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News: Member opportunities

NACE R&D Hubs update: autumn 2019

10 December 2019   (0 Comments)
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NACE’s Research and Development (R&D) Hubs offer regional opportunities for NACE members to exchange effective practice, develop in-school research skills and collaborate on enquiry-based projects. Each Hub is led by a Challenge Award-accredited school, bringing together members from all phases, sectors and contexts to share and augment the available evidence on what works for more able learners. Participation is free for staff at NACE member schools.

Read on for reports from this term’s Hub meetings, including details of each Hub’s focus for the current academic year:

Alfreton Nursey School, Derbyshire

Autumn term report from Hub Lead Amanda Hubball:

We had an exciting and productive meeting, attended by a mix of nursery, primary and secondary colleagues. Despite our different settings, we identified a shared challenge: the lack of consistent progress for children identified as more able. Whether it’s science in the EYFS or English in Year 9, it seems that those identified as more able do not always make the progress we would like and indeed expect.

The session began by discussing the current research collaboration on perfectionism between NACE and York St John University. We then reviewed the online course run by the University of Birmingham and Chartered College on the value of research-driven practice in schools and how to work effectively and objectively with research papers/journals. Videos from the course were shared to stimulate thinking and discussion, along with printed documents to support analysis and judgement of the value of research.

We also reviewed the support and resources available from NACE – specifically highlighting the webinar on research engagement in schools (recording available via the NACE members’ site).

For the current academic year, we agreed on a shared focus for our Hub, with the opportunity to personalise this focus so it has maximum benefit for each participating school: “What are the barriers to progress for more able children?”

In order to unpick this, we discussed possible barriers that may exist, including:

  • The quality of classroom relationships – teacher/child and child/child
  • Environment – school and classroom
  • Teacher values/judgements/subjectivity
  • Home life/disadvantage/pupil premium
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Teacher knowledge – what does greater depth look like?
  • Subject knowledge – ability to continue to stretch

Possible areas of focus:

  • Curriculum area
  • Characteristics/demographics – gender, pupil premium etc
  • Year group

For example, we could choose to look at whether the classroom environment impacts on the progress of more able pupils in maths in Year 2.

Once the specific focus has been established in each of our schools, we will share our chosen research areas via the Hub online group, ahead of our spring term meeting.

Next Hub meeting dates:

Barry Island Primary School, Vale of Glamorgan

Autumn term report from Hub Lead Donna Evans:

Our first Hub meeting of the academic year took place on 25 September, with a focus on developing literacy skills in line with the new Curriculum for Wales. The day started with a learning walk, showcasing best practice in using technology to develop all aspects of literacy skills from nursery to Year 6. During the walk, attendees had the opportunity to speak freely to children and staff members, and to observe the use of a range of technologies and blended learning to develop reading, writing and story-planning skills – including virtual reality headsets, green screening, word clouds and online platforms such as Seesaw and Mentimeter.

In the afternoon, the group discussed the new Curriculum for Wales and the area of learning for language, literacy and communication (LLC), aiming to identify pertinent and relevant research enquiry questions. Delegates were keen to investigate approaches to developing speaking and listening skills and Welsh language skills. We also looked in detail at the process of writing a research plan and at different ways to collect data within the research period. We closed with a discussion of the NACE Challenge Framework and how it can be used to drive provision for more able learners in our schools.

Delegates left the day enthusiastic and excited about the research they would carry out over the next 10 weeks. We are all looking forward to the next meeting, when we will learn about writing up the research, analysing results and making sound conclusions. This will also be an opportunity to share progress in developing more able and LLC skills within our schools.

Next Hub meeting dates:

  • Wednesday 15 January 2020 (1.30-3.30pm) – register to attend
  • Wednesday 4 March 2020 (9.30am-3.00pm)

Haybridge High School, Worcestershire

Autumn term report from Hub Lead Rob Lightfoot:

Our first Hub meeting of the term was well-attended by schools at all stages – including some accredited with the NACE Challenge Award and others at the starting point in developing their provision for more able learners. One of the major benefits of the Hub is the opportunity to learn from each other, across diverse contexts.

We started the meeting with our plan for the coming year and by welcoming colleagues attending for the first time. We then reviewed the current national picture with regards to more able provision in schools and the benefits of focusing on more able learners.

Attendees were then asked to consider where they were with their current provision in school by conducting an audit using the ‘Provision for more able learners: school review checklist’ document which is available on the NACE members’ website.

We then looked at the ‘Responsibilities Checklist’ (also available in the NACE members’ area), to consider the role of those leading on provision for more able students in schools. This led to a discussion on ideas of how to improve challenge in the classroom and we considered some of the latest research available in this area. We were each left with some strengths and some areas for development to work on in our own schools.

After spending some time reviewing the relaunched NACE website and use of the Hub’s online group, we spent the final part of the meeting reviewing the professional enquiry process. Colleagues who had attended previous Hub meetings shared ideas on their proposed projects. We will expand on these projects at our next meeting, as well as sharing use of the newly released NACE Quality of Education Curriculum Audit Tool.

Next Hub meeting dates:

Holme Grange School, Berkshire

Autumn term report from Headteacher Claire Robinson:

A group of nine met at Holme Grange for our autumn term R&D Hub meeting on 15 October – some returning from last academic year, and some new to the group.

Initially, we discussed the level to which attendees were currently (or had previously been) involved with research. There was a range of responses with most colleagues having engaged to some extent in the past. Holme Grange shared a supporting research pack, including guidance on the benefits of research to a school, how to plan research, how to engage with/in research and a timeline for completing research with the Hub’s support this academic year.

We split into four groups to try to narrow down an area of focus. Each group was led by a Holme Grange member of staff who guided the conversation and supported in the formation of a research question using the formula “If I do X, will Y happen”. The emphasis with this type of question is on making your research as specific as possible. Most attendees managed to select an area they wished to focus on, with a couple managing to create concrete research questions. Participants were asked to send their research questions to the Hub Lead for feedback and support ahead of the next meeting.

During the second half of the meeting, Matthew Jelley (Deputy Head at Holme Grange) led a CPD session on vocabulary and stretching the more able. Matthew has been working across the year groups at Holme Grange to develop challenge within teaching. He has worked closely with David Didau and Ian Warwick, and his work has led him to conduct research on vocabulary in English. Matthew shared his findings and gave examples of challenge in the classroom and how research-informed policy has aided in achieving a culture of challenge at Holme Grange. This opened a discussion on the characteristics of challenge in teaching and learning, linking back to some of the areas of interest which had arisen in our earlier discussions.

Next Hub meeting dates:

  • Thursday 27 February 2020 (2-4pm) – register to attend
  • Wednesday 29 April 2020 (2-4pm)

Southend High School for Boys, Essex

Autumn term report from Hub Lead Laura March:

Our inaugural NACE R&D Hub meeting was attended by colleagues from 12 schools, spanning a range of phases and subject areas. We started by sharing our own experience at Southend High School for Boys (SHSB), exploring our work towards gaining and maintaining the NACE Challenge Award over the last 15 years, and what strategies have had the biggest impact.

In the following discussion, it was interesting to explore what ‘differentiation’ means to different colleagues and key issues raised about what constitutes ‘good’ practice. It was also useful for colleagues from different fields – science, MFL, primary, physics, English and RE – to share approaches to developing writing skills, such as using ‘structure strips’, visualisers to model work, or tiered approaches to subject vocabulary. Finally, some questions were raised about communicating more able needs with parents; what should be included in the school’s more able policy; and how to monitor the impact of strategies on more able learners.

We finished our meeting by looking at the new education inspection framework, specifically the guidance on subject curriculum content. Our next Hub meeting will focus on the most effective ways to build up pupils’ store of knowledge in long-term memory.

Read the full report from the SHSB Hub here.

Next Hub meeting dates:

Join your nearest NACE R&D Hub

While each Hub programme runs for a full academic year, schools can join at any point in the school year. Find out more here or contact us.