Research leads Improving Students’ Education (RISE) aimed to improve the Maths and English attainment of pupils in Years 10 and 11 using a research-informed school improvement model. The programme was developed and delivered by Huntington School, a comprehensive secondary school in York. Each school participating in RISE appointed a senior teacher as a Research Lead who was responsible for promoting the use of research throughout the school. The project was jointly funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and the Department for Education, supported by the Mayor of London’s Schools Excellence Fund, as part of a funding round testing innovative approaches to supporting schools’ use of research.
The EEF funded this project as it presented a promising model for supporting teachers to use research evidence. The staff at Huntington School had previously demonstrated expertise in using research to inform their own practice. The school had piloted an evidence-informed school improvement model in 2013, focused on testing different approaches to feedback across Year 9 English classes. The RISE programme aimed to develop this expertise in other local schools by training a Research Lead to advocate for research use and develop an evidence-informed school culture. The independent evaluation found that participating in two years of the RISE programme did not have a positive impact on pupil attainment at GCSE. This result has high security. The process evaluation of RISE suggests that implementation was stronger when the Research Leads had certain attributes, including strong relationships with other colleagues in the school and a good understanding of the school’s attainment data. It also highlights the importance of schools’ ability and motivation to make use of the Research Lead in shaping school improvement decisions and processes. For example, it suggests that implementation was stronger when headteachers gave clear and visible support for the project and Research Leads had additional ring-fenced time to undertake the role.
The findings are consistent with a number of EEF-funded research-use projects, which have informed the EEF’s ongoing efforts to support evidence-based practice throughout the education system. Alongside our work generating and communicating evidence, the EEF is increasing its focus on helping schools translate and apply research evidence in their context. For example, the EEF’s guidance on effective implementation provides support for how to implement evidence-informed decisions, whilst the Research Schools’ training programme, Leading Learning, aims to develop schools’ understanding and application of effective professional development
The EEF has no plans for a further trial of RISE but will continue to consider other projects which aim to support the use of research.
- For both the one-year and two-year cohorts, children in RISE schools made a small amount of additional progress in mathematics and English compared to children in the comparison schools. This result has a high security rating. The differences were small and not statistically significant. This means that the statistical evidence does not meet the threshold set by the evaluator to conclude that the true impact was not zero.
- There was no evidence that RISE had an impact on the outcomes of pupils eligible for free school meals.
- The intervention was considered appropriate and helpful by the participating schools. Uptake by schools and attendance at the intervention training was high and sustained over the 30 months of the intervention.
- Schools’ adoption of the research-informed school improvement model was highly variable and influenced by schools’ context and relationships, and the stability of the Research Lead role. The teacher in the role of Research Lead changed in 40% of the schools during the project.
- Key conditions for success in implementing the intervention included choosing a well-respected Research Lead with strong relationships in the school, visible support from the Headteacher, and ring-fenced time for the Research Lead to work on the project.