Research at the chalk face: connecting academia and schools


Researchers in Cambridge’s Faculty of Education are working with teachers to improve the experience of learning in the East of England – and boost pupils’ life chances.

The projects work because schools in our region, which is very diverse, want to work with us. This is not just pie in the sky, ivory tower stuff: it is practical, and real, and of use to schools. We’ve broken down the artificial walls: we’re out there.

- Ros McLellan

Twenty years ago, two head teachers walked into the University’s Department of Education with a proposal. We want to work with you, they told academics, but don’t just come and “do research on us”. We want to work in partnership.

The approach might have met short shrift in more traditional institutions, but the outward-looking Education Department, now the Faculty of Education, was different. Already working closely with over 30 schools on a school-based teacher education programme, and welcoming many teachers onto its Masterʼs and PhD programmes, it saw the chance to forge new bonds.

Two decades on, School–University Partnership for Educational Research (SUPER) continues to flourish, bringing together academics and teachers from 12 schools around the eastern region. The partners devise and run collective research projects – on topics from pupil engagement to teacher learning – and share findings within and beyond the group.

The latest project has focused on the increasingly critical area of pupil resilience, as Dr Ros McLellan, coordinator of the SUPER network, explains: “Across the UK, mental health issues in children are increasing while wellbeing is deteriorating. Evidence shows that wellbeing programmes in schools can lead to significant improvements in children’s mental health, and social and emotional skills. But we know that funding constraints and lack of prominence given to wellbeing in the inspection framework create real challenges for schools. Our research is asking how resilience and wellbeing can be promoted in a results-driven educational climate.”

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Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge


The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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