Resist standardised teaching in schools, stop labelling children, give teachers time and support to evaluate their own teaching and the education system will improve - driving-up standards for all children.
These were just some of the issues stifling the current education system flagged-up by educators and researchers at the launch of the University of Cumbria’s new Learning Education and Development (LED) Research Centre.
The LED aims to publish high quality educational research but also to support teachers and practitioners – whether in schools, early years, youth work or outdoor learning – to investigate and improve their classroom teaching through research of their own school.
It will complement the University of Cumbria’s existing teacher education partnership with more than 1000 schools.
Professor Pete Boyd, director of the new centre, said his vision was for the LED to become the “go-to-partner in the north west for schools and teachers wanting to raise standards and improve children’s education”.
“Our vision is to build long-term partnerships and collaborate with teachers in developing research-informed practice. We will be publishing high-quality educational research papers and helping teachers to identify and investigate learning issues within their classroom. The teachers are the experts in children’s learning and our role is to help them, through research, to improve practice in the classroom.
He said that since the 1980s education had been “treated as if it were a free market” and there had been “frequent mistakes and erratic decisions by Ministers that have ignored the research evidence”.
He added: “These errors have created inequalities and considerable challenges for schools, for the supply of new teachers and for parents and children trying to make their way successfully through the education system.
“By providing research mentoring and brokering of research evidence, our aim is to support head teachers and teachers to confidently and collectively lead their schools and raise the attainment and wider success of children and young people”.
Emeritus Professor Barry Hymer, a former primary and secondary school teacher and educational psychologist, said he was “thrilled” to be associated with the LED and called its potential “far-reaching”.
“There is a role for OFSTED and a degree of moderation is required in schools and every parent should know that their child has access to a good teacher. But, the system at the moment is not right,” he said.
“We should be letting teachers research and critically analyse their teaching and education standards would significantly increase,” said Prof Hymer.
In his keynote speech to the conference of 100 teachers and practitioners, Prof Hymer blasted a standardised system which stifled children through streaming and expressed his hopes for a system where children were seen as individuals.
He added: “If we enable practitioners to make informed decisions based on knowledge of their own school, then something brilliant can happen.”
Dr Alison Jackson, Director of the Teacher Education Advancement Network (TEAN), an independent support service for teacher educators, also praised the initiative, saying it would “raise the status of research in education”.
Matt Savidge, head teacher at Millom School, Cumbria, has already set up research groups within his school with the view of improving the experience for both teachers and pupils, to move away from standardisation.
He said: “The LED is a really good idea. Giving teachers the time to reflect on their practice and look at what works and what does not is important and the support we can get from the university in doing this will be very helpful.”