Blog: Why we need more collaboration between Teaching Schools and Research Schools

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that there is a growing appetite among teachers and senior leaders to use research to support their school’s improvement.

From my perspective as Director of Alliance for Learning Teaching School – whether it’s coaching Headteachers, or mentoring those who are new to the profession or delivering CPD – research sits at the core of improving teaching and learning in schools. Whether that’s via the use of more analytical research and tapping into research done by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) and the wonderful resources available through the Chartered College of Teaching, essentially schools across the country apply evidence to improve pupil outcomes and close the disadvantage gap.

Research informs the planning and delivery of key programmes and it’s used to help train colleagues who will implement and evaluate these initiatives.  It can also be shared in many ways, whether it be by funding or part-funding colleagues to undertake postgraduate study, research projects or by organising a conference and inviting external speakers. One of the most powerful ways to disseminate research and ensure it has impact is by teaching and research schools working more closely together. In our Teaching School we run a programme called RIS ‘Researchers in Schools’ it’s one of our niche routes into teaching and is aimed at PHD graduates and comes with a salary uplift from the DFE. This means schools can afford to have really credible research resource in their schools and shape the profession.

By seeking out and sharing innovative solutions, teaching schools, working alongside research schools, can reach far and wide to provide not only support for schools that may face challenging circumstances, but to help ensure we encourage skilled, well-qualified teachers through initial training and beyond, while developing professional leaders at the same time.

We’re pleased to be working with Blackpool Research School, at St Mary’s Catholic Academy School – the Research School for Blackpool Opportunity Area – to help share the best of evidence-based practice to schools and teachers in the area.  In addition to providing evidenced-based training, the school is also working to develop interventions and practices that help to improve the life chances of pupils.  For example, Blackpool Research School have led a number of CPD events across the town for example Quality First Teaching which South Shore Academy has benefited from.

Another of the schools within our Teaching School Alliance, Alexandra Park Primary in Stockport, has recently been designated as an Associate Research School, collaborating with Aspirer Research School in Macclesfield as part of the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) Research School Network. Part of their work involves training and support for implementation of the EEF guidance reports, topics include: behaviour, leadership and the Pupil Premium. Alexandra Park is also looking at ways to address child poverty as a barrier to education.  As a teaching school we are launching a joint offer with them to create more visible access to this research and communicate best practice across the schools we work with.

The message from policy makers, to professional bodies including The Chartered College of Teaching, is that teachers should use research to inform their decisions. Many of us would be happy to make an informed evidence-based approach as part of our role, and with a more joined up system which brings research schools, teaching schools, Maths Hubs and English Hubs together, I believe there is a lot more scope for reflection,  evaluating evidence-informed interventions so we are even better equipped to understand what works. Partnerships are at the heart of all that we do and the Alliance for Learning Teaching School genuinely believes in the power of deep collaboration.

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Lisa Fathers is Director of Teaching School and Partnerships at The Alliance for Learning, part of Bright Futures Educational Trust. Lisa will be speaking at Research Ed Blackpool on Mental Health in Schools in March 2020.

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