Research Informed Practice

Heathfield has adopted an outward looking research informed approach to pursuing excellence in teaching at the heart of its success. Our teachers are empowered and trusted to work collaboratively on continually improving their skills, timetabled slots each fortnight are provided for this as part of allocated time.

Department CPL and Collaboration Team agendas are supported by time given over to applying research informed approaches to a subject specific context. We believe it is important staff have time and support to understand and apply the knowledge in order to change habits and outcomes in the classroom.

The role of the Research and Pedagogy Team

The role of research at Heathfield Community College involves the dissemination of educational research and finding ways to share useful findings throughout the establishment. The goal is to both make teachers more informed about the research that is useful for them to make their own professional decisions as well as providing suggestions on implementation.

A designated team of teaching staff from a range of career stages, are given devolved responsibility to understand and apply relevant educational research both to their own practice and also to inform the implementation of the college improvement and CPL plans. This input supports the strategy for high quality teaching and learning across the college, along with the range of CPL offered to staff, including collaboration teams, INSET, Ped-cast and blog.

The use of research also supports senior leaders in college improvement by ensuring it underpins the investigation and action taken on identified priority areas. Being a research-led school also involves carrying out or supporting practitioner research, often engaging with national research and dialogue on these issues.


2023-24: Ongoing projects that we are involved with and currently supporting.

Our Science Department are one of 58 settings currently undertaking the Teacher Choices Pilot Trial – Chat GPT in lesson preparation. This project aims to explore the impact that Generative AI (Gen AI), in particular the use of Chat GPT, can have on reducing teacher workload with regards lesson and resource preparation. This project has a focus on KS3 lessons.

The Teacher Choices project aims to find out how everyday choices are implemented and how they affect outcomes in the classroom. Teachers have been assigned to either a group that will utilise Gen AI to support their planning or a group that are using methods unassisted by Gen AI.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has commissioned and funded this study. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is conducting the evaluation..

Further to work in 2019-20 on boys achievement Heathfield Community College was pleased in 2022-23 to be asked to submit evidence to the All Party Parliamentary group’s investigation on Boys attainment in school.

This challenges the national picture of boys underachievement throughout education and the associated negative stereotypes, images of and influences on boys and masculinity. The College works hard to ensure gender equality ion all ways and the ongoing success of boys achievement is a sign of the impact of careful and considered approaches to this work over time. This is ongoing work and now involves submissions to the Education Select Committee.

Previous external Research Trials that we have led or been involved in:


Heathfield’s English department is playing a vital role in a research study investigating how English teachers and schools are using and adapting the ‘Faster Read’ approach to reading, originally designed and pioneered by the University of Sussex in 2012-2015 and now promoted nationally by Ofsted. We were one of the first schools to adapt the ‘Faster Read’ approach, ten years ago, and we have found it so successful that we now use it throughout all three key stages. At the heart of the project is the belief that enabling all students to engage with, and make progress in, reading is fundamental to their achievement and success at school, across the curriculum, and for their life chances thereafter.

The current phase of the research project aims to analyse how individual schools are using ‘Faster Reading’ in their teaching and what adaptations to the original model they have made. Information on these good adaptive practices will be shared with teachers/Heads of English, trainee teachers and English Advisors at an online interactive webinar later this year.

In complement with the new Relationship and Sex Education Policy and National Priorities, our Personal development team are working with the University of Surrey and Life Lessons to confidentially contribute to research on how young people, in particular boys, learn about these issues and from where they get their information.

The outcomes of this research, summarised in this blog post  will help inform the national dialogue about how we best support young people to become informed, safe and mature in their development in these important areas.

Teacher Choices Pilot Trial


Our Science Department are currently part of the Teacher Choices Pilot Trial – A Winning Start. The project is exploring the feasibility of running robust evaluations of teachers’ everyday choices in the classroom. In every lesson, teachers choose how to approach teaching and learning such as how to start a lesson, how to engage pupils or how to manage behaviour.

The Teacher Choices project aims to find out how everyday choices are implemented and how they affect outcomes in the classroom, exploring if a randomised controlled trial (RCT) methodology and teacher tests can be used to do this. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has commissioned and funded this study. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) is conducting the evaluation.

‘A Winning Start’ is the first trial in the Teacher Choices study. The trial will evaluate two different approaches to starting lessons to examine how teacher choices impact pupils’ learning in science via a Randomised Control Trial (RCT). The study will compare two popular forms of lesson starters: quizzes and discussions.

