I look on the NTEN ResearchEd conference at Huntington School yesterday with a glowing pride. Is there a little confirmation bias attending my feelings? Yes. And who the hell cares! It felt great – and that matters! My evidence – nearly three hundred people: talking, smiling, questioning and debating teaching and research evidence. People making links and connecting schools, adding to their reading lists and undertaking great CPD isn’t my normal conception of a Saturday, but it was special and unquestionably worthwhile.
I am proud that so many teachers and people involved in education gave their precious time on a bank holiday weekend to pursue our collective passion for making education better. It really fills up the goblet of hope for the travails of the working week. After some welcome family time, I’ll share the goblet Tuesday morning.
The day started with trepidation. Would Tom Bennett arrive with the programmes? Slouching on the rocking cradle of a slow train to York we all waited…and hoped. With sad hearts, we began anyway. John Tomsett began the day with a presentation clinging to the tousled genius Ben Goldacre. From his hair burst an array of perspectives on research evidence. The tone of the day was set. Research evidence is complex, not without flaws, subject to ideological agendas and conflicting opinions, but, ultimately, valuable. Research evidence should be something teachers use, make and engage with. It gets us talking and that is of crucial value. It should be inexorably bound up with student outcomes, however complex and difficult that process may be, but ‘we just need to keep building the bridge as we walk on it’ (to quote Tom Bennett and Jill Berry).
I then experienced a great range of talks (with plans to watch the other recordings too). I careered from talk to talk, dizzy with ideas – frustrated I couldn’t see everyone. These included Joe Kirby, David Cameron, Keven Bartle, Jill Berry and the glorious leader of the ResearchEd movement: Tom Bennett himself. Each and every session fed me with thinking nourishment about what I do and why I do it. David Cameron was blazingly critical of how politicians can use ‘evidence’ for ill, whereas Joe Kirby presented how we can use research evidence to improve the details of our practice and our curriculum. Keven presented a brilliant vision for a bottom up Teaching School, whilst being healthily critical of the current position of top down change. Jill presented the joys and challenges of being a Head teacher with clarity and wisdom.
It was glaringly clear that the event attracted people from all tribes. Progressives, traditionalists, traditional progressives and every other label for education professionals you can think up. It created a healthy crucible of debate – hell, I’m not even sure I agreed with everything I said during the day by its end! Passionate conviction was tempered by the call for evidence; the professional knowledge of the teacher was married with the evidence from the researcher.
The final session I viewed was the inimitable Tom Bennett. The zombie of VAK was dragged kicking and screaming from the Huntington main hall. The audience laughed repeatedly – giving me nightmarish flashes of NQT Drama lessons in the self-same school hall. We then supped our water, calm in the knowledge our brains were being hydrated – a la ‘BrainGym’. Tom gave his vision of a research engaged profession that didn’t fall prey to the profiteers circling the herd of schools roaming the British plains. He called for time and support to ensure teachers had a voice in all this. He even went as far as organising a fleet of conferences!
I had the pleasure of giving my own talk in the graveyard shift at the end of the day – see this video here if you have the time: http://new.livestream.com/L4L/ntenrEDyork. I will post on my talk sometime soon. In very short summary, research evidence is useful and gets us reflecting on what we do.
The day was glued together with lovely chats with colleagues, teachers, friends and people that emerged as human from the tiny boxes of their Twitter avatars. The sun shone and I was glowing with satisfaction.
My thanks go to John Tomsett, the site managers at Huntington, the IT team, the ace Year 10 helpers, the cafe staff, David Weston and his brilliant team at NTEN (do join Huntington School in the NTEN network to continue the conversation and to enhance your CPD), Tom Bennett, Hélène Galdin-O’Shea, Alex Wetherall (my shirt twin!), Leon Cych, and everyone else who helped to make the day a success, or who I have simply forgotten to name. It was a truly great effort and a well deserved success.
It was a proud moment to see my school right at the heart of such a positive and passionate movement for change. It was great to announce we were part of the National Teacher Enquiry Network to maintain the energy of all this work in connecting research and schools together in improving what they do. The day was a sheer pleasure and long may it continue.
There are undoubtedly some exciting times ahead. I can’t wait for ResearchEd 14 in London already – buy your ticket – they’re molten hot!
Long may the blossoming movement for teachers seizing the evidence agenda continue. Get involved.
Read Tom Bennett’s funnier and better written account of the day here.