The Education Research Alliance (ERA), the first scheme of its kind in the UK, has made its debut in West Cumbria.

The initiative brings together experts and premium research with the intent of elevating pupil achievement levels and shrinking the attainment disparity for underprivileged students.

“This is a ground-breaking development,” said Dale Hill, director of Western Excellence in Learning and Leadership (WELL), funded by Sellafield Ltd and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which has created ERA.

“It’s about a collective ambition to ensure every pupil thrives and succeeds regardless of background and starting point.

“In Cumbria and nationally we have a recognised attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. It’s big and it’s getting wider. We have a collective responsibility to do something about that in a strategic evidence-informed way.”

ERA is based at Ashfield Junior School in Workington, which has previously been a designated research school.

Ashfield Headteacher Sue Frost is ERAs director. She said: “This is about helping us to keep improving, using evidence-informed approaches so we provide the best for the children and young people in our region.”

Mr Hill explained that Ms Frost and her team would assist schools in accessing the latest research and ensure their training support.

“ERA will also broker the experts the region needs. It will bring together local and national expertise. We will be responding to schools’ specific needs. The alliance is about listening and responding to local priorities,” he said.

All 118 primary and secondary schools in West Cumbria are taking part in WELL, and the ambitions is for ERA to provide support across Cumbria.

ERA brings together experts including Marc Rowland, a government advisor and national authority on improving outcomes for disadvantaged learners.

Mr Rowland said: “It's a joy to be involved in ERA. There is something incredibly special happening in our community of schools.

"Our work is rooted in the needs of our community, driven by research evidence and expertise.

"Together, we are supporting and challenging each other to make the biggest difference we can, including for those that experience disadvantage.”

The core team behind the alliance also features Prof Stuart Kime, of Evidence-Based Education and Kate Horton, regional lead for the Education Endowment Foundation.

Cumberland Council are 'excited' to be working with the ERA.

Cllr Elaine Lynch said: “The work will benefit schools across Cumberland Council and will support disadvantaged pupils to achieve good outcomes."

The ERA was launched on September 6.