CfLaT Newsletter – September 2016 (Issue 25)


  • We are pleased to announce that Jill Clark will be taking over as CfLaT Executive Director from the New Year. Out-going Exec Director, David Leat says, ‘Thanks to everyone who has made my (long) tenure enjoyable’.
  • CfLaT’s directors have this year scored a promotions hat trick, with Rachel Lofthouse and Pam Woolner promoted to Senior Lecturers and Jill Clark to Principal Research Associate.
  • Laura Mazzoli Smith has been appointed as a Research Excellence Academy Fellow — the first to be appointed in this new University research initiative. Laura has also been invited to be a member of the Scientific Committee for the European Society for Research on the Education of Adults (ESREA) 2017 Life History and Biographic Methods conference.
  • Simon Gibbs has had a paper discussing the costs and benefits of educational psychology accepted for ‘Educational Psychology in Practice’. Working with CfLaT’s favourite economist, Ivy Papps, Simon investigated the cost and perceived benefits of the educational psychology services in two comparably small local authorities in England.
  • Laura Mazzoli Smith and Karen Laing have been awarded funding for a project ‘Changing Stories’ that aims to harness the power of life story to support the transition of pupils from backgrounds with historically low participation rates in higher education to get to university. The projects involve a colleague at Bristol University, Dr Sue Timmis, and will also involve collaboration with widening participation staff in the North East Raising Aspiration Partnership.

Community Curriculum Making

Ulrike Thomas and David Leat have run a 9 month project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council Impact Acceleration Fund on Community Curriculum Making.
Ideally this sees schools working with community partners to plan and run meaningful, challenging projects for pupils. While this might sound like familiar territory for some schools, the hallmark is the extent to which the community partners are involved, both in planning and in providing a wide array of resources and experiences from community assets. Our slogan is that pupils need ‘to go places, meet people and do and make valuable things’.

Educational progression becomes more than meeting subject targets and as much about developing social capital, informed aspirations and complex identities. This is hard to achieve sat in a classroom just doing work for your teacher. To extend a famous aphorism ‘it takes a city to raise a child’.

The project culminated in an event in July attended by 70 people. This included a group of students from Belmont School in County Durham (thank you Laura Jackson) who had been taught by community members over the course of a week to play brass instruments, with a public performance at the end of the week. They were going places, meeting people and doing a very valuable thing. There were various other table seminars hosted by schools and community partners. The principle outcomes of the project is a Guide to Community Curriculum Making and an agenda for further action and research. Please contact David or Ulrike if you would like a copy.

In addition David has just completed a book Enquiry and Project Based Learning: Students, School and Society to be published soon by Routledge.

For information, contact or

CfLaT Showcase: Educational Research for Practice

Rapidly becoming an annual event, the CfLaT research showcase offers teachers, students, school leaders, educational practitioners, academics and policy makers a chance to find out about recent research activities and outcomes. And it’s free to attend!
Presented by members of CfLaT, the showcase will include research presentations and Moot ‘How can we ensure all children achieve?’. As ever, there will be plenty of opportunities for networking. Wednesday, 5th October 4pm-7.30pm, King George VI Building, Newcastle University See programme here.

Register here.

CfLaT welcomes Sam Shields


Sam Shields is a newly appointed lecturer in ECLS who will be teaching research methods to our undergrad, masters and doctoral students.

Sam’s research interests include assessment and feedback, research methodologies for pedagogic research and emotions and power in the learning process. She presented a paper at BERA about pedagogic research methodologies in the Netherlands and the UK. She is in the early stages of collaborating with colleagues in the HungarianNetherlands School of Educational Management on a project called the ‘Learning School: International Comparative Research’. She is looking forward to collaborating with colleagues in CfLAT and is always happy to chat about research.


