We have recently published the final report for ‘Engaging Opportunities’ (Holliman et al. 2018).
Informed by action research, our partnership was designed to create structured, strategic, sustainable and equitable mechanisms for effective school-university engagement with research.
Over four years our project team created engaging opportunities for 11 schools and more than 6,577 people within Milton Keynes. Students and teachers engaged with authentic practices of contemporary and inspiring research in a range of academic disciplines.
Through this work we offering opportunities to participate in mutual learning and develop relevant and useful skills and competencies in how to access, assess, analyse and respond to contemporary research.
Engaging opportunities has been a collective and cooperative journey involving students, teachers and researchers. The journey can be characterised by our action research-informed approach; learning through doing (Holliman et al. 2017).
Our successes and failures are down to a small, dedicated group of university academics, teachers and support staff, with a supporting cast of many more (see the inside cover of the final report; Holliman et al. 2018), all committed to improving the aspirations and life chances of children and young people in Milton Keynes.
We are delighted to have been involved in the Engaging opportunities project. The exciting opportunities offered through this project enabled us to take engagement with OU researchers to the next level.
Andy Squires, Headteacher at Denbigh School
Our core aims for our RCUK-funded partnership remained the same throughout the four-year project. Put simply, young people are key ‘publics’ for research and they should have a voice in how research is shaped and framed. Informed by a shared mission for social justice we have engaged students from different backgrounds whilst addressing the relevance and impact of research to them.
We worked to generate awareness of the nature and challenges of contemporary research. Further, we have worked to foster and extend a culture of reflective practice around school-university engagement with research; and to embed school-university engagement with research within the OU’s and DTSA’s strategic planning on a sustainable basis.
Through the work of the Engaging opportunities project we have raised awareness among young people in Milton Keynes of the range of academic research that is conducted at the Open University.
Richard Holliman, Professor of Engaged Research at the Open University
Since the conclusion of the project we have coordinated a number of legacy projects. These projects have been built upon the links developed between the two institutions and a mutually understanding as to the benefits of school-university collaboration.
Holliman, R., Davies, G., Ford, D., Russell, M., Steed, A., Brown, H., Pearson, V., Collins, T., Stutchbury, K., Squires, A., Scanlon, E., Whitelegg, E., Ansine, J., Braithwaite, N., Swinthenby, S., Dommett, E., Sumner, J., Lee, C., Kendall, J., Green, P., Sharp, D., Bullivant, M., Devine, P. and Hawthorne, V. (2018). Engaging Opportunities: Connecting Young People with Contemporary Research and Researchers. The RCUK School-University Partnership Initiative (SUPI). Milton Keynes, The Open University and the Denbigh Teaching School Alliance. Available from: http://oro.open.ac.uk/53026.
This post describes work funded through the RCUK School University Partnership Initiative (SUPI; EP/K027786/1).