many warring factions in something that resembles agreement. There appears to be a rare sprig of hope emerging, namely that using evidence to improve our students’ education is a priority for the school system, and a priority which could become a reality.
Is research evidence a universal panacea for education? No, of course not. Should we be circumspect about the what, how and who of such research? Yes, we should. But, crucially, our questioning should not stop us seeking to find models of best practice in the classroom. We should not turn away from research due to skepticism; rather, we should set the agenda as a profession. A rich knowledge of good quality research, and an active engagement in that research, empowers teachers and school leaders. It gives us the tools to make better informed decisions about pedagogy and any small gain in decision-making which improves students’ learning experiences should be seized.
Earlier this week the BBC published an article about Wellington School appointing a ‘Head of Research (Carl Hendrick is leading that exciting development). Many other projects that see a fruitful collaboration between schools and Universities are being initiated as a groundswell of action is beginning to make the vision of an evidence-led profession become a reality. There are still questions to be asked and trials to be undertaken, but there is great promise.
This week the Education Endowment Fund announced four new Randomised Controlled Trials to help establish the most effective ways to use evidence in education: see the article here. Happily, our school, Huntington School in York, was named as one of the successful RCT leads. It marks the official start of an exciting project that will see participating schools, working in collaboration with Alex Quigley from Huntington and the Director of Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring Professor Rob Coe, establish highly effective school-based Research-leads in order to improve students’ outcomes. The project is outlined by the Education Endowment Fund below:

The project: This project, led by Huntington School, aims to test whether a research-based school improvement model makes a significant difference to classroom practice and student outcomes. Each school in the programme will appoint a ‘research lead’ who will be responsible for implementing the improvement programme in their school, with a particular focus upon improving student attainment in English and mathematics at GCSE. The research leads will be supported by a thorough programme of workshops delivered by the team from Huntington School, alongside a collaborative network-based approach to support. Professor Rob Coe, Director of the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM) at Durham University will support Huntington to develop and deliver the content of these workshops, and the guidance on designing appropriate, robust, school-led evaluations.The diagram below sets out the school improvement model that Huntington would help schools to implement:

EEF presentation and model

Why are we funding it? This project represents an opportunity to investigate the feasibility of a sustainable model of research use, with a strong ‘hub’ school leading other schools through a process of school improvement with research at its core. If this project demonstrates a positive impact on research use and pupil attainment, it could be replicated by teaching schools, leading their alliance schools in appraising, implementing and embedding research. Huntington piloted the school-improvement model in 2013 and demonstrated that school-based research, when properly supported, was feasible and valuable. Its own trial focused on testing different approaches to feedback across Year 9 English classes, to identify the impact on learning between teachers providing oral feedback or written feedback on pupils’ work.

How are we evaluating it? The evaluation will be undertaken by a team from the Institute of Education, led by Meg Wiggins. The trial will be structured as a randomised controlled trial involving 40 secondary schools. 20 treatment schools will appoint a research lead and receive workshops and support from Huntington School. The primary attainment measure will be GCSE results in English and mathematics, collected in summer 2016 and summer 2017. This will provide a measure of the impact of the programme after one year and two years of delivery. Impact on teachers’ awareness, understanding and use of research, will also be collected through teacher surveys.

The evaluation is set up as an efficacy trial. Efficacy trials aim to test whether an intervention can work under ideal conditions (e.g. when being delivered by the intervention’s original developer) in greater than 10 schools.

When will the evaluation report be due? The evaluation report will be published in Autumn 2017.

Can research provide us with the crucial golden thread that connects school leadership decisions through to successful student outcomes? We think it can and that this trial can help prove it.

If you would like to receive further information about this exciting project and to declare an interest please email Alex Quigley, Director of Research at Huntington School: aj.quigley@huntington-ed.org.uk.


We are keen to foster as much interest in this ground-breaking project as possible. However…

This Research project will need the full and active support of the Headteachers of all participating schools; Randomised Controlled Trials of this quality and import require commitment and staying-power!

In my experience significant initiatives in schools can only go ahead and be fully effective if Headteachers want them to happen.

As this project is fundamentally about the implementation and evaluation of evidence-based school improvement strategies in English and mathematics GCSEs to be taken in 2017, Headteachers need to understand exactly what is required of them & the school and need to be made aware of the application process from the very outset.

This should not put you off pursuing interest in this crucial initiative, but it is important that everyone, from the very start of the recruitment process, is clear about the commitment required from participants.

John Tomsett, 14 June 2014

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This post has 12 Comments

  1. Absolutely fascinating. I will be retired before any real conclusions are drawn but I look forward to watching this one develop.
    Will these RCT’s be conducted in secret or will people be able to follow progress online?
    If I am able to follow the projects, will it be via EEF or Wellington?

  2. Reblogged this on huntingenglish and commented:
    Please read this clear account, by Huntington School Head teacher, John Tomsett, of an exciting opportunity to engage with our Education Endowment Fund project on using research evidence in education.

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