House of Commons Education Committee


In January this year CfLaT col-leagues submitted evidence to the Education Committee as part of their inquiry into the ‘Purpose of Education’. A condensed ver-sion of our submission was later posted on the BERA Blog ( Following that, in July Simon Gibbs received an in-vitation to attend a conference convened by the committee as part of their ongoing inquiry into the ‘Quality and Purpose of Edu-cation in England’. Here Simon reflects on the experience .

The day consisted of a mix of invited speeches (including Gert Biesta, Daisy Christodoulou, Dame Alison Peacock, Michael Young, Mary Beard) and a range of ‘breakout sessions’ in which we were invited to discuss specific topics – choosing two from ten. I opt-ed to join one led by Anna Vignoles that was devoted to ‘Social mobility in education’; and the other, led by Ste-phen Drew, headteacher of Brent-wood County High School that was focussed on ‘Behaviour and discipline’. Other groups considered ‘Employability’, ‘Parental engage-ment’, ‘’Primary assessment’, ‘Standards’, ’14-19 assessment’, ‘Educating outdoors’, ‘Expressive arts and creativity’ and ‘well-being and mindfulness’.

During the course of the day we also heard from representatives of Swiss and Finnish governments who gave us rather different perspectives on how education might be envisioned and operationalised.

During one of the breaks I was able to talk with Neil Carmichael, who chairs the Education Committee and noted the breadth and diversity of topics under consideration and won-dered about how it might be possible to arrive at any meaningful conclu-sions. He admitted that the ‘strategy’ was deliberate and part of an open-ended inquiry and that the committee was determined to pursue the issue.
Mary Beard, who perhaps might at first seem an unlikely key-note speak-er at such a conference, reminded us that education has been a ‘political football’, since at least 399BC (see the copy of her speech here) She admit-ted that for her ‘education in the broadest sense is one of the most elusive subjects in the human scienc-es’ and concluded by suggesting that we might ‘abolish a few paper trails and initiatives, trust the judgement of teachers on the ground more – and in general ‘loosen up’’.

For me that sounds like good common sense but not, I fear, a prescription that may sit comfortably with Neil Carmichael and his committee col-leagues. I sensed a genuine intellec-tual fascination with the issue (what is the purpose of education?) but the committee may be unable to locate best fulcrum for the lever of change.

In the context of Brexit, grammar schools and the balance of power at home and internationally who is going to really give a fig for education? Alt-hough the Finns are overhauling their education policies, even they fear the incursions of realpolitik and the cold heart of international economics. For the foreseeable future I suspect the voice of folk like Daisy Christodoulou (‘‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ said Mr Gradgrind’) will be more likely attended to than the wis-dom of Gert Biesta. Sad times and Hard Times (again).

Poverty Proof Schooling


Laura Mazzoli Smith and Liz Todd have been engaged in an evalua-tion of a high-impact Children North East audit called ‘Poverty Proofing the School Day.’

Their evaluation produced a report, which has been widely circulated and taken up, and was part of a BERA presentation on community-led school reform in September.

The evaluation and work around the concept of poverty-proofing formed part of an event hosted by CfLaT on July 12th, ‘The Impact of Poverty on Education – New Evidence on an Old Problem’ with invited speakers Profes-sor Ruth Lupton from Manchester Uni-versity, Sara Bryson from Children North East and Irene Cussó Parcerisas from Ramon Llull University, Barcelo-na.
Laura has also recorded a short Youtube video for teachers and teach-ers-in-training on the key principles of the poverty-proofing process, available here

For more information, contact:

Research Tea Timetable


Our Wednesday Research teas aim to provide an informal forum for discursive exami-nation of emerging research themes and concepts.

Tea and cakes will be available from 3.45pm in the Centre base (KGVI 2.50), unless other wise stated, with the session officially beginning at 4pm.

21st September: Angelika Strohmayer, Open Lab – Researching With Charities in Socially Complex Spaces

19th October: Alan Strachan, Director of Extended Services (Wallsend Area) – Wallsend Children’s Community: A model of partnership working.

16th November: Liz Todd, Laura Mazzoli Smith and Karen Laing, CfLaT – Out of School Activities and the Attainment Gap

Further information about the research teas from
or from the Centre website (

Hello Kim!

CfLaT is delighted that Kim Cowie has been appointed as a Lecturer in Education specialising in Profession-al Learning.


Kim previously taught in a number of lo-cal schools, most recently being Deputy Head at Park View in Chester-le– Street. While there she was an enthusiastic col-laborator in the Community Curriculum network initiated by David Leat and Ulrike Thomas.

Contact Kim:


CfLaT was present in strength at both the European and British education research conferences, ECER and BE-RA.

We took papers on CfLaT projects, but also used the opportunity to present with academics from other universities, across the UK and Europe who are partners in our research. See page 4 for details of our papers and please do contact col-leagues for further information.

This Year’s Conference Papers: Oct 2015 – Sept 2016

Baumfield, V., Hall, E., Lofthouse, R. & Wall, K. (2016) What do we mean when we talk about practice? Working in partnership to understand teachers’ labour, work and action in the classroom, ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Clark, J. and Laing, K. (2016) Making connections: Theory and practice of using visual methods to aid participation in research, Youth Matters: Moving from the margins, Newcastle University, 8-9 June 2016.
Clark, J. and Laing, K. (2016) Working with young people around crime and anti-social behaviour: exploring the capacity for change in their communities, North East Crime Research Network Conference, Northumbria University, 7 April 2016.
Koglbauer, R. (2016) Invited Keynote on Professional Development Programmes for School Leaders, Leadership Conference, Hebei (China), May 2016.
Koglbauer, R. (2016) Languages, Language Learning in the UK – The Now and The Future A reflection by the President of the Association for Language Learning. Keynote, Languages in HE conference, University of Warwick, UK, July 2016.
Laing, K. and Clark, J. (2016) Capacity building in research skills and methods: In-volving young people as agents of change, BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Laing, K. Mazzoli Smith, L. and Todd, L. (2016) Out of school activities and the edu-cation gap, ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016
Laing, K. Mazzoli Smith, L. and Todd, L. (2016) Out of school hours activities: looking at school staff, parent and pupil meanings and theories, BERA, Leeds, 13-15 Sept 2016
Laing, K. (2016) Understanding the relationship between out of school activities and attainment, BERA, Leeds, 13-15 Sept2016.
Laing, K. & Lofthouse, R. (2016) The role of models as tools in the ecology of re-search and practice partnerships, ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Leat, D. and Thomas, U. (2016) Curriculum Brokerage Between Schools and Commu-nities, ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Lofthouse, R. (2015) Carving out a CPD role for university expertise; sustaining impact and relationships, University Council for the Education of Teachers Annual Conference, Birmingham, 3 – 4 November 2015
Lofthouse R., Davies, P., Davies, D., Greenway, C. & Kirkman, J. (2016) Trainee teachers’ conceptions of their own learning: does context make a difference? BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Lofthouse, R. (2016) Lesson study as part of ITTE: learning promise or clumsy com-promise? Teacher Education Advancement Network Conference, Aston University, May 5th- 6th 2016.
Lofthouse, R. (2016) A chance to learn through inter-professional practice develop-ment; coaching teachers to develop communication-rich pedagogies in multi-cultural settings, Teacher Education Policy in Europe Network Conference, Univer-sity of Malta, May 19th – 21st 2016.
Lofthouse, R. (2016) How can we help them? Coaching and Mentoring in Initial Teacher Professional Development, ITE Mentoring Conference, University of Roe-hampton, 5th July 2016.
Mazzoli Smith, L. (2016) Working with gatekeepers: young people, power relations and permission to speak, Youth Matters: Moving from the margins, Newcastle University, 8-9th June 2016.
Mazzoli Smith, L (2016) Initiatives designed to support pupils in areas of socio-economic disadvantage – a contradiction in terms? BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Reid, A. (2016) Leadership workshop, North East Teaching Schools Conference, Newcastle upon Tyne, 27 June 2016.
Reid, A. (2016) Leadership development in the North-East of England, Headteacher Leadership and Professional Development Conference, Baoding (China), 8 May 2016.
Reid, A. (2016) Leadership, identity and agency: methods to explore dialogical selves, BELMAS/BERA Educational Leadership SIG event, Newcastle, 26 Apr 2016.
Reid, A. and Koglbauer, R. (2016) How can Bernstein’s (1996) concepts of ‘classification’ and ‘framing’ be used to explore the development of programmes for school leaders in the North East of England?, BELMAS, Carden Park, 8-10 July 2016.
Reid, A., Lofthouse, R. and Leat, D. (2016) Our dialogical selves: developing an analytical framework for exploring practitioner identity and agency, BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Robson, S. (2016) Keynote, Researching Educational Leadership: conceptual and methodological challenges. BERA/BELMAS seminar. Newcastle, 26 Apr 2016.
Robson, S. (2016) Becoming international: academic perceptions and practices of internationalising higher education. ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Robson, S. (2016) Keynote, East Asian Research Group Anniversary Seminar: Bene-fits and Challenges of Internationalisation in a competitive global environment. Hull, Mar 2016
Robson, S. and Koglbauer, R. (2016) Invited Plenary, Leading Creative and Produc-tive Teams School Business Manager Conference (Schools North East, UK), July 2016.
Shields, S. (2016) Researching Assessment: An analysis of the methodological tradi-tions in the UK and Netherlands, BERA, Leeds, 13– 15 Sept 2016.
Woolner, P. and Thomas, U. (2016) A school for the future: design, democracy and student expectations in England 2016. ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Woolner, P. and Thomas, U. (2016) Flexibility in the HE learning environment: defini-tions, desires and the potential of new designs of furniture to enhance it. ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Woolner, P. and Thomas, U. (2016) Change and stasis within design and practice over three decades in an English primary school. ECER, Dublin, 23-26 Aug 2016.
Wysocki, L. (2016) Setting boundaries, communicating, and reflecting: 3 projects using comics as a method, Graphic

For more information, please see our website:

The Trouble with Aid – Quantity, Institutions and Utopian Ideals

On 14 July 2016, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced her new Cabinet, following a significant reshuffle and re-structure of Government. In this context, researchers from all over Newcastle University express their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for the Government in the Ideas for May’s Ministers blog series, considering how individuals, communities and societies can thrive in times of rapid, transformational change. Professor Pauline Dixon is Professor of International Development and Education at Newcastle University. Her book “International Aid and Private Schools for the Poor” was named one of the top 100 books in 2013 by the TLS.

To: Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development
From: Professor Pauline Dixon, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

Just over a year before Priti Patel took up the post as Secretary of State for International Development, the Coalition Government brought into law the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015. The Act saw the enshrinement into law that 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) has to be spent on international aid. Priti Patel is required to ensure that the target is met in 2016 and in each ‘subsequent calendar year’.

It has been estimated in 2015 the UK spent £12.24 billion (0.71% GNI) in Official Development Assistance (ODA, i.e., international aid); in absolute terms the second largest in the world only to the US[1].

There are many groups with a vested interest in the aid industry, pushing for larger aid spending. However, it is not just the provision of aid that makes a difference. There needs to be a focus on making sure that aid is effective. Having a positive effect on economic growth and aiding the poorest is crucial; just giving money is not enough. The government’s introduction of spending targets could lead to waste and pressure to get rid of money.

When someone is put in a position of deciding what is good for others ‘the effect is to instil in the one group a feeling of almost God-like power; in the other, a feeling of childlike dependence’.[2] The result? The imposition of utopian colonial ideals, which are irrelevant in developing contexts.

Bearing this in mind can countries that continue to rely on and are given large amounts of ‘systematic’ or ‘bilateral’ aid, (that is the giving of aid to governments through government to government aid or institutions such as the World Bank) ever eradicate poverty?

Aid can make very little difference in countries where there are major barriers to development such as the environment being typically dominated by mismanaged, corrupt institutions created and perpetuated by elites. The lack of the rule of law and property rights along with inadequate governance and the lack of political freedom and the press all add to the inability for aid to engender sustained growth and a route out of poverty for its citizens.

As aid flows into a poor country that operates under autocratic regimes, those that benefit most according to the critics of aid are the wealthy political elite.[3] Even the World Bank acknowledges that corruption undermines Africa’s development with leaders, government officials, ministers and public servants lining their pockets with money destined for the poor.

One option would be to stop aid altogether.

But is there an answer or a way forward for international aid money? Is there a more productive way of channelling aid that could engender a positive effect on poverty alleviation, growth, focusing on the poorest?

One alternative is to look at market based solutions to poverty, ignoring the planners who do not have the knowledge to allocate resources, but listening to the searchers and Africa’s ‘cheetah generation’[4].The entrepreneurs and innovators, those operating and living at the grassroots level in the slums and shanty towns of developing countries. Here social media can play a role through economic empowerment, monitoring and reporting on corruption and mobilising public opinion.

Radical reforms are required to alter the way aid money is directed and transferred to the poor. If aid money is not directed at sustainable and scalable projects which focus on local entrepreneurs where communities are able to maintain the momentum once the aid has dried up, throwing good money after bad for the sake of it will perpetuate the ineffective, and sometimes damaging, consequences of aid. When aid agencies walk away, others need to be able to pick up the baton and run with it. The poor themselves are the solution.

Aid needs to start working and making a difference now more than ever before. Given a market focus it can. So what’s my advice to the Rt Hon Priti Patel?

  • Use gold standard research to inform policy not planners who think they know best.
  • Ask the poor what they want. From the slums of Nairobi to the shantytowns of Lagos, the poor aren’t waiting for aid agencies to rescue them. Visiting some of these thriving communities highlights what works for the poor by the poor;
  • Focus on market led initiatives and market based solutions encouraging entrepreneurship not dependency.


Sector Breakdown 2014 UK Bilateral IDA (£millions) (source DfID 2015)[5]


[2] Friedman, 1962 Capitalism and Freedom, Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press p. 148

[3] Moyo, 2009 Dear Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another wy for Africa,Harmonsworth: Penguin

[4] Ayittey, George B.N. (2005), Africa Unchained: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future, New York: Palgrave MacMillan.


Rethinking a National Curriculum and finding space for the local

On 14 July 2016, the Prime Minister Theresa May announced her new Cabinet, following a significant reshuffle and re-structure of Government. In this context, researchers from all over Newcastle University express their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities for the Government in the Ideas for May’s Ministers blog series, considering how individuals, communities and societies can thrive in times of rapid, transformational change. Professor David Leat is Professor of Curriculum Innovation in Newcastle University, and he directs his Idea to Justine Greening. 

From: Professor David Leat, Newcastle School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

To: Justine Greening, Secretary of State for Education

One of the principles of a nation having a National Curriculum is that pupils can move from school to school with some continuity in their education. There is the added attraction to policy makers that they have more control over schools.  However, the social and economic turmoil of the last ten years has moved the political goalposts as both radical right and left wing movements have proved attractive to many who feel that they have been left behind as social inequality grows.  Political elites are rethinking and renegotiating the relationship between the nation and its component parts – regions, cities and communities.  In England, we need our government to give the message to schools and teachers that they should be using ‘the local’ as one of the building blocks of the curriculum to put meaning back into learning.

Community Curriculum

Successive governments, however, have learned that exerting control by detailed specification of  curriculum content has a considerable downside.  They are open to attack from many quarters about too much content or the wrong content. As a result, they have shifted from ‘input regulation’ or the specification of content as a means of control, to ‘output regulation’ or the setting of exam targets as a means of control. The targets-related data has had the added incentive of helping to marketise education as it provides a means of comparing schools and ‘driving up standards’.  However, there are signs of considerable collateral damage from this policy fix:

  • Teachers teach to the test and can lose sight of any wider purpose to education – a message which pupils internalise as education becomes a steeplechase of exam hurdles. This is a dangerous context for adolescent mental health and learning to learn.
  • Teachers are de-professionalised as their role is restricted to delivering content. Teachers who do not develop their own curriculum do NOT develop ownership of the curriculum. It is hardly surprising that so many teachers are leaving the profession. The National Union of Teachers data shows that 50,000 teachers (11% of the workforce) left the profession in 2015.
  • Young people are poorly prepared for further and higher education and indeed for the labour market as demonstrated by the Independent Advisory Group report (Anderson, 2014) commissioned by Pearsons Publishing
  • It tends to make schools look towards the DfE and Ofsted for all their cues and not to their locality and its resources. It is astonishing just how many organisations, businesses and individuals want to help shape the lives of young people and society in the most positive ways – but few get the chance.
  • As a consequence engagement is a serious issue. Across the developed world, there is strong evidence that pupils begin to lose interest in school work from the middle of primary school, even for many who are successful in the exam system (see for example Berliner, 2011). One of the reasons is that the curriculum lacks meaning for them, and they find precious few connections to their lives, despite the best efforts of dedicated teachers.

There are some real advantages in having a locality and community dimension to the curriculum, especially if there is a strong focus, through demanding projects, of going places, meeting people and making and doing things.

Horizons are broadened as pupils encounter people who have interesting jobs (not just professional jobs) and life histories – providing both role models and powerful raw material for developing their own identities.  Pupils can take real pride and find meaning in the things that they make and do, both for and with the community.  It should also be remembered that digital technology is changing the learning landscape as it provides the power to access, analyse and present information and understanding to a wide range of audiences through a variety of media.  A local dimension to the curriculum can provide an element of service learning in which young people are given responsibility and make a contribution. Some of these principles are elucidated in the work of Mimi Ito and colleagues (see

Gemma Parker, a Newcastle University doctoral student, has found that many more recently qualified teachers have no conception of curriculum, equating it to schemes of work or a yearly plan, usually ‘given’ to them to teach. Generally, they do not see themselves as having a role in curriculum development, which undermines their professional standing.

In the last 30 years the voices of government, of ministers, of the DfE and of Ofsted have become the dominant ones for teachers, and their vocabulary around ‘standards’ and ‘targets’ is repeated and relayed by senior leaders in school – ultimately this cramps thinking about what curriculum is possible in school. We need government to usedifferent words, in order to give permission to teachers to take up the opportunities for demanding curriculum projects in their communities, localities and through digital technology. Teachers need to hear that voice.

We need good professional training and support so that there is rigour and challenge in community generated curriculums. In particular, many teachers will need to learn about the process of curriculum development, how best to work with community partners, how to find the balance between guiding work and allowing pupils to take greater responsibility for the pace and direction of their work, how to harness digital technology to its fullest and how to map projects back to important subject questions, methods, concepts and principles.

All across the world there are serious questions being asked about exam driven education. In response, there are also numerous organisations promoting and developing enquiry and project based learning and competence-based approaches.  These include the International Baccalaureate (IB), Expeditionary Schools, Connected Learning, Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs), the Partnership for C21st Skills and Opening Minds.  England could position itself as a world leader in educational practice if it embraced the principle of schools developing much of their curriculum through the medium of high quality locally generated and resourced projects.


Anderson, R. (2014) Careers 2020: Making Education Work, London: Pearson.

Berliner, D. (2011) Rational responses to high stakes testing: the case of curriculum narrowing and the harm that follows, Cambridge Journal of Education, 41:3, 287-302.

To engage in the conversation, tweet @Social_Renewal #IdeasforMaysMinisters