14th March 2015 saw three governors, Jo Penn, Steve Penny and I (there may have been more, in fact there were probably some staff governors (including heads) there, but these are the three I know about) head to Cambridge for the researchED Cambridge Conference.
One of the things which attracted me to this particular event was the fact that I would, perhaps, finally get a chance to meet Tom Bennett. The last time I had attended one of these events, I had seen him from afar. This time I was hoping to chat with him. And I did! He is as charming in real life as he is on Twitter! I also met the blogging celebrity Andrew Old, though we didn’t get the chance to chat to him for long.
I have storified my tweets from the day which give a flavour of the sessions I attended. So, why did I and others attend ResearchEd? Why would governors give up their Saturday and spend money from their own pocket? Well, governors are used to doing this! We are volunteers and participate in educational events in our own time and most often spending our own cash to do so. If you decide to become a governor you need to be interested in education and this interest should go beyond governance in your own school. As governors we may, at times, feel slightly detached from what happens in classrooms, what do teachers think and the direction education and educational research is moving in. Attending events such as these gives governors a chance to meet and exchange ideas and views with teachers. It may help you to better understand what is happening in your school, especially if your teachers are engaged in research. Understanding what educational research is all about and what good educational research looks like may help you to question and understand the impact of what teachers in your school may be doing. Jude Enright in her session talked a bit about the fact that some interventions do more harm than good. As governors it is not our role to devise interventions but it is our role to judge the impact they may be having.
During a group discussion at one of the sessions someone made an important point. His school was in measures but he found that people were more willing to help him and his school which he thought would not happen to good/outstanding schools. This was good to hear from a governance pint of view. Governors need to realise that help is out there if their school has gone into measures.
We also discussed how research could be used in our institution and in other institutions. This again is an important point, especially for academies who are expected to work with other schools.
The other good thing about attending events such as these is that the contacts you make may be helpful to the teachers in your school too. If, during my conversation with staff at my school, I find out that some of them are, for example, thinking of setting up a journal club I will be able to point them in the direction of Beth Greville-Giddings.
Would I attend ResearchEd events in the future? I certainly would. Would I like something added to the programme? Again, the answer is yes. A session on educational leadership would be of great interest to governors. As governors are part of the school leadership they would be interested in finding out what research others in the same field are engaged in. It may also be an opportunity for heads, governors and teachers from the same school to attend the events together which would be very useful for all concerned. Having a session on leadership may encourage governors to attend and when they do they can learn about other educational research and the value it hopefully adds to the researchers’ practice. This then would help them understand and encourage similar initiatives at their school. In these times of reduced funding governors will be questioning very closely how school funds are spent. Finding out first hand how such CPD works and the effect it has on improving practice can only be a good thing.
Now, would anyone like to sponsor me to go to New York?