LSEF Research Project
Since securing funding from the Mayor of London’s London Schools Excellence Fund (LSEF) in 2013, Christ the King Sixth Form College has been leading a state-independent school collaborative research study involving 11 schools and colleges, to try to learn together what makes the difference for achieving A/A* grades at GCSE and A-level. Over almost 2 school years, this project, underpinned by action research methods whereby teachers became the researchers, has been trying to answer the following two key research questions:
- What strategies do independent schools utilise to ensure their pupils achieve top grades at GCSE and A Level in English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics and how do they secure places for their students at Russell Group universities in such large numbers?
- Are the strategies transferable to the state sector and can they be scaled up so that they can made available to a wider community across London?
In partnership with our own three CTK colleges (Christ the King College; Christ the King: St Mary’s and Christ the King: Aquinas), our state and independent school research partners included: Eton College, North London Collegiate School, St Paul’s (Boys) School, Wellington College, Bonus Pastor Catholic College, Conisborough College, St Columba’s Catholic Boys School and St Catherine’s Catholic School. Across these schools, nearly 50 subject specialist teachers of English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry or Physics took part in the research and the voices of almost 400 Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 students across the institutions were heard through surveys inviting them to tell us about their learning approaches and experiences.
Over the course of the project, the state and independent school teacher-researchers engaged in a range of research activities and experiences including:
- cross-sector visits to observe the teaching and learning of their specialist subject;
- teachers completing surveys to provide information and reflections about their professional understanding and levels of confidence in relation to the teaching of their subject to A/A* level;
- sample groups of high ability students completing surveys to provide information about their current learning experiences and their approaches to learning;
- cross-sector teacher exchanges involving state school teachers teaching in independent schools using their teaching approaches, and vice versa;
- collaborative development and testing of resources to learn whether it was possible to ‘create’ high challenge resources that could be effective with most able students in both sectors;
- teacher-researchers participating in a one-day sharing and reflection conference and subject development day meetings where the teachers convened in their subject groups to reflect on their research experiences and emerging findings, and to identify, discuss, debate (where appropriate) key areas or topics of concern for their subject and how they, as professional peers, could work together to take these forward;
- testing of digital platforms (Google & Microsoft 365) to explore their potential utility for sharing and developing each other’s subject knowledge and pedagogy expertise;
- a series of wider school research visits to collect data from state and independent schools about their respective whole school policies and practices.
Through state and independent schools working and learning together, we believe it was possible to learn a great deal in terms of what makes the difference for achieving A/A* at GCSE and A-level.
For a summary of some of our key findings and subject specific examples and teachers' reflections, please download the files below: