The Associate Educational Fellowship Programme (AEFP) has been developed in close partnership with the University of Bedfordshire (UoB) and the Bedford Borough Learning Exchange (BBLE). It is a Bedford-based forum for all those in the local education system – state and private – who are interested in research and enquiry activities aimed at school improvement. The Fellowship has recently been awarded funding from The Harpur Trust to support its leadership and development over the next three years.
The programme offers Fellows the opportunity to network and collaborate on the development of research and enquiry activities in all educational organisations within Bedford Borough. With the support of The Harpur Trust, this programme will help teachers, professional support staff, trustees and governors to seek out and share good ideas and develop innovative practice. During a very positive pilot year in 2014 – 2015, the Fellowship achieved:
- a settled ‘home’ at the university;
- a settled supper-night format of ‘supper – reading – question – speaker ’
- Fellowship access to the UoB Library
- three national-level speakers including Sir Tim Brighouse and Baroness Estelle Morris
- an initial set of objectives
- a research review tool
- a growing network of national links
- an Academic Liaison Fellow at the UoB
- a one-year track record of successful Fellowship activities
- a bonded core of Fellows dedicated to the development of ‘evidence informed practice’
As we move beyond the pilot phase of the programme, we already have our ‘Academic Liaison Fellow’ to help us identify cutting edge research and we are in discussions with the University of Bedfordshire to create bespoke course modules on research-related topics that can go towards further qualifications.
But ultimately, the Fellowship is about opening up and exploring the space between the educational practitioner and the professional researcher; a space that provides opportunities for educational professionals to come together, talk about issues that matter to them, share expertise and ideas, and engage in collaborative improvements in teaching and learning.
‘At the moment hard pressed professionals working in classrooms, workshops and laboratories have limited time to access the latest research findings. Through the Fellowship we aim to develop simple pathways that will enable those working in education to gain easy access to the guidance that research findings can offer. Hopefully – over time – this will build confidence and provide better impetus and direction to our school improvement efforts. It will also contribute to the broader professional goal of developing ‘evidence informed practice.’ Mike Berrill, Executive Principal of the Biddenham Campus Trust