Being the subject leader of English is one of the hardest jobs in a secondary school. Over three years ago, in that very role, I sat with my Headteacher, bemoaning how I was making massive decisions about a changing curriculum with little more than a hunch. Stressed and tired, I was frustrated by both the lack of evidence and judgement underpinning policy decisions, but I was also annoyed by my own incapacity to work out what was working. My notion of a research-lead grew from that moment of difficulty and what I saw as a potential support for busy teachers and school leaders.
Fast forward eighteen months: John Tomsett and I provided the Education Endowment Foundation with a proposal for a project entitled RISE: ‘Research Leads Improving Students’ Education’. It was accepted and the RISE Project was born. Our large scale randomised controlled trial (RCT) drew in forty schools from around the country. Working with Professor Rob Coe and Stuart Kime, from Durham University, saw us draw up a research-lead training programme, before fleshing out the two year span of the trial.
The detail of the RISE project began by defining what a research-lead could do to support school leaders and teachers. We considered that a Research-lead would enact the following:
- Finds the right question;
- Finds the evidence;
- Appraises the evidence for quality;
- Translates the evidence;
- Shares the evidence;
- Embeds the evidence;
- Evaluates the evidence.
Our trial has seen how the role of the research-lead faces the typical challenges faced by most school leaders: the poverty of time; the urgency of action; the anxiety that attends honest evaluation. We have attempted to mitigate those issues by supporting RISE treatment schools with expert support, such as regular training, a website, twitter feed and a regular newsletter on practical topics for teachers.
As you would expect of a RCT in progress, we are busy working out what works in the complex conditions of busy schools.
The researchED York event, on the 9th of July, will have a specific strand for aspiring, existing Research-leads, alongside other great speakers, like Baroness Estelle Morris, John Tomsett, Tom Sherrington, Phillipa Cordingly, Tom Bennett, David Didau, Sam Twisleton and many more.
Buy your ticket for the even at Huntington school below for a mere £17! There will be a range of superb RISE research-leads sharing their experiences and ideas.
Alex Quigley, Director of Research, Huntington School