The benefits of getting engaged in research

I like to think i’ve got a critical eye, i’m certainly not one of those that jumps on any old initiative without at least a healthy degree of cynicism and yet I really do love changing stuff to make it better. I’m one of those who suddenly wakes up in the middle of the night realising that my fondant fancy tree diagram lesson isn’t going to work because it’s Ramadan, that our new appraisal system needs this tweak to bring it in line with our target setting or even (most disturbingly) that everything tends towards e including all our student exam results. This latest (woefully inaccurate) revelation comes as a direct result of reading the excellent “Alex Through the Looking Glass” by Alex Bellos. In short, i’m one of those “always on” type of people. The problem with this is that I have a stack of ideas and yet the cynic and mathematician in me wants to know if they’re going to work before I make them happen.

Now this wasn’t such a problem when I was at the level of trying out stuff in my maths lessons with 30 students. I like to think my tube-map-vector creation lesson was an absolute triumph but i’m willing to admit that my water torture inverse proportion attempt was torture for everyone in the room. Now i’ve managed to find a position of some responsibility however, the initiatives I espouse have to be backed with something. So i’ve been diligent enough to do my own bits of research and reading  before I present anything and i’ve encouraged others to do the same but that isn’t the same as having a whole school like this founded on what works and challenging of what doesn’t.

So the epiphany (of sorts) came whilst stood at the urinal at Durrington High School which I know is a strange place for this to occur. On April 13th myself and Vice Principal Jason Bridges ( were lucky enough to be hosted by Shaun Allison ( and Andy Tharby ( for our whole school “visit another school” inset day. We saw loads of awesome things at Durrington but the one that really struck a chord with me was the engagement of key staff members and therefore the wider staff in current education research. Andy has whole school responsibility for making this happen and is the reason I was stood at a urinal reading a summary of recent research. Shaun is one of those people we’ve probably all seen on twitter who writes something and is instantly engaged with the views of another few thousand people and their knowledge of education. Suffice to say I left the day thoroughly inspired by both of them.

I determined that I wanted to tell people all about the fantastic work that happens at Ninestiles (, I’m incredibly proud of my school and want people to know. However, I don’t intend my blog and my twitter to just be a fanfare for Ninestiles Multi Academy Trust. I want it to serve as a vehicle for improvement and change as well as a tool for staff engagement. So myself and Jason worked  on our twitter accounts, persuaded others to sign up and now have a growing community of acolytes. Coincidently twitter paid dividends on my first night. A guy I’d never spoken to before saw my first blog post on my twitter feed, got in touch and helped me enormously with my work on my blog and life after levels (thanks again

The next step is for us to be more involved in research properly. As the Ninestiles twitter group has grown people have just seen more stuff and this has increased the level of conversation around school. As part of our teaching school alliance improvement strategy our Associate Vice Principal Elizabeth Ford has now put together a research and development sub group to look at how we kick-start a more comprehensive approach to research and provide staff with the necessary knowledge and guidance to begin some small scale work. We had our first meeting last night, it was great. Being always on,  I instantly went home and scribbled down a host of ideas for research projects and then this morning had a chat with a couple of staff members who could also consider some of these and be involved.

I’m so excited by the prospect of doing some research that I know my personal challenge will be reigning that in to be meaningful and lead to improvements. Most of all I’m excited by the prospect of our staff conducting research and sharing their work with our local community and a wider audience through twitter and the blogosphere to lead to change and better outcomes for our students.

If you’ve got any tips on the best ways to make this happen then please  get in touch either through here, at my twitter ( or by email

If you’d like to be involved or could help us please contact either myself or Lizzy Ford (, we would love to hear from you…


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