Teachers could soon be joining national trials to explore the best ways to help children learn after Stoke-on-Trent launched its own research school.
The new partnership is set to involve dozens of primary and secondary schools across North Staffordshire.
It will look at training staff in so-called ‘evidence-based’ techniques that have been shown to have an impact in raising standards in the classroom.
As part of the work, schools will also have the chance to join pilot projects overseen by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and submit bids to carry out their own innovative research.
The Stoke-on-Trent Research School – officially launched this week – will be backed by £200,000 of Government funding over the next three years.
Director Russell Spink said they planned to have a particular focus on improving children’s literacy skills and the transition from primary to secondary education.
He added: “We know there’s a significant dip when they get to high school. We want to explore having more summer schools and ‘live’ projects that are shared by teachers in key stages two and three.”
But some of the ideas are likely to be more offbeat. A PE specialist at a city school is hoping to secure funding for research into using ‘desk cycles’ in children’s lessons.
The small equipment would be placed under pupils’ desks to encourage them to exercise while they study. Evidence from elsewhere has shown pedalling in class doesn’t just improve fitness levels – it can have an impact on young people’s concentration and academic success. If the project proves successful in several Stoke-on-Trent primaries, it could be taken up more widely.
Stoke-on-Trent Research School is being led by the Keele and North Staffordshire Alliance, which has grown out of the work of a teacher training centre set up by Keele University and Seabridge Primary School. Although it will primarily target Stoke-on-Trent schools, it is also open to those in Newcastle and the Moorlands.
Phil Reynolds, assistant principal of Biddulph’s Woodhouse Academy, has already been involved in research into how to improve pupil behaviour. He said: “My masters specialism has looked at the use of restorative justice.”
At Goldenhill Primary Academy, staff have been experimenting with a catch-up programme in maths.
Headteacher Steve Martin said: “It involves one-to-one sessions three times a week. All the children who have been doing it have made additional progress.”
Ellison Primary Academy, in Wolstanton, is hoping to get involved with one of the national trials.
Headteacher Nichola Gibson said: “Research can have lots of benefits.”