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Why England’s 11 new Research Schools are an exciting step forward for education


July 13, 2017 Michael Sanders and Raj Chande

Yesterday Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education, announced that the government was to fund 11 Research Schools, bringing the total to 22 nationally.

At BIT, we are very pleased to be working in partnership with one of these new Research schools, the Blue School in Wells. The Blue School has been appointed the research school for West Somerset, one of the Government’s opportunity areas where they are keen to bolster social mobility.

We have a long history with the Blue School and with Somerset more generally, having collaborated with them on our projects supporting the Somerset Challenge, a cross county group dedicated to school improvement, which is also part of the Blue School’s bid.

Over the next three years, the Blue School, supported by the Somerset Challenge, BIT, and Professor Simon Burgess from the University of Bristol, will focus on several strands of work.

These will include creating online material to support teachers in the use of evidence based interventions in the classroom, as well as workshops and conferences with a similar focus; training for teachers on how to tell good evidence from bad, and what sources to trust; and how to tailor the findings of research to their own context and needs.

The final strand of work is perhaps the most exciting. We will be working with the Blue School to help teachers test their own ideas in the field.

Recognising that teachers have thousands of ideas about how to improve their classrooms but are largely at the mercy of researchers to conduct rigorous studies to tell what works, we will be empowering teachers to run their own light touch randomised control trials (RCTs) without the need for an econometrics degree.

The Research Schools movement is another exciting step forward in education. As we have written previously, the Education Endowment Foundation and others have transformed education from evidence poor to evidence rich, and in so doing have created demand from teachers for even more evidence and more data.

We are pleased to play a part in meeting that demand.

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