Last year I put together a conference for teachers, by teachers. Spurred on by the Scylla that was Ben Goldacre and the Charybdis of Sam Freedman, it was called researchED 2013, and it was the best day of my tumbling, comic career. I've been writing about the shortcomings of educational research for years, ever since someone put me in a Brain Gym Inset and told me to get busy with my buttons. I smelled an enormous pseudo-scientific rat even then, and it was the inspiration for my book Teacher Proof, which mercilessly nutmegged the absurd homeopathy of a lot of education research that had slithered its way into classrooms.
I had no idea how successful the conference would be, but then I had no idea how much of an appetite there was for teachers to become involved in research, to be active participants in its inception, investigation, and execution. I thought it was just me – it wasn't. There was a whole army of edunerds and numbers-fetishists, empiricists, sceptics and weary practitioners, labouring out there under the yoke of 'research proves', when it bloody well didn't. The internet is a wonderful thing; it mobilised all those teachers and educationalists who thought they were crazy for questioning what they had been told in the crib of their training. It attracted researchers, thought leaders and intermediary groups, universities, schools and colleges, all of whom wanted to reach out to people in the field.
We sold our 500 tickets in a month, and curated a waiting list that eventually rose to three hundred. Some of the best names in UK education and beyond queued up to help. It was a real grassroots event, and six months later, I'm still reeling. We were mentioned by Michael Gove in speeches, by Stephen Twigg in Commons debates, by the BBC, The Guardian... it was astonishing. It made itself happen, and I was only a vessel, desperately trying to channel, with Helene O'Shea, the dragon.
So we decided to see how far it would go. Which brings us to researchED Birmingham, on 5 April, the first in a series of national mini-conferences – a tour, if you will – that will take the concept everywhere that people want it. The line up is fantastic:
- Dr Matt O'Leary from the University of Wolverhampton, the Centre of Research and Development of lifelong Education (CRADLE)
- Susan Greenwood and Stuart Mathers, DfE
- Lee Majors, The Education Endowment Fund
- Louise Stubberfield of the Wellcome Trust
- Daisy Christodoulou, head of research with ARK Academies
- Sam Freedman, director of research with Teach First
- David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust
- Sarah Kitchen of NatCen Social Research, speaking with Amy Skipp
- Pete Yeomans of the University of Southhampton
- Kris Boulton
- Katie Ashford
- Richard Churches
- Michael Slavinsky of the Brilliant Club, speaking with Alex Weatherall
- Tom Bennett
- Joe Kirby
- Philippa Cordingley, CUREE
- Tami McCrone, research director (impact), NFER
- Joe Hallgarten, RSA
After that, the tour bus rolls into researchED York, in a joint event with the Teacher Development Trust and the National Teacher Enquiry Network, on Saturday 3 May (always a Saturday, always; we want teachers to attend) The line up looks like this:
- John Tomsett, headteacher, Huntington School (@JohnTomsett)
- Alex Quigley, assistant head, Huntington School (@HuntingEnglish)
- David Weston, chief executive, Teacher Development Trust (@informed_edu)
- Tom Bennett, director, ResearchED (@TomBennett71)
- Debra Kidd, AST for pedagogy, formerly senior lecturer in Education, Manchester Metropolitan University (@debrakidd)
- Andrew Old, teacher, education blogger, bane of Ofsted (@oldandrewuk)
- Joe Kirby, English teacher, education blogger (@joe__kirby)
- Duncan Spalding, headteacher, Aylsham High School (@duncanspalding)
- Keven Bartle, deputy head, Canons High School (@kevbartle)
- Mark McCourt, chair, Teacher Development Trust (@emathsUK)
- Stephen Tierney, headteacher, St. Mary's Catholic High School (@leadinglearner)
- Sue Williamson, CEO, SSAT (@SWilliamson_CEO)
- Emma Hardy, primary teacher, history subject leader (@emmaannhardy)
- Stephen Tall, Education Endowment Foundation (@stephentall)
- Mary Myatt, consultant, Ofsted inspector (@MaryMyatt)
- Nancy Gedge, primary teacher, blogger (@nancygedge)
- Jonathan Sharples, Education Endowment Foundation, Institute of Effective Education @ York (@Sharples_J)
- Martin Robinson, author, speaker, Trivium proponent (@surrealanarchy)
They're both astonishing line-ups, and it's humbling that so many people give of their time for mutual support, training and development. But then I have always found those involved in the education of others to be a distinctly altruistic village.
After that? researchED London, the 2014 national Conference is the next one in the planning stages, on 6 September – a Saturday, of course – at Raine's Foundation School in Bethnal Green. And I'm indecently excited to say that we've won sponsorship to help us create and run a website where people can find out about the latest research, the best research, or the best commentary, as well as watch clips and sound files from the conferences, buy tickets, and get involved in research across the country.
I'd be delighted if you wanted to come along to any of these, or any other we plan (there's been talk of researchED Brighton, and researchED Scotland). Until we get the website launched, the holding website is at www.researched2013.co.uk, and you can follow us on Twitter at @researchED1
If you want to get involved in researchED events, either as a helper, a contributor, running workshops, hosting a stand or just coming along, follow us, or drop me and Helene a line at researchED@hotmail.co.uk. If you want to be involved in the website, either as a teacher, an academic or any other interested educational commentator, I'd be delighted to hear from you.
This whole project has been a blast, from start to... well, where we are now. And it doesn't look like it's going away soon. Who knew what appetite teachers had for doing things for themselves?