Research and Development
Developing a Finding Out Culture
Whether we call it a research, Enquiry or Finding out culture is not for me important, what matters is
having a means of finding out what works for our children and having a model within which we can
experiment with new ideas, building our knowledge base and consequently our confidence in what we do.
The model started very simply with encouraging staff to reflect on their existing practise and why
frankly they did what they did, lots of answers came forward, but what we struggled to answer was
how do you know it has an impact and where is the evidence. This outcome was a lot of selfreflection
and questioning and certain practices got left behind as we focussed on what waseffective.
We developed a very simple Enquiry Model;
* what did you want to look at
* what impact did you envisage it having
* what was your time frame
* What was your success criteria
We also made sure we had a format letter to send to parents to explain what we were doing, why
and seek their permission for their child’s participation. This provided a structure within which staff
could experiment, innovate and become empowered to develop whole school practice that was
founded on evidence based research.
Very soon staff were bringing new ideas and thoughts gleaned from training and conferences that
they wanted to research and pilot. This latter aspect was also very important. New ideas and
strategies are always piloted as part of the ‘model’. The effects of this are threefold;
Firstly if the pilot was successful, the staff sold it to their colleagues themselves, and the school
implemented effective strategies based on an appreciation that something worked and was not
necessarily ‘another incentive imposed from on high’. Teachers and support staff were leading
development, ideas were not reliant on those emanating from a small leadership team.
Secondly, where resources and training were involved, the school did not create unnecessary
expenditure, with the effect that budgets were focussed and governors could clearly appreciate why
funds went in particular directions, great for financial accountability.
Thirdly, the confidence capabilities and expertise of staff grows exponentially. Confidence in what
they are doing, capabilities in regard of influencing and leading others and expertise in providing
high quality educational outcomes for all pupils and students.
I have seen the evidence of this as staff have stepped up to new and challenging roles during my
time as an Executive Head and equally the manner in which they stood up to external professionals
who questioned a strategy or methodology being used.
Following a meeting with Professor Carpenter, the opportunity came to capitalise on the Research
Leaders in an existing confederation of Special Schools in Surrey. This has taken the work to a whole
new level as colleagues have benefitted from the expertise of Barry Carpenter, Jo Egerton and Bev
Cogbill. From this work Research Cohort One has grown, and it is the work of this group which is
represented in this document. The project has run for two years with training, meetings and
workshops with Barry, Jo and Bev on a termly basis. So exciting was this work that interest came
from other schools and in September 2013 Cohort Two, a group of teachers from all phases of
Mainstream and Special schools came together to begin their two year projects.
We are very keen to make this an on-going opportunity for schools to become involved in enquiry
and to this end are aiming to offer a Cohort Three for the academic Years 2014 – 2016. To support
teachers interested in this kind of work we have also provided development for existing Cohort
members to become mentors and coaches for future groups and the whole programme is focussed
on disseminating its work and findings at annual conference, of which this is the first.
The work participants have done has formed the basis of masters dissertations, but this is a byproduct.
Not all teachers have time or are motivated by academia, and to this end that is not an
expectation of participation. The key for me is developing staff who reflect, experiment and
innovate with the effect of creating a ‘Finding Out Culture’ across schools and education. You are
the experts, this is just a means for you to demonstrate and grow this.
Executive Headteacher, The Ridgeway Community and Gosden House Schools
Headteacher, Innovation Teaching School
You my also be interested in:Excerpts from the book “Developing a Finding out Culture”