SUPER at researchEd 2015

Members of our partnership were privileged to be invited to present at the 3rd researchEd national conference last Saturday 5th September at the South Hampstead High School for Girls.


Tom Bennett and Helene Galdin-O’Shea (researchEd founder and organiser extraordinaire) had put together an impressive programme of speakers.  Around 800 attendees were left with a dizzying range of sessions to choose from. SUPER members were involved in three separate sessions:

frank's session

SUPER main session

sam whit session

Frank’s slides can be accessed here: ResearchEd 2015_Cornelissen

The Slides for the collaborative research session can be accessed here: SUPER researchEd 2015 presentation for sharing

See Krista’s blog for a series of 5 fascinating reflections on the day and sessions she attended:

For more blogs, links and views check out tweets from researchEd participants on the hash tag #rED15

For a selection of SUPER and SUPER member related tweets, see our Storify here:

Nick and Clare launched an exciting new school ‘lesson study journal’ called ‘Anthecology’ as part of their very well received session. The journal can be downloaded here:


Attending researchEd has been – yet again – a fantastic way to start the academic year and has given us lots to think about as we look forward to another year working together in our partnership. Thanks again to Tom and Helene, the sponsors, SHHS and the researchEd participants for making it such a success!

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What did we learn at SUPER in 2014-15? Looking back, looking forward . . .

Guest post: Jennie Richards

In our final meeting of the academic year 2014-15, a wide ranging discussion by our school Research Leads and the Faculty Staff enabled reflection on our joint learning from this year’s work and the recent annual conference. This summary is designed to stimulate further ideas and discussion as we look forward to deciding the future direction of the partnership this new academic year.

Impacts of the annual SUPER Conference 2015

  • Dr Frank Cornelissen’s keynote speech on leveraging the potential impact and value of schools university partnerships was universally well received. In particular, the impact of closing the gap between educational theory and the practice of teaching was regarded as crucial. His ideas on networking patterns enabled schools to reflect on teachers’ networks in their own schools as well as across the partnership.
  • The focus on networking led to agreement about the value of creating more informal opportunities for teachers to meet and discuss practice (preferably with food available). For example, one school has created a breakfast “bacon butty club” before school to facilitate such discussions.
  • Schools have also used information from Frank’s research to identify core people in their schools who are influential in promoting improved practice and enquiry, and also which teachers seem to be more on the periphery. The group discussed ways to use this information to improve engagement of all staff.
  • Communication and dissemination issues raised by the conference prompted ideas for embracing social media to encourage teachers to write more about their developing knowledge, research and reflections. Other written formats such as journals, updates, or brief papers similar to the BERA Insights series were mentioned, along with audio- visual products like podcasts, posters and DVDs. The real challenge for busy teachers was, as ever, the space and time to produce them. However, all recognised the need to raise the profile and impact of SUPER in these ways.

What have we learned about “Closing the Gap”? (between the performance of Pupil Premium Pupils compared to other pupils)

This has been the joint umbrella project for all schools in the partnership, with schools both exploring what the gap or gaps might be, as well as researching the impact of interventions designed to “close the gap”. As is often the case with research, as many questions were raised by the enquiries as distinct findings discovered.

  • Homework

How effective is the homework set in terms of improving learning?

If pupil premium pupils find homework more challenging than other pupils, how can it be changed to close rather than widen the gap?

Does the non- completion of homework lead to negative impacts on pupils’ relationships with teachers?

Why is homework set by teachers without more opportunities for student ownership and self- management?

How does a fear of “getting it wrong” impact on pupils’ homework and more general engagement with learning.

  • Parental and pupil engagement

Engaging parents of vulnerable pupils soon after school entry was considered key by schools researching in this area. One school had introduced a successful café culture style drop in coffee morning for parents, teachers and pupils to meet more informally to discuss learning.

Pupil premium pupils were generally found to be less engaged with the school, their learning and extra -curricular activities. There is a sense in which education is done to these pupils rather than them having an active and participatory voice. Engaging pupils as learning partners with other pupils is a successful technique, as is seeking their opinions on how they are taught. One school found that pupil premium pupils did not like being given model answers, because they did not seek to gain grade As, preferring to be just given what they needed to pass their exams.

  • Aspirations of pupils and parents

The importance of understanding and challenging the aspirations and expectations of both pupils and their families was seen as important for closing the gap. New ways to support vulnerable groups need to be found, in particular regarding their mindsets, building resilience and reducing their fear of failure. It should be noticed that teachers can learn as much from intervention that do not work as well as those that appear to do so.

  • Communication, not literacy

Schools working on interventions related to literacy highlighted the importance of leadership in this area. Projects which actively involve pupils working together worked well, as did projects which focused more generally on communication skills rather than purely literacy. It was evident that primary and secondary teachers have much to learn from each other in this area of teaching, with clustering teachers to share knowledge, projects and understanding being fostered in partnerships such as SUPER.

Where next?

SUPER is currently undertaking consultations between its partners regarding its future direction. There is a strong feeling of optimism and enthusiasm evident amongst the research leads and the Faculty staff. It is to be hoped that this new academic year, 2015-16 and the years to come in SUPER will be as interesting, vibrant and engaging as this one.

Jennie Richards, Emeritus TRL

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The Impact of Primary-Secondary Transition on Students’ Wellbeing: research summary

Posted on behalf of Dr Ros McLellan, current co-ordinator of our Schools-University Partnership. In the post below Ros shares with us a summary of findings from a research project she is currently engaged in . . .

Transfemclellan_rosrring from primary to secondary school is an anxious time for most youngsters with the dip in academic progress during the first few weeks in secondary school being a well-established phenomenon. For most students, concerns are generally short-lived with around three quarters reporting they have settled in well by the end of the first term, but something like 6-10% experience persistent problems. A recent major review of school experience funded by the Nuffield Foundation as part of the Changing Adolescence Research Programme, found no studies which examined young people’s wellbeing over more than the immediate primary-secondary transition period, despite the fact that that small but significant percentage of students appear vulnerable to longer-term problems. We also know from international studies that young people’s wellbeing in the UK is lower than that in many other developed countries. Maurice Galton and I have been researching young people’s wellbeing over the past five years and he is a world-renowned expert on the primary-secondary transition, having studied the topic over the past four decades. Wlogo Nuffielde felt it was high time to explore young people’s wellbeing over transition over a longer period of time than previous studies and are grateful to the Nuffield Foundation for funding this work.

Maurice Galton’s previous work shows that over the years schools have developed a range of strategies to ensure continuity for students. Termed the five bridges of transfer, these relate to 5galton_maurice areas – administration, social, curriculum, teaching and autonomy. By the early part of the 21st century it was clear that a lot of sophisticated work was going on in terms of things like bridging units of study, teacher exchanges and post-induction sessions to tackle the issues encountered by young people as they transfer schools. However in the changed educational landscape where many schools have become academies outside local education authority control and in a more stringent economic climate with reduced funding in schools it is unclear how much of this work remains in place. It is therefore timely to revisit to examine what is happening now and how this might relate to young people’s wellbeing.

We recruited four secondary schools (and their feeder primary schools) to work with us in central and eastern England. Two schools indicated they pay particular attention to primary-secondary transfer and have a range of strategies in place to support the vulnerable. The other two had been specialist arts schools and strongly promote the arts and these were chosen because our previous work had suggested that creative initiatives promote eudaimonic or functioning wellbeing (i.e. self-actualisation and fulfilling potential) together with the other main facet of wellbeing, hedonic or feeling wellbeing (i.e. feeling good and enjoying life) so we were interested in seeing whether students in these schools would fare particularly well. The research involved:

  • Surveying 1110 young people about their wellbeing inside and outside of school at the end of Year 6, after the first half-term at secondary school, and at the end of Year 7 using a questionnaire we had developed in our previous work.
  • Developing case studies of the work to support primary-secondary transfer and people’s perceptions of it in each secondary school based on observations (induction days, the first day at secondary school, a regular day in Year 7), interviews (with students seen to be successful and those at risk, as well as discussions with various members of staff including the Year 7 coordinator) and an analysis of relevant documents (relating to arrangements for transfer).

Survey findings revealed that whilst perceptions of wellbeing outside school remained more or less constant over the time period studied, both eudaimonic and hedonic wellbeing in the school context declined considerably over the year. What was interesting was the wellbeing scores did not change significantly between the end of primary school and the initial period at secondary school; the drop occurred between the October half-term and summer testing points in Year 7. Thus it seems, in line with previous literature, most children settle into secondary school within the first half-term as their wellbeing scores stay relatively constant. Thus, the work schools were doing to ease transfer was generally effective for the immediate transition period, although they were less successful at maintaining wellbeing over the first year at secondary school.

Our previous study suggested that wellbeing declines with age and indeed this reflects the literature more generally but this doesn’t explain why only wellbeing in school was affected, whilst wellbeing out of school was unchanged. The explanation for this could lie in the stage-environment fit theory, which suggests that the learning environment must fit the developmental needs of youngsters, which research has shown problematic as students move from primary to secondary school. Work in occupational psychology has suggested that successful work-role transitions comprise 4 stages, which take place over a period of time including a preparation stage, initial encounters, adjustment and stabilisation, and whilst schools attend to the first two stages rather less emphasis is placed on the final two stages.

There were no overall differences between the schools either in terms of overall levels of wellbeing or how this changed over the year, thus it would appear that they were equally effective in maintaining wellbeing over the transition period and showed a similar decline over the Year 7 period. The final issue of note was that boys overall reported higher frequencies of eudaimonic wellbeing at all testing points and this was seen across all schools. This finding, whilst concerning, does reflect what we found in our previous work and the literature more generally.

The case studies demonstrated a remarkable consistency in experience across all four schools. Overall students thought they had settled in well and were experiencing hedonic wellbeing, felt most teachers had their best interests at heart so they could achieve their best, thus facilitating eudaimonic wellbeing and valued what the Year 7 coordinator had done to support them. As the field of student voice has demonstrated, they are well placed to reflect on their wellbeing and did make some suggestions.

Similar approaches were taken to induction days and the first day at secondary schooling. As in previous studies, there was a considerable focus on administrative issues such as the timetable and rules in students’ initial encounters with their secondary school. However, what was different was that the rationale for rules in terms of helping students achieve their best was explicit and this appeared to be accepted by the majority.

Previous writers have talked about transfer from primary to secondary school being a status passage and the need therefore for secondary school to be different from primary to mark this change so students see they have successfully achieved the status change in the transition. Thus, whilst some initiatives such as a special base at one of the schools for vulnerable students, who were grouped together in a tutor group, undoubtedly helped this group in the early stages of their secondary careers, it can also hamper if students don’t yet feel they have achieved the status change. In this particular example targeted students appreciated the base initially but wanted to fully integrate with the rest of their cohort by being able to mix with others during lunchtimes and breaks. Thus there is a balance to be struck between support and continuity and discontinuity.

Our observations in this study and in previous work suggest that teaching approaches do not differ markedly between Year 6 and Year 7, perhaps due to performativity pressures of the KS2 SATS eroding the traditional topic-based and integrated approach of primary schools. Again this can be problematic for students needing to feel they have achieved a status change. Given that students were preoccupied with making new friends and vulnerable students reported continuing issues with friendships and relationships with some teachers, rather than focusing on taster lessons in induction days, which may not be dissimilar to what they are used to, it may be more useful to focus on the social rather than curriculum aspects of transfer. Vulnerable students will also need on-going support as their problems continue through the year and are exacerbated by the prospect of going into different teaching groups and potentially having a different personal tutor / Head of Year in Year 8.

Although two of the schools specialised in the arts, there appeared little difference in teaching approach between these and the other two schools based on our observations and what young people told us. Our previous work had suggested that creative work led by experienced practitioners fostered eudaimonic wellbeing through being autonomy-supportive and allowing youngsters to make their own decisions about their work and hence reach their potential. Although we saw some examples of autonomy-supportive practices in all schools, the strong focus on targets and rules meant this wasn’t the typical practice and wasn’t something that was more apparent in the arts-specialist schools. But to maximise learning in autonomy-supportive environments students also need to become efficient autonomous learners as well as efficient managers (which the focus on admin and rules supports) and this needs to start during the initial encounters and during the adjustment stages.

Thus our recommendations are:

  • Consider transfer from primary to secondary school as a status passage and give consideration to the balance of continuity and discontinuity to enable students to feel they have successfully transitioned to a new status. Also take into account the developmental needs of youngsters and phase changes gradually.
  • Consider transition as an on-going process comprising a number of stages that isn’t just about the first term in secondary school (i.e. preparation, initial encounters, adjustment and stabilisation).
  • Focus particularly on social aspects in the preparation and initial encounters (induction days and first few days at secondary school) rather than on curriculum / pedagogy.
  • During initial encounters and the adjustment phases students not only need to encounter autonomy-supportive teaching but also need to be taught how to be efficient autonomous learners (how to work independently, take notes etc.).
  • Vulnerable students need on-going support, particularly in the socio-emotional sphere.
  • Although important for all students, particularly attend to how to help girls feel they can achieve their potential and involve them in this process.

See and for a link to the report.

Ros McLellan

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SUPER Conference 2015 Storify

More posts, resources and reflections will follow from our annual conference yesterday but in the meantime here is a ‘storify’ of tweets generated by our brilliant tweeting community!

Thanks to our teacher research co-ordinators, MEd students, teachers, headteachers/principals & faculty for making it such a rewarding and thought provoking partnership event!

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SUPER Annual Conference 2015

We are looking forward today to our annual conference on the theme of ‘the impact of research in a school-university partnership: closing the gap’. Over 70 members of our network will have the opportunity to hear a keynote from Dr Frank Cornelissen (working with us this year exploring school research networks as a Marie Curie Scholar) and attend a lively programme of networking, workshops and discussions. Our MEd cohort will also display posters on their thesis projects. Further updates will follow!

Workshop 1 (GS5)
Exploring strategic benefits of the network survey for school improvement

Following Frank’s Keynote presentation the workshop will facilitate a discussion around the possible and various uses of the network survey study and offer some suggestions and strategies for using the outcomes of our current partnership study in view of strategic planning and school development: a perfect opportunity to explore ideas and potential strategies to enhance school improvement

Presenter: Frank Cornelissen &  FacultyFacilitator: Ros McLellan, Faculty

Workshop 2 (GS1)
Mind the Gap: Does understanding Mindset help to close the gap between Pupil Premium students and non-Pupil Premium students in Year 8?

We will set the context of research and SUPER at Impington. The session will share reflections on our whole school research into mindset in Year 8. Staff will be asked to reflect their own schools and practice throughout. We will share findings of our Year 8 questionnaire of whole cohort: patterns, results. We will share the findings revealed by our follow up semi structured interviews. We will discuss how we used learning lunches and teas to get a wider range of staff involved in research and conscious of research methods and issues. We will show we have used the results with staff. The results present a number of implications for teaching and learning and we have made some recommendations for the future. A write up of these issues will be available as a take away in the form of the Impact Volume 2 – our in-house research journal.

Presenter: Mike Murray, Impington Village College & Facilitator: Dave Bennett, Sharnbrook Upper School

Workshop 3 (2S7)
Tweet it, blog it, publish it! Going viral with our research – Writing Workshop

This workshop will look at the range of ways teachers can share the research they carry out in their classrooms and schools.There will be opportunities to discuss ideas and strategies that have worked as well as exploring the possibilities offered through social media and more traditional forms of writing.We will also investigate in our workshop the barriers to teacher writing and what we can do to reduce these and therefore share more effectively the work we complete.At the heart of the workshop will be the opportunity to write and disseminate interesting findings from our schools and classrooms on the SUPER blog.Let’s start as we mean to go on!

Presenters: Liz Duncombe, Stratton Upper School; Bethan Morgan, Faculty of Education: Jennie Richards, Emeritus Sharnbrook & Facilitator: Clare Hood, Samuel Whitbread.

Workshop 4 (2S8)
Weaving research into Performance Management

Samuel Whitbread Academy has been exploring the using research questions to frame improvement plans on an academy, department and individual basis over the past year. Staff have moved away from setting targets and reviewing these, to actively pursuing projects framed by their research questions. This culture change is very much in its early stages. This interactive workshop will explain the process, and feedback our initial findings from the past year whilst posing questions to engage in delegates in discussion and to help take our work forwards.

Presenters: Clare Hood and Dave Goode, Samuel Whitbread Academy & Facilitator: Abi Thurgood Buss, Dunmow Consortium.

Workshop 5 (GS1)
Using interventions to enhance outcomes for Pupil Premium students

During the workshop teachers from Bottisham and Soham Village Colleges will share intervention strategies they have been using to support pupil premium students. Those attending the workshop will be encouraged to share their own strategies and to have an opportunity to work collaboratively to consider how these could be developed further in their own schools.

Presenters: Jenny Rankine and Lee Anderson, Bottisham Village College; Alice Creswell, Soham Village College & Facilitator: Jan Schofield, Faculty

Workshop 6 (2S7)
Approaches to leading improvements in literacy from a primary and secondary perspective:two case-studies

Maple Tree Lower School and Biddenham School present case-studies of whole-school literacy improvement projects ‘Myflo’ and ‘CLIK’ designed to close the gap in learners’ communication skills.Presentations reflect on the process of leading research-informed improvement which sustains the engagement of staff and students.The workshop will include opportunities for discussion and reflection on emergent themes.

Presenters: Pauline Duncombe and Alison Hyndman, Maple Tree Lower School; Ruth Pineda and Doug Wise, Biddenham School & Facilitator: Jennie Richards, Emeritus Sharnbrook.

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Lesson Study at Samuel Whitbread Academy

Check out this blogpost on the Lesson Study UK site by Nick Martin:

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The Bumpy Road to Using Research Evidence in Schools

The School-University Research Partnership (SUPER) is a network between researching schools and the Faculty of Education at Cambridge. The SUPER network has been around since the late nineties and in the meantime partners have learned a lot about developing research cultures in schools.

A lot of the learning has come from all the bumps in the partnership road.

It may not be a big surprise, but it can be challenging to build research cultures in the dynamic practice of schools. The thing with bumps is that after each bump you have to count if everyone is still on board. Did anybody fall off? Is everybody still motivated to do research? Do teaching staff still feel they have ownership of the research in their school? Are they excited to pursue their questions? Fair questions that all schools and partnerships involved in research should keep asking themselves.

bumpy-road-signSo how do you keep everyone on board?

Last year SUPER decided to ask all educators in our eleven partnership schools what motivates them to apply research findings in their practice. The question is part of a larger study into schools’ research cultures and the way research evidence is shared and used. 549 educators responded (57% response rate) and shared their views. They told us what drives them, how they prefer to participate in research, in what format research findings are best presented, what role colleagues play, what support they need and what kind of recognition they value most.


Checklist ‘Motivation for Use of Research Evidence in Schools’

We decided to summarize the items with the highest average scores as they give us a pretty good insight in what motivates educators to use research evidence in school practice. We don’t say that there can be no more, but at least these seem very important to educators in schools. We have summarized our findings into a checklist that allows schools and partnership networks to reflect on the way their (research) activities motivate their school staff to use research evidence. Feel free to use it, refer to it, and lets us know your thoughts.

Download the Checklist Here: Checklist Research Knowledge Use

We encourage everyone involved in research in schools to use this checklist. We all know the road to research rich schools is bumpy. Now, lets make sure no one is left behind…

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researchEd ‘Research Leads’ Cambridge Network Day 14/3/15

A quick post to share links and blog posts from others that capture another incredibly rich, rewarding and thought provoking day thanks to the researchED team of Tom Bennett, Helene Galdin-O’Shea, Corpus Christi College and all the presenters and participants.

A cold but sunny day started off well with breakfast at Aromi (highly recommended – but get there early!)


A group of us from SUPER (or as Tom is now calling us ‘power rangers’!) presented in a session featuring the work of two of our ‘research leads’ or ‘teacher research co-ordinators’ (TRCs) as we call them in the network i.e. Clare Hood (Samuel Whitbread Academy) and Abi Thurgood-Buss (Rodings School and Dunmow Consortium).

SUPER Research Leads Presentation Cambridge 140315

clare and Abi

Jan and myself (Bethan) supported from the Faculty with extra audience support from Laura, Lucy, Ben, Jacq and Lisa.

Power rangers

One of the best aspects of researchEd is the opportunity to network with friends old and new and get to meet social media/twitter friends IRL (‘in real life’)!  It was good to finally meet Vincent Lien @fratribus and to hear him eloquently and convincingly make the case that teachers should have access to research journals.


He’s set up a petition which can be signed here:

Great blogposts reflecting on the day have already been posted by @drgaryjones

Research Leads Cambridge and What’s Love Got to do With It – CUPID and the classification of research activity

and Nick Rose AKA @turnfordblog:

Developing Research Leads in Schools: the Janus-faced role of a research lead

. . . providing much food for thought which we look forward to sharing and discussing with all our TRCs back in the network and via this blog. There will be more blogs by other presenters/participants and we’ll post and re-tweet links as they appear.

Another brilliant researchEd event which we were very glad to be part of!

Storify of selected tweets from the day

Tom and SUPER people

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impact: The new action research journal from Impington Village College!

Happy new year to all! We are delighted to promote and support a new and exciting initiative by our colleagues at Impington Village College, one of our partnership schools. The college has published Issue 1 of impact, a journal featuring research carried out by teachers. The journal was launched at a college ‘researchmeet’ on 19th December 2014 – a storify of tweets records aspects of the event here:

Mike Murray, editor and teacher research co-ordinator, introduces Issue 1 as follows:

Welcome to impact photothe first ever impact journal. As a group of staff who have done action research, completed further degree work or are in the process of professional learning through action research, we are committed to using in school research to improve our professional practice as effective teachers. By action research we actually mean any of the ways staff reflect on their practice and improve it by self, peer and student evaluation. This might mean bringing in and trying new ideas taken from critical reading. It might involve class observation, student or staff interviews or questionnaires or investigating what the quantitative and qualitative data we hold on students shows. This journal is one of the ways we are as staff sharing our findings with each other at Impington Village College. It is also about making it available to anyone who is interested through our website and our links to other networks.

This issue of impact features:

  • Student self-concept impacts anxiety – Christine Martin
  • The ‘right’ way with teacher feedback – Suzanne Culshaw
  • How do we manage clashes with our values and our job? Rob Campbell

Congratulations to Impington for this inaugural issue and we look forward to reading the next one! Read Issue 1 here: impact journal – Issue 1 Autumn 2014

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SUPER at the inaugural researchED ‘Research Leads’ Conference, 13/12/14

A team of six of us (Ros, Bethan, Jan, Clare, Ruth & Jacq) had a very interesting and productive day out at the inaugural researchEd event for teachers leading research in schools hosted at King’s College, London last Saturday 13th December.

You can see a ‘storify’ of tweets relating to SUPER from the event on Saturday – which we hope will convey some of the activities and responses on the day:

Tom’s storify about the whole event can be accessed here:

The official programme for the day is can be accessed here. Prof Becky Francis welcomed participants as host on the behalf of King’s College.

We presented for 30 minutes as a team on aspects of our work – with a focus on our research ‘leads’ or as we call them ‘teacher research co-ordinators’ – and then we helped to facilitate small group discussions before a plenary. Our slides can be accessed here: researchED SUPER Dec 2014 Presentation slides (on the day many of our slides were animated). We planned all of this by collaborating virtually on a google doc and google slides – then we assembled the final ppt with everyone’s contributions.

Tom Bennett has blogged about the event in the TES here:

The event has definitely drawn a lot of attention to us and what we do. There was lots of interest in SUPER and our schools’ research ‘leads’ and research.  Our page ‘access to research’ is proving particularly popular:

To access a range of brilliant blogs by event participants reflecting on the event check out the hashtag #rEDlead

The next research Leads event is closer to home (for those of us based here of course): Corpus Christi College, Cambridge! It’s on Saturday 14th March and TICKETS ARE NOW AVAILABLE!

We’ll shaIMG_3873re more about the conference last Saturday and our reflections next term but in the meantime we’d like to encourage all SUPER school leaders, TRCs and anyone interested in school-based research to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity to be part of an exciting event and get a ticket now – and especially since it’s taking place in Cambridge. Tickets are restricted and they will definitely sell out fast! We thoroughly recommend participating in this event.

Merry Christmas & Happy holidays!

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