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 our research lead

The role of the Research Lead at Heathfield Community College involves reading educational research, on a wide range of topics, and finding ways to disseminate 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.

The Research Lead also involves supporting senior leaders in college improvement by investigating and acting on areas identified as priority areas. In the last few years this has included: boys’ achievement and closing the disadvantage gap, or working on specific lines of enquiries, such as the use of knowledge organisers or remote learning.

Being a research-led school also involves carrying out or supporting practitioner research, often engaging with national research and dialogue on these issues. For example, staff at Heathfield have investigated the benefits of retrieval practice, using spaced practice in homework or how to best close the disadvantage gap.


2020-21: Ongoing projects that we our involved with and currently supporting.

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. We are working with a researcher who is investigating this potential difference, supporting pupil voice interviews and facilitating girls with Autism in representing their unique experiences.
Language link project A number of East Sussex secondary schools are trialling 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 have agreed to be a pilot school, working with a facilitator to embed the use of the programme and evaluate its impact.

External Research Trials that we have led or been involved in:

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.
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.
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.

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.
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.

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