ResearchED York: It's great up north

3rd May 2014 at 19:25



This weekend saw the latest blossom of the researchED tree, researchED York, hosted by the inimitable John Tomsett in the famous Huntington School, also home to the internet's own Alex Quigley. To have one Twitter aristocrat in a school is notable; to have two is a matter for the police.


Actually, it was more than a researchED gig, as it was a joint venture with NTEN, the National Teacher Enquiry Network (run by David Weston's Teacher Development Trust). David and John did all the heavy lifting on this event, and my hats off to them for such a successful day. Helene O'Shea as usual, ran her ship like a pirate Queen.


Because it was the child of two parents, it shared qualities of both: it had NTEN's eyes, and the jawline of researchED. The result was pleasing to mine eye, as the quantitative and qualitative wallahs shared stage and mirror, and the church felt broader, more catholic- and it was no worse for it.


York really is lovely, isn't it? I realise I'm late to this party. It's like someone decided to rebuild Greenwich inside Windsor, inside Edinburgh (PRs from Visit York take note: I am open to reconnaissance visits in agreeable hotels). They don't teach you about places like York in the Scottish education system, unless Bonnie Prince Charlie was sacking them.


Speaking of late, my morning was a comedy of errors: I left at 6 for a 7am train, but seeing an earlier train, bolted onto it with the optimism of a spaniel, only to find that I had signed myself onto a slaver's ship, a slow boat to goddamn China. I watched, helplessly, as it scudded slowly through every ghost town and village, and the clock tick-tocked me over the start line. I was a real life John Cleese in Clockwise. I should have turned up with one sleeve missing and a sixth former. Late to my own party, Christ, it was like a sketch from Frazier. Scrambled Eggs all over my face.


As usual, I'll leave it to better pens than mine to comb through the sessions; as a co-host, my day mainly consists of intense conversations with people every five yards, and checking that sessions are running ok. Plus, when you're delivering a session yourself, you gots your game face on. But it was a brilliant day, and John, and Huntington School was an excellent host. The main hall was live streamed beautifully, something we'll definitely reproduce this year at researchED 2014. These sessions are already archived, and we'll post links to them very soon, so that people can see Martin Robinson (who, like Mary Myatt, has a voice for radio. It really is goddamn soothing), Jonathan Sharples, Sue Williamson, Jill Berry, Alex Quigley and yours truly.


Thank you to everyone who came to my session, which I can assure you was planned on the train in (I had enough time). I jazz-handed my way through some of the songs from my latest album: 'VAK off', 'No brains in the brain gym', and the next single, 'You only tell me you love me when you're working in groups'. And I suggested ways in which teachers could improve the relationship between themselves, their practice, and research. See, I don't think that we need to wait for anyone to tell us it's ok. I think we just decide to start taking charge of our destinies: we get involved with research bodies, we drive the research we need, we become critical friends to the research community, and we become more critical of the research we're given.


We need to get past the one-way, top down, all-at-once, all-at-the-start model of current practice. Get away from linear, paternalist paradigms where we passively receive the tablets from Moses. We need to get up the mountain too.


It is genuinely exciting and inspirational to be part of a grass roots movement like this, and one that seems to show no signs of abating. Nearly 300 teachers and educators came out today on a Saturday because they believe in the power of their own will to make a difference. In September I'm hoping for double that to do the same at researchED 2014. By 2015 I hope to have another 4 planned for the first few quarter. The website launches in a month or two. There's even talk of researchED International. We have lots of plans. The fun part will be seeing how far we can all take this. I'm not a research fetishist. I believe there are significant parts of the teacher's professional experience that resist easy reductivist explanations, RCTs and Action Research. Our job is to find out what research can do for us, and how far the rabbit hole goes.


Teachers are doing it for themselves. Overdue, I'd say. Here's to the new professionalism, Teacher Voice, and a better relationship with our natural allies in every educational community.