Greening’s £3.5m research hub fund open to ‘opportunity area’ schools

Greening’s £3.5m research hub fund open to ‘opportunity area’ schools

Schools in England’s 12 new opportunity areas will be able to bid to become ‘research schools’ and split a £3.5 million funding pot to help other institutions use evidence-based practice.

Education secretary Justine Greening announced earlier today she was extending the £72 million ‘opportunity areas’ programme into another six areas, following on from the six announced last October. The areas will be given £6 million each.

Speaking to school leaders during a speech at Pricewaterhouse Coopers this afternoon, Greening also expanded on the new plans for each of the areas to have its own research school.

She said the institutions will act as “local excellence hubs for excellence-based practice, helping to deliver and create training and resources”.

“They will also have a role in building other schools’ capacity to use evidence in their decision-making. I really want all schools to be working together to not only share best practice but be part of this research on what works.”

Greening also said she hoped to embed research “across the work of the Department for Education”.

Schools in Bradford, Doncaster, East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich, Stoke-on-Trent, Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough and West Somerset will soon be able to tender to become a research school.

The government announced this morning that the extra cash pumped into the 12 opportunity areas would help build leadership capacity and boost careers advice, but it is not known exactly how much will go directly to schools.

The Education Endowment Foundation will oversee the establishment of a research school in each area, using £2 million of its own money and £1.5 million from the government.

Schools Week understands the new institutions will work in a similar way to the five existing research schools established last year in Macclesfield, York, Devon, Lincoln and Sandwell.

All are based in existing schools and use the funding to promote existing research, rather than carry it out themselves.

Sir Kevin Collins, the chief executive of the EEF, said that improving educational standards in social mobility ‘cold spots’ – the 65 lowest-scoring areas on the government’s social mobility index – was “one of the biggest challenges we face”.

“While evidence of what works is one of our most useful tools to do this, we know that research on its own is not enough to make a difference in the classroom.

“Our new research schools will use their expertise and experiences to provide strong leadership and guidance to schools in each opportunity area, supporting their colleagues to use research to improve pupil outcomes. No-one is better-placed to support schools in doing this than teachers themselves.”

During her speech, Greening was also forced to defend the government’s record on school funding.

Celia Dignan, from the National Union of Teachers, claimed the extra funding for opportunity areas would not cover losses faced by schools in the regions.

“You’ve promised £6 million for each of these opportunity areas, that’s £72 million in total, but to maintain pupil funding in real terms in those areas would actually cost about £115 million,” Dignan said.

But Greening said there was “record funding” going into schools, and insisted the new national funding formula would ensure the money was “spread fairly”.