Supporting and researching the school led system

Rapid change in the schools sector since 2010 has led to a major shift in how schooling is organised: a move towards a school led system as advocated by David Hargreaves (see here for example). Schools are increasingly being charged with driving the improvement agenda and undertaking research and development to improve practice and create knowledge for the system. A central aspect of this work is collaborative activity across networks of schools.

CEIR is at the forefront of this work. We are supporting schools and particularly Teaching School Alliances nationally and regionally to undertake collaborative research and development (R&D). But to help this fundamental change work effectively we are also undertaking research into key issues in the development of a school led system. These include the impact of collaborative R&D, knowledge generation and mobilisation, collaboration, and middle leadership system roles.

In fact, our most recent research conducted with our partner Teaching School Alliances (Maxwell and Willis, 2013) found that there is a mismatch between what is happening on the ground, and what schools want to happen, so whilst most schools are undertaking R&D projects, these infrequently involve collaboration across schools and tend to involve senior and middle leaders rather than classroom teachers. The study uncovered a gap between the current R&D culture and capacity in schools and the desired R&D culture and capacities. While overall staff expressed confidence in undertaking R&D they were less confident in designing R&D projects, understanding ethical implications and measuring impact. This highlights a key point: for a school-led system to work effectively, especially in relation to R&D and evaluation, support from external experts is crucial. CEIR is at the forefront of providing this support.