A study to define the key factors that lead to school improvement in the secondary sector
Thesis or dissertation
- © 2008 Gillian Metcalfe. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.
This research has a focus on the identification of the key factors which bring about whole-school improvement in secondary schools. These are a set of dynamic processes which are evidenced in eight secondary schools in the north of England, rather than a checklist of short-term actions to act as a 'quick-fix' to counteract the low performance of a school. The rationale is to discover which factors are most essential, and if any factors are linked together. Do leaders of successful schools prioritise one set of processes over another?
The literature review suggests there are many factors which research supports as intrinsic to improvement, however many of the schools previously studied faced challenging circumstances in areas of social deprivation. This study takes a cross section of eight school leaders as a sample. A composite model is presented highlighting eleven factors which act as levers for improvement, and the subsequent data generated is placed against this conceptual framework. The research methodology presented favours a qualitative approach as the intention is to capture those special features unique to each school context using semi-structured interviews, to discover if the original model could be validated.
In essence, the eight respondents favoured only seven factors which were highly significant. However, it is the inter-relationship between these factors which is most surprising. The respondents referred to the importance of articulating common goals, reflecting on possible courses of action, and then building capacity to create a 'can do' culture by challenging assumptions, whilst seizing opportunities. Improving schools have an achievement focus with students and teachers knowing how to improve their performance, using internal systems to ensure progress and accountability. The respondents operate in a systemic way, networking with other leaders to share and even create new thinking. It was recognised that real improvement processes take time to embed and may be unique to the school context and perhaps not directly transferable elsewhere.
- Centre for Educational Studies, The University of Hull
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