Before I try and summarise my experience of attending ResearchED14 I think it is important to make a small observation.
For those in the media or the general public, who belittle teachers, how hard we work and the role we fulfil, I’d like to point out that today was a Saturday, a Saturday at the end of the first week of term, which hundreds of teachers were spending improving themselves professionally without payment. Some had even brought their children, such was their commitment (don’t worry there was a crèche). An excellent example of how teachers go the extra yard to ensure that the children they serve get the best education possible, and it won’t have been the only example across the country today I’m sure.
So, the sessions…….
The first was Marianne Lagrange, from Sage Publications, talking about how to get started with research. This was an excellent discussion of the key things to consider when developing a research mindset and presented with such eloquence and clarity that the accompanying slides could be provided to staff as a quick start guide. Hopefully they will be made available by ResearchED, but if not then I am sure they were being tweeted live as photos.
The second was Dylan Wiliam discussing the challenges of research within education. Entertaining, informative and thought provoking analysis of education research as a body of knowledge. He even mentioned SEN, for which he gets additional kudos, reflecting on how the effect size can be greater in SEN due to the smaller number of individuals involved. Something to consider if we are to build a stronger research community within and across Special schools.
This was followed by David Weston talking CPD in a room which defied physics by managing to fit more people into the space than it seemed possible. Some fascinating observations about the nature of CPD in schools, the impact it does or doesn’t have and how to improve it. As I work in a school which is considering buying into the National Teacher Enquiry Network I had some familiarity with his aims. I have to say I found the arguments compelling and am persuaded that this organisation could have a profound impact on schools.
The final session of the morning was Phillipa Cordingley talking about a comparative study of ‘strong’ schools and ‘excellent’ schools in terms of meeting the needs of vulnerable students in the mainstream. It reflected on their common characteristics and had my mind racing about how this could be replicated with Special schools in order to try and establish a set of common indicators of highly effective Special school provision. Watch this space…..
Lunch was Pizza and conversations about the setting up of a national school based educational research network. This was attended by a number of research leads in schools, (a role I have just taken on for the Oxfordshire Teaching Schools Alliance), academics and school leaders and set out the initial framework of a future discussion. A further meeting to take place in the latter part if the Autumn term was mentioned and a Special Ed themed one was being talked about on Twitter too! Result.
I only managed one session in the afternoon, partly as I had to leave before the end anyway, but compounded by the fact that Sam Freedman’s talk on policy making was full. Really disappointed to have missed it.
Who I did get to see though was Tristram Hunt and I was pretty impressed. There wasn’t anything particularly revelatory, with a strong focus on teacher quality, but his delivery was relaxed and some of the quips hit the mark. He also responded fairly well to the questions and I have tremendous respect for any politician who is willing to take spontaneous questions at events such as these. No mention of SEN again but this wasn’t the time to challenge that perpetual oversight, not least because I was in the balcony and would have had to resort to shouting. Not very dignified.
So to summarise, this was a fantastic event. There needs to be greater representation of Primary and Special, but that has been acknowledged. And anyway there was enough content that transcended phase and sector that I defy anyone not to have come away from today energised and inspired by what they had heard and experienced.
Finally, let’s not forget this was set up and organised by working teachers. A remarkable testament to the state of the profession, a profession that on today’s experience is in rude health.