For the benefit of schools and pupils: Researchers in Schools

The start of a new calendar year brings teacher recruitment for the forthcoming academic year into sharp focus. The need for new members of staff is often combined with the question of how to develop pedagogical practice to benefit both pupils and colleagues alike. Step forward Researchers in Schools (RIS).

To enquire about having a RIS teacher in your school, visit, or email

What is Researchers in Schools?

RIS is a unique teacher training and development programme only for PhD graduates, and focuses on three main objectives:

  • To increase and disseminate subject expertise

    • Participants’ in-depth knowledge of their subject, paired with the excellent training they receive from ITE providers and schools, enables them to enhance the subject knowledge of their pupils, the curriculum and their colleagues

    • Participants are encouraged to use their university and industry connections to ensure pupils are getting excellent subject teaching in the classroom and through extra-curricular activities

  • To promote education research

    • Participants carry out in-school education research projects aligned to their schools’ needs, and deliver CPD to their colleagues

  • To champion university access

    • As academics who have spent expensive periods of time in higher education, RIS participants understand what progressing to university involves and can act as role models for young people

    • Participants also provide activities which simulate university-style learning


The RIS programme is designed to run over three years, with participants achieving QTS in their first year and completing their NQT induction in years two and three. Participants are placed in non-selective secondary schools, supported to become excellent new teachers and research leaders, and have access to research associate status at a university.

Over the three years of the programme, participants complete the Research Leader in Education (RLE) Award, designed to ensure that participants are well-equipped to deploy their knowledge and skills for the benefit of pupils and schools.


RIS participants serve as real assets to the schools they join, as a teacher from Tibshelf Community School told us: “Our RIS participant has had a very successful NQT at Tibshelf Community School. He has gone far above and beyond expectations for an NQT. He has led INSET, improved homework systems, researched and practised many different teaching ideas, piloted the use of Google Classroom and taken an extra GCSE statistics class in his own time. He is, and will continue to be, a real asset to our maths department and our school.”

Impact beyond Year 3

 86% of RIS participants remain in teaching after completing the programme, with the majority still teaching in non-selective state schools. 48% of RIS alumni have a leadership role in their school, including leading extra-curricular activities or improvement initiatives. The RIS alumni network provides them with access to opportunities to continue achieving the programme’s objectives.

Increasing reach

As well as working with SCITTs and Teaching School/HEI Partnerships across England, for 2020/21, RIS are partnering with National Online Teacher Training (NOTT) for the first time. A partnership with NOTT means that schools in parts of the country where there is not a local provider can now benefit from high-quality RIS trainees.

The programme has already had over 400 applicants for training in 2020, in a range of EBacc subjects, including maths and physics.

The Brilliant Club

RIS is a programme of the award-winning university access charity The Brilliant Club, which aims to increase the number of pupils from underrepresented backgrounds progressing to highly-selective universities. It does this by mobilising the PhD community to share its academic expertise in state schools. In 2018/19, the charity partnered with 700 schools and worked with over 12,000 pupils across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In 2014, after three years of placing PhD students in schools to deliver programmes of academic enrichment to small groups of pupils, The Brilliant Club created a route for post-doctoral researchers who wanted to work in schools full-time and become qualified teachers. Researchers in Schools was born.

Today, RIS participants still work towards The Brilliant Club’s mission, and as part of their objective of championing university access, RIS participants deliver an intervention in their schools called Uni Pathways. Participants design a course, usually based on their own research, which is delivered to small groups of Year 9 pupils in university-style tutorials. Pupils also attend launch trips at highly-selective universities.

92% of Uni Pathways pupils are pupil premium, have no parental history of higher education, or live in an area of geographic deprivation. In 2018/19, 85% of pupils who took part in the intervention said they knew how and why people study at university. There were also statistically significant shifts in the pupils’ written communication skills, subject knowledge and critical thinking, which are measured through written assignments.

 Case Study: Essa Academy, Bolton

 Martin Knowles is Principal of Essa Academy in Bolton, where there are currently three participants at the school, teaching maths and science.

Q: How has the presence of RIS participants enhanced the teaching and learning in your school?

 A: It has had an impact on the aspirations of pupils as all three participants are doctors. They are called ‘Doctor’, not ‘Miss’, or ‘Sir’, so it has stoked up a lot of conversations with pupils about what that means. It has opened the children’s eyes as to what a doctor can be.

The level of engagement in the teachers’ intervention activities is brilliant. Our maths teacher has high-ability pupils working at A-Level and even degree level. Our scientists are oversubscribed with children wanting to learn more and they have delivered a STEM club after school with a research and problem-solving focus. This has been very well-attended by girls. They are building a love of science in the school; you can see the lights go on in pupils’ eyes.

My RIS teachers want to push pupils to the limit, and I like that they encourage pupils to do maths and science not for a purpose but just because it’s interesting.

One of our science teachers has led Fame Lab Academy in the school with Cheltenham Festivals, where Year 8 and 9 pupils worked after school, researching and presenting scientific principles in an engaging and entertaining way to a panel of judges. It was so successful that a whole year group are doing it this year. We are the first school in the North West to do this and our RIS participant has found ways of extending this further by creating a partnership with Fame Lab Academy.

Q: What impact have the RIS participants had on the other staff at Essa Academy?

 A: They have brought an energy and enthusiasm to the staff body. Because the participants bring a deep and knowledgeable love of their subject, staff are having real, engaging subject-based discussion. Our RIS maths teacher and another teacher regularly have mathematical debates. These sorts of discussions were rare before my RIS teachers came to the school.

Q: The RIS objectives are championing university access, promoting education research and increasing subject expertise. Which of these has been most evident at Essa Academy?

 A: All the RIS objectives are evident in school but the most evident is the increased subject knowledge, which has pushed both staff and pupils. A focus of the school is the high-attaining pupils and the RIS teachers have really helped with this.

We do ‘drop-down days’ and the participants put real thought into trips and activities that incorporate scientific and mathematical elements to continuously push pupils further.

The RIS education research projects are aligned with our school needs and the participants are working with a member of the leadership team who is completing their NPQH, to ensure that the school benefits as much as possible.

I would take more RIS participants in a shot.

RIS has candidates ready to be placed for 2020/21. To learn more about the programme, or to enquire about having a RIS teacher in your school, visit, or email

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