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A study of external intervention and school improvement in schools facing challenging circumstances

By Christopher James Chapman


Central Government has identified a group of schools deemed to be 'Schools\ud facing Challenging Circumstances'. These schools tend to be low attaining\ud schools that serve socio-economically deprived communities. A range of policy\ud initiatives have resulted in a number of centrally driven interventions aimed at\ud improving these schools. This thesis focuses on the relationship between\ud external intervention and school improvement in schools facing challenging\ud circumstances. The research strategy consisted of three phases, combining case\ud study and survey approaches to explore two examples of centrally driven\ud external intervention. Phases one and two adopted a case study approach to\ud explore OfSTED inspection and the Schools facing Challenging Circumstances\ud Initiative as mechanisms for improvement, while phase three consisted of a\ud survey to triangulate data and explore some general questions pertaining to\ud external interventions. Thus, this research adopted a mixed methods approach\ud collecting interview, questionnaire and documentary evidence from a range of\ud sources and perspectives. The findings are based on data collected from\ud interviews with over 150 teachers in 21 schools and survey data collected from a\ud further 94 teachers in 6 schools facing challenging circumstances in one LEA.\ud This is the first study to explore the relationship between external intervention\ud and school improvement in this particularly challenging group of schools. The\ud findings suggest that if widespread reform is to be achieved a more sophisticated\ud approach to external intervention must be developed. Rather than treating these\ud schools as a homogeneous group, interventions must be differentiated to match\ud individual school cultures, capacity for change and development phase. In\ud conclusion, a typology of schools facing challenging circumstances is presented.\ud It is argued that this typology can inform our thinking to support more\ud sophisticated approaches to intervening and improving these schools

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  2. (2001). 2.2.3 A history ofschool effectiveness research In terms of academic discipline, SE research has a relatively short history, being about thirty-five years old in the USA and under thirty years old in the United Kingdom. As Hopkins
  3. (1991). 2.3.3 A history ofschool improvement research and practice In common with school effectiveness if we are to understand the strengths and weaknesses of school improvement it is helpful to consider the historical developments of the movement. Fullan
  4. (2000). 235The interface between the DfES and these schools was considered to be an area for further development. Headteachers reported that the initial launch meeting for the schools in
  5. (2001). 3.3 Schools facing challenging circumstances: Low attainment and Ineffectiveness Policy makers (DfES,
  6. (1992). 3.5.1 Exploring accountability based intervention: OfSTED inspection Until
  7. (1991). 302.2.2 What is school effectiveness? A commonly used definition of SE is that an effective school is "one in which pupils progress further than might be expected from Consideration of its intake" (Mortimore,
  8. (1996). 361The call for context specific improvement is well established. As Stoll t I et et.,
  9. (1997). 4.2 Developing a Theoretical Framework: the research process Robson
  10. (1985). 48) By the mid 1990's Hopkins
  11. (1994). 5.2.2 Data collection Prior to site visits to the schools each school was supplied with copies of the management conditions survey developed by Ainscow
  12. (2002). 5.3.4 Data collection Data were collected from eleven schools in England during the spring term,
  13. (2001). 5.5 Summary This chapter has provided details of the methods used to collect data at each of the research phases in this thesis. In summary, this chapter outlines a research design underpinned by the principles of 'third wave' school improvement
  14. (1994). 5.8). For further details of this technique see 'Creating the conditions for school improvement' (Ainscow et et.
  15. (2001). 70However, the evolution of this genre of programme has also raised some issues and tensions. Despite the rhetoric calling for synergy
  16. (2002). 853.3.1 Social disadvantage and school improvement Research has consistently demonstrated that social disadvantage impacts on the education of students both directly and indirectly
  17. (1995). 9.2.4 Role of leadership Leadership has been identified as a key characteristic of effective schools
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  21. (2001). claims it has demonstrated "vite! signs" of improvement by reducing truancy and exclusion and improving pupils' attitude (Although he provides no supporting evidence for this). Barber
  22. (1995). colleagues at Oxford Brookes University recognized the importance of feedback in relation to teacher anxiety (Brimblecombe
  23. (1997). D is located In a city on the south coast of England. It is a mixed comprehensive school that has undergone a major expansion programme since
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  25. (1985). Different groups kept in contact through general conferences and the ISIP newsletter. Publications were managed by the General Editorial Board, and included works such as 'Making School Improvement Work', a conceptual guide to practice (van Velzen et a/.,
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  27. e d'>" a y \ 1e d'w~y ',I. d,vay • ~ t e d ay t 1ett ay I.t ect ~y '.led ay ancasbire lancashlf. l ancashire I J-ancashHe Lan cashir e Lancashire Li nc ash ile Laneas hue l ancashire La nciI!
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  35. (2000). field the researcher is placed in a privileged position (Denzin and Lincoln,
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  37. (2001). For the good or effective schools Hopkins
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  45. (1986). In response to methodological critiques SE researchers worked to develop more sophisticated methodologies including the development of multilevel statistical analysis. This new wave of studies was led by Aitkin and Longford's
  46. (2001). In the UK successful school improvement projects and programmes, even those proving to be most effective, have adopted a fairly uniform approach to school development and change (Harris,
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  53. (2000). p. 20) This section will draws on phases one to four of this framework to tackle issues relating to the research process. 1374.2.1 The researcher: A brief exploration ofself Denzin and Lincoln
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  63. Table 8.3: Respondents likely to apply for a new post in a similar type ofschool ifthey were to apply for a new post Fre~uency Percent Valid
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  65. (1996). that's the kind of history of the period of leadership that I've come through. I was at the school before, I was the Deputy and the Head had a stroke on his way to school and so I was temporary Head from the beginning of
  66. (2000). The 'involvement' condition is consistently the one with the lowest responses.
  67. (1996). The {Success against the Odds' study (National commission on Education,
  68. (2003). the case study schools (and others in the wider group of SfCC for 353example see Chapman,
  69. (1999). The EiC programme has a relatively brief history since its launch in
  70. (2001). The fifth HMI monitoring visit highlighted this issue and in response the senior team have instigated a review of practice. The headteacher's response to the fifth monitoring visit
  71. (2001). The follow-up study to 'Success Against the Odds' doi
  72. (1994). The fourth and latest phase that
  73. (1986). The Halton board of education is located thirty miles from Toronto, Ontario, and serves forty four thousand students in sixty-six elementary schools and seventeen secondary schools. The Halton Effective Schools Project began in
  74. (2001). The Handbook of Qualitative Research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Clark, P. doi
  75. (2003). The IQEA project began in 1991 with nine schools in East Anglia, North London and Yorkshire. By
  76. (1998). the labels associated with school 'failure' and more recently SfCC have formed the basis for many negative media sound-bites and newspaper headlines (e.g Clark,
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  78. (1997). The most developed work in this area (Hopkins et a/.,
  79. (1996). The programme was underpinned by Fullan's principle
  80. (1998). The school has had a recent troubled history. In
  81. (2000). The school's previous headteacher took early retirement in April
  82. (1996). The Schools Make a Difference Project was an LEA based project that ran between 1993 and 1995 in Hammersmith and Fulham. All eight secondary schools in the borough were "selfselected" (Barber and Dann,
  83. (1999). The second difference is that the Brunei and Helix
  84. (2001). The second theme of external intervention, also common to all of Hopkins'
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  86. (1994). The third phase that Hopkins at al.,
  87. (2000). The third, stage of OfSTED's development started with the introduction of the inspection framework in
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  89. (2000). Theoretical Paradigms and Perspectives Educational research has endured much criticism and scrutiny from policy makers and even researchers within their own community (Kaestle,
  90. (2000). This reduced the number of schools down to 378. Second, the date of the schools' last OfSTED inspection was considered. Only schools that had been inspected since
  91. (2000). Thus, quantitative studies attempt to analyse and measure causal relationships between variables. In contrast, qualitative researchers attempt to address questions examining "how social experience is created and given meaning"
  92. (1997). When considering causal or explanatory case studies the threat of a third unidentified factor is problematic. The existence of such a factor may lead the researcher to incorrectly conclude that A causes B when, actually X causes B (yin,

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