IB Schools and Colleges Association

Sevenoaks School highlights how 2020 taught teachers to learn 

Findings detail first large-scale study into the positive impact of inclusive leadership on students in secondary education


The Institute of Teaching and Learning at Sevenoaks School releases its annual academic journal. Innovate details research-focused projects that explore best practice and policy in schools.

The second edition of Innovate features 17 articles contributed from teaching staff, educational professionals and academics. Created for teachers, the resource supports professional development and gives teachers research-informed ideas to implement into their own practice. The journal is divided into five topic sections, including: Learning to Learn, Wellbeing, Character Education, Digital Learning and Service and Social Impact.

Reflecting on the impact that the past 12 months has had on teaching and learning, Innovate 2020 covers a range of topics such as: inclusion, diversity and gender subject gaps, adapting lessons to digital delivery, and supporting student wellbeing when educational rites of passage are missed. The journal also includes a breadth of articles on delivering whole class feedback, supporting study skills and the benefits of “slow-looking”, with highlight projects exploring the impact of leadership on students.

Key findings from the school’s studies into leadership include:

Inclusive leadership correlates with student performance in the classroom

Innovate details the first large empirical study looking at the positive impact of inclusive leadership on students in secondary education.

Dr Paul Parham, Mathematics Teacher at Sevenoaks School, examines the relationship between teachers’ leadership style and student performance in the mathematics department. A study undertaken in collaboration with Gloria Moss at Buckinghamshire New University surveyed almost 700 students to find a strong positive association between teachers displaying inclusive behaviours and improved student performance.

Student leadership roles enhance performance and wellbeing  

Dr Ceri Sims, Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University and Paul Thompson, Head of Geography at Sevenoaks School, find a positive correlation between student leadership roles, school membership and behaviours on motivation and wellbeing.

The quantitative study surveyed almost 250 students across years 9-11, and results noted that building leadership identity through informal activities, including community service and mentoring, are equally as important as official roles. In addition to feelings of responsibility, identity and belonging, gained through traditional “badged roles”, informal leadership positions give students “hope”, which enhances overall achievement.

The findings are especially pertinent as previous research suggests opportunities for student leadership in secondary education are limited and driven largely by teachers’ selection of individuals for posts such as prefect and school captain.

Jesse Elzinga, Headmaster at Sevenoaks School says: “We are committed to sharing best practice in teaching and learning, giving teachers an opportunity to reflect on their own work and build on the ideas of others. Our Institute of Teaching and Learning plays a vital role in coordinating this collaboration, helping professionals in our school and the wider teaching community to connect with great ideas.

“The publication of Innovate has become a highlight in our academic calendar. It is an invaluable resource, particularly this year, which, without conferences and events, has offered fewer opportunities for educational professionals to share learnings and observations.”

Mark Beverley, Director of the Institute of Teaching and Learning comments: “Uncertainty has been a prevailing motif for this year and in educational terms this presents both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand uncertainty encourages us to remain ever considerate of the many and varied ways in which learning outcomes can be improved; on the other, consideration of what is “right” and what “works” can lead easily to lazy assumptions and confirmation bias. For effective practice to be identified and developed, it is imperative to draw on evidence-based studies.” 

Innovate is now available online from: https://www.sevenoaksschool.org/teachinglearning/research/innovate/