Saturday 5th April saw the first of researchED’s regional conferences, researchED Midlands, take place in Birmingham. A fantastic group of speakers were present, imparting their wisdom to the brave souls who gave up their Saturday to listen and learn. As with the London event (see our view of that day here), the focus was on ‘working out what works’. And representatives from the world of research, the charity sector, policy makers and most importantly members of the teaching community were all present to tackle this complex problem.
SSAT has always advocated for the gap between research and schools to be closed and regularly disseminate the latest research to our members in an attempt to do just this. We also know that teachers have a big part to play in this, which is why we are so delighted that the grassroots researchED movement has taken off so spectacularly. It shows just how many committed professionals there are in the teaching workforce. Not only is engagement in academic research important but we also recognise that practitioner-led research can be an invaluable tool to further professional development.
One school who we know engages brilliantly with research is Bay House School – previously profiled in our Research Radar as pioneers of in-school research (producing their own annual research journal; the journal began with just 100 copies but now it is sent to local schools and universities, is reproduced digitally and continues to grow in popularity).
Recently, they set some of their staff on SSAT’s very own Lead Practitioner Accreditation, which has research at its heart. Annie Eagle reflects on their experiences:
‘A meeting with Anne-Marie Duguid lead us to our journey through Lead Practitioner (LP) accreditation. Initially we issued an advert to our colleagues in school inviting them to partake with this challenge:
Are you confident in your professional practice?
Are you keen to share your skills?
Do you want to make a difference to others?
My colleague Catherine O’Sullivan and I were keen to attract colleagues to focus on learning rather than performance, whilst at the same time ensuring they were excited by the challenge ahead. We were inundated with interest and chose fourteen aspirant LPs from our teaching staff and ten from our support staff cohorts.
During the launch day led by SSAT, the buzz was palpable. Catherine and I were convinced that we had witnessed something really rather special; a chance for colleagues to be creative and decide what being a lead practitioner symbolised to them in Bay House. They investigated their impact on current areas of leadership and gained a deeper understanding on the success criteria for LP, planning their route towards accreditation through Bay House research projects linked to our School Improvement Plan for Quality of Teaching. Our colleagues articulated how they would complete their action research around Halbert and Kasers’ ‘Spiral of Inquiry’; with an emphasis on how they would ‘tell the story’ and ‘impact the practice of others.’
I have no doubt that it is this group of dynamic, innovative and enthusiastic teachers that will change the face of teaching and learning at Bay House. They are in the classrooms, they understand the challenges that teachers face and they are best placed to solve them. Since the launch day we have witnessed our aspirant Lead Practitioner colleagues proactively seek out opportunities for leadership, staff volunteering themselves to lead professional learning sessions for the whole school, others who have offered to organise a teachmeet, and yet more who are spontaneously mentoring other colleagues.
We have often wondered about capacity building at Bay House and what we might do to encourage staff to develop. In hindsight it seems that all it needed was a challenge, some encouragement and a sense of being valued – the rest takes care of itself. If you have not yet embarked on a LP journey, I would strongly recommend the experience. You will be amazed at the changes that very quickly result’.