University of Birmingham

Student perceptions of the problem of
climate change

Heathfield Business and Economics Department are working with The University of Birmingham for research on student perceptions of the problem of climate change and what can be done about it as a way of informing the design of improved teaching materials.

The project is based at Stockholm University and funded by the Swedish Research Council. The research team comprises academics from Stockholm University, the University of Birmingham and King’s College, London. The design of effective teaching requires knowledge about students’ thinking and previous research has neglected evaluation of possible government actions through taxation and law. This project aims to provide information about students’ thinking and to develop teaching activities to address this gap.

Durrington Research School



We have links with Durrington Research School via one of our teacher’s role as an Evidence Lead in Education (ELE). Research Schools work with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to provide a bridge between academic research and the work of schools.  The ELE role involves working with teachers and schools across the region to better understand educational research and to find ways to use it to inform their decisions. This has involved running courses, such as the Research Lead programme, and delivering CPD.


Working closely with a Research School in this way has provided another conduit for up to date educational research and help and support with running our own research trials (see above).

Further information regarding the role of an ELE can be found in a recent blog post, written for Durrington Research School. Click here.

ASD Girls research project

Those working closely with autistic students have long been aware of the potential for girls to be under diagnosed and misrepresented amongst those on the Spectrum. The notion that Autistic girls present differently to boys leads one to think that the strategies required to meet their needs may be different and require adjustment. During this project we worked to support a researcher who was investigating this potential difference. As part of this we supported pupil voice interviews and facilitated our students in representing their unique experiences.
Language link project

During 2020 we were one of a number of East Sussex secondary schools who were asked to trial the free use of Language Link, a computer-based programme which supports the identification and assessment of speech and language difficulties in children. As an extension of this trial we agreed to be a pilot school, working with a facilitator to embed the use of the programme and evaluate its impact. This project is now closed and feedback from our specialist teacher and the students using the programme was sent back to the makers. This has helped to inform a newer version of the programme which has just been released.
Redefining Disadvantage


East Sussex County Council with Prof Becky Allen

Working under the supervision of Prof Becky Allen, assisted by researchers/authors like Mike Hobbis and Marc Rowland Heathfield (July 2019 – March 2020) led a cross-school study of elements that contribute to disadvantage in education and sought to explore whether these could be identified and addressed to remove them. This work presented an alternative to defining disadvantage as a criteria based on income.

Although halted by the 2020 pandemic the findings of the initial stage of this work supported the development of a project led by Heathfield involving 26 secondary schools, closing the disadvantaged gap across East Sussex still running in 2021-22

Closing the gender gap


East Sussex County Council with Priory School, Lewes

An East Sussex funded project to draw together existing research on closing the gender gap in secondary schools and disseminate the information across the county. This built on national level presentations at SSAT Conference 2019 and co-ordinated input from local practitioners as well as national speaker/author Mark Roberts and colleagues from Durrington Research School
Inclusion Project


East Sussex County Council

In 2019 we were selected to produce a research report on the Closing the Gap (CTG) initiative this was a part of the Local Authority’s Inclusion research project aimed at providing models of best practice across mainstream schools.

Our research included the impact of CTG on progress and wellbeing and provided a blueprint for other schools to follow in setting up a similar system. This was presented to Inclusion leaders and SENDCos from across the County.

Making Waves – A better future for assessment



By the project’s own description, the motivation and focus of the study was assessment linked to teacher workload: “Workload in schools has spiralled out of control and this is pushing teachers out of the profession at an unprecedented rate. Teachers do not feel confident about their assessment expertise and this can stand in the way of them exercising their professional autonomy”.



This project was carried out during 2018-19.

The effectiveness of retrieval practice in geography and history


Institute for Effective Education (IEE)

The evaluation during the academic year 2018-19 sought to establish whether weekly low-stakes quizzing of Year 8 geography and history pupils across five half-terms would lead to an improvement not only in the breadth of knowledge but also its application during end-of-year assessments in both subjects. The evaluation also sought to establish whether this form of quizzing is sustainable in everyday classroom practice.
The effectiveness of using learning journals to support Year 6 science education


Institute for Effective Education (IEE)

The innovation was the use of learning journals during Year 6 science lessons throughout the academic year 2018–19. These were used, by the classroom teacher and specialist science teachers, to plan lessons and address misconceptions. Separate professional development (CPD) sessions delivered by a specialist science teacher were also offered to primary teachers focusing on specific Key Stage 2 (KS2) science curriculum areas and beyond.