The meeting was attended by 8 representatives of the network: Philip Woods, Alison Taysum. Khalid Arar, Miles Bryant, Jami Royal Berry, Kay Fuller, Michael Wilson, Howard Stevenson.
The meeting opened with an update on the progress of the project. Following the highly successful network meeting at AERA in Vancouver the project has now clearly developed into two sub-groups. These are a group focused on the leadership of high needs schools (currently co-ordinated by Bruce Barnett) and a group focused on social justice leadership (currently co-ordinated by Howard Stevenson). At the meeting in Vancouver there was a recognition that after a necessary but lengthy period of formulating aims and ideas there was a need for each group to move towards generating more tangible outputs. Since the meeting in Vancouver this has very largely been achieved. Most notably, both groups have submitted proposals to feature at the UCEA Convention in Denver in November and these proposals have been accepted. This will represent the first time that the project has begun to generate clear outputs to disseminate and in a form that invites discussion with our peers.
As well as presenting substantive project material the Network has also secured a space for scheduled planning meetings at UCEA (November 2012), AERA (April-May 2013) and Edinburgh (July 2013). Dates and details of these meetings will follow, but as it stands, we have secured scheduled meetings within the formal programmes of each of these three conferences. As these fall evenly throughout the year this is most helpful. We recognise that it is very difficult for people to attend all of these events, or indeed any of them in some cases! But this is well understood by us all and we think we have done well so far in ensuring that everyone is included and major decisions are not taken without opportunities for all of us to have a say. That said, keeping in touch is a major challenge given the diversity of the project. We are constantly reviewing how we do this and how we use technology to support us. Again, we think we do pretty well – but we are all learning . . .
The two projects were reported on at the Manchester meeting (Jami Royal Berry for the high needs schools group and Howard Stevenson for the social justice leadership group). Each has chosen quite different ways forward, but as indicated, both are generating substantive outputs and these will be presented at UCEA in November.
Given the people present in Manchester, and a recognition that there was something of an imbalance between the two groups, it was decided to focus our discussions on general issues of concern to the whole network. This was made easier as both individual strands have work well underway in preparation for UCEA. Two key issues emerged:
Work for 2013: there was a strong desire to bring the two groups together in some form, recognising that they have distinct identities but overlapping concerns. Finding a way to bring the groups together was considered as a useful way of ensuring the Network retains an overarching coherence, rather than being a label that covers two separate, and disconnected, groups. Furthermore, it was felt there was considerable merit in seeking to link our inputs to BELMAS and UCEA conferences in 2013.
The proposal therefore is to aim for a Network contribution (precise format to be agreed) at each of BELMAS 2013 and UCEA 2013. The specific proposal was that this should be in the form of a ‘Research Policy Dialogue’ whereby the participation of policy makers and practitioners should be actively encouraged and Network research should be presented in a way that highlighted the implications for policy and practice. Other features of this proposal included:
· Sessions should be interactive/engaging – encouraging dialogue and not based on a traditional paper format (but see later point).
· The two sessions should be linked, ie the BELMAS and UCEA inputs should be stand alone (for the practical purpose of audience engagement) but that we should find ways to connect them – this may be by having the same sessions at the two conferences, or a session that ‘starts’ at BELMAS and ‘concludes’ at UCEA. This obviously needs some working out in practical terms – but we have time to do that.
· Linking the sessions and the aim to adopt innovative formats to encourage dialogue could be assisted by technology. The suggestion was made for a website in some form – where research papers could be posted, and where discussions from the two sessions could be encouraged. This could also help build the links between the two sessions.
If this proposal is agreeable to the wider group then we can find time at our planning meeting in Denver to begin to work out what this can look like and how we organise it.
Infrastructure and support: as the project is becoming more established there was a recognition that we need to seek to put some elements of the Network on a firmer footing. The project clearly benefits considerably from the sponsorship of UCEA and BELMAS. However, the proposal was made that it would be helpful to look more closely at how the Network can benefit from the support of the two organisations. It was suggested that Bruce and Howard seek to identify the types of support necessary to progress the projects and then construct a formal business case for support to put to BELMAS and UCEA. It was recognised that support might come in various forms – back-office support, web support etc.