The RISE Project: Evidence-informed school improvement
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.
Research leads Improving Students' Education (RISE) project will work through a structured school improvement process, involving external research and evaluation.
The Institute of Education
Staff deployment & development
Organising your school
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.
Full project description
Research leads Improving Students’ Education (RISE) aimed to test whether a research-informed school improvement model improved the mathematics and English attainment of pupils in years 10 and 11. Each participating school appointed a senior teacher as a Research Lead who was responsible for promoting and supporting the use of research throughout the school. The Research Leads were supported by a programme developed and delivered by a team from Huntington School in York. This included an initial eight CPD sessions, termly follow-up meetings over two academic years, a bespoke email newsletter, a website with resources, a peer network, and school visits by the RISE team. The team also provided a workshop for headteachers and annual workshops for English and mathematics subject leads. Research Leads were encouraged to deploy a research-informed school improvement model:
1. Decide what you want to achieve. Identify priorities using internal data and professional judgement
2. Identify possible solutions. External evidence summarized in the Toolkit can be used to inform choices
3. Give the idea the best chance of success. Applying the ingredients of effective implementation.
4. Evaluate the impact of your decisions and identify possible improvements for the future.
5. Secure and spread change. Mobilise the knowledge and use the findings to inform the work of the school to grow or stop the intervention.
A randomised controlled trial was used to evaluate the impact of the intervention on GCSE grades in mathematics and English. 40 secondary schools were randomly allocated to either participate in RISE or to a control group which continued with business as usual. The impact evaluation examined the impact on two cohorts of pupils. The first cohort took their GCSE exams in the 2015/6 academic year, and was only exposed to one year of the intervention. The second cohort was in year 10 in 2015/16, so took their GCSE exams in 2016/17 and was exposed to two years of the intervention. The accompanying process evaluation involved observations of training; interviews with Headteachers, Research Leads and heads of English and mathematics; and surveys of teachers. The project was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), the Department for Education and the Mayor’s London Schools Excellence Fund as part of a round of funding exploring Research Use in Schools.