researchED is a grass-roots, teacher led organisation started in 2013 by Tom Bennett, and assisted by Helene O’Shea.
A chance discussion with Sam Freedman (former advisor to the Secretary of State for Education, and later Director of Research and Impact at Teach First) and Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science and Bad Pharma, columnist for The Guardian) led to Tom suggesting on Twitter that he was putting together a conference on educational research, and did anyone want to help?
Four hours later, by 2am, he had received two hundred offers of help, moral support, venues and volunteer speakers. ‘I didn’t build researchED,’ says Tom, ‘it wanted to be built. It built itself. I just ran with it.’ After puzzling over the venue offers, Tom settled on Dulwich College, and on the first Saturday after the beginning of the new school year in September 2013, over 500 people came to talk, listen and learn. The day was a huge success (‘which was a surprise in itself,’ says Tom, who had previously run night clubs in Soho before his teaching career).
‘It was genuinely moving, people offered their time and skills for nothing, without hesitation. From the logo design, to the name, to the people making up the name badges on the day, we were propelled by an army of the willing and able. I have never witnessed such organised, coherent, yet spontaneous kindness in my life.’
With the help of teacher Helene O’Shea, Tom enlisted an army of volunteers who built the movement from the ground up.
Although the conference was designed to be a one-off, the popularity of the event led to a surge of support for more events. researchED took to the road, and further regional events were held in York and Birmingham: smaller and more focussed, they gave people who couldn’t travel to the capital a chance to experience the researchED project for themselves. Both sell-outs, they gave fuel for researchED to develop even more, beyond the wildest aspirations of its inception.
‘I don’t know the future,’ says Tom, ‘I don’t know how this all ends. researchED isn’t about fetishising research, or demanding that everything in education is decided by research – far from it. In fact, I’d say there were whole oceans of the school experience that are more to do with craft. But there are huge areas that are amenable to scientific investigation, and other areas where other disciplines, such as psychology, can offer useful insights. It’s time teachers started insisting on evidence before being expected to accept every claim and magic bullet sent their way. It’s time for a quiet revolution.’
Future plans include the creation of researchED International, an overseas arm of conferences, taking the researchED message further afield, touring the UK with a series of regional conferences, expanding the library of downloadable resources, and many more things to come.