Case study: Research in practice

Written by: Dorothy Lepkowska | Published:

Headteacher Update is a supporter of the Research Mark accreditation. Dorothy Lepkowska reports from Eglinton Primary about how research is defining their practice

When a new family of Roma children arrived at Eglinton Primary School and Early Years Centre, teachers were keen to find out more about their culture and particular needs as learners.

“This was a unique situation for us as we had never had pupils from the Roma Gypsy culture before,” said Lisa Ludford, the school’s lead in research and early years.

“To enable us to integrate the children successfully we decided to do research and produce a case study to share with staff. We discovered many unique qualities that helped us to integrate the children into school life. We found out, for example, that their language is spoken and not written down and therefore the children had not developed any reading or writing skills.

“With the help of our Romanian-speaking teaching assistant, who understood the Roma dialect and was able to interpret, we were able to put together information about the family and their culture, and share this information with the staff.”

Eglinton has recently been awarded the Research Mark by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), a mark of quality research engagement, for its work in using research projects to promote pupil progress and learning.

Staff at the school, which is based in Greenwich, south east London, have become increasingly involved in action research over the past four years.

“We work with a number of universities and student teachers come here to engage in research for their dissertations,” Ms Ludford said. “Teachers realised how useful this could be in reflecting on their own practice and became interested in doing their own studies.”

Teachers at Eglinton engage in research individually and in groups, and it is often used to support their CPD. Ms Ludford, for example, used her research into the Roma family as a case study for her Master’s degree in culture, language and diversity.

One of her colleagues looked at the impact of written feedback and marking, and how effective this might be in closing the attainment gaps between different groups of children.

“Studies such as these have impacted on the whole school because we have incorporated them into the School Development Plan,” Ms Ludford added.

“This work has often been a stimulus for other research. The study on written feedback and marking is now being extended to include verbal feedback, and examining how our interactions with pupils impacts on their learning.”

As part of the NFER Research Mark process, a report with recommendations for the future is provided. In response to these recommendations, including that more qualitative and quantitative data should be included in the school’s findings, and that it should involve pupils as researchers – Eglinton staff now plan to examine in more detail the impact of its unusual transition programme.

Eglinton has a system where, after the May half-term, each class moves to the next year group – year 1 moves to year 2 and so on. This allows both pupils and teachers to adapt more quickly to the following year’s work and means that the return to school in September is more of a continuation than a fresh start. This has eliminated anxiety for the children and their families during the summer break.“Often the final half-term of the school year is a time of winding down, but our pupils continue to work in preparation for the next academic year, with their new class teacher,” Ms Ludford said. “This also means the staff do not have to return during the summer holiday to prepare for a new class, as this has already been part of the transition process.”

The school plans to find out in greater detail what impact this structure has on the pupils and what they think about it.

“We agree with the NFER report that we need to involve pupils more in our research and this will be a good way of doing that. We need to find out how some of the decisions we take impact on them,” Ms Ludford added.

The NFER report into the work being done at Eglinton found the structures and ethos of the school meant that further research work was sustainable in the long-term, and that senior leaders and governors were supportive of teachers embarking on their own areas of study. Indeed, time was found in the timetable to enable staff to do this and to disseminate findings to colleagues.

However, the report also highlighted that there were opportunities for the school to use its research better as part of a coherent, whole-school strategy.

Ms Ludford said Eglinton now hoped to liaise with other schools looking at developing similar research programmes. “When we were embarking on the Research Mark process I went to observe what other schools had done and found it extremely useful, so I hope we could be of help too.

“Having the Research Mark has given us a real boost. It has made staff more reflective of their own practice. Our involvement in research will continue to inspire us in exploring best practice.” 

  • Dorothy Lepkowska is a freelance education writer.

Further information

The NFER Research Mark

The Research Mark, supported by Headteacher Update, gives recognition to schools for the work they have done on research engagement. It includes a visit to the school by an NFER research associate to share expertise and insight, giving feedback and a report with recommendations for further engagement. Visit

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