4. Investment in Excellence - Speke Garston Partnership, Liverpool
Investment in Excellence is a programme developed by the Pacific Institute, a privately funded international educational organisation, which aims to help participants form a positive view of themselves and to provide strategies for coping with change. Although not specifically targeted at educational institutions - it is applied throughout commerce, industry, military sport and social sectors - it is used widely by LEAs in this country.
In Speke Garston, the Speke Comprehensive (and, to a lesser extent, other local schools) introduced the programme to try to combat the poor self-image held by both students and teachers, which in both cases was hindering educational development and attainment in the area.
Background: Problems to be Tackled
- The teachers have moved outside standard teacher's professional development training activity to seek new ways of working which have been developed in industry and elsewhere.
- The project recognises that education and learning must operate within the overall parameters of a person's life. Trying to teach people whilst not addressing severe motivational dysfunction is almost certain to lead to failure.
- Many teacher participants on the IIE programme claim that the programme has helped them with their own problems of motivation and direction when faced with a multitude of problems and programmes. This has led them to be more motivated and better teachers.
- The programme addresses the motivation of the three key elements involved in the learning process - students, teachers and parents. There is evidence that students can be held back by parents who assume that their child cannot reach high levels of achievement.
- In a climate of partnership this programme develops the partnership between teacher and student and breaks down the 'us and them' syndrome which can be a major barrier to improvement.
Speke Garston is an area of about 25,000 people in the south of Liverpool. It suffers from low levels of employment and educational attainment, and high levels of poverty. The population has fallen over the last 20 years, though it has been stable since 1997; between 1991 and 1997, the numbers of young and old people in the area both increased, while the number of economically active people dropped by 15%per cent. The area is characterised as one of 'poor social conditions, lack of jobs, difficult family circumstances, and lack of money and therefore opportunity', and these issues inevitably affect children's education. Research for the area's Education Action Zone team identified the following issues for projects dealing with education in the area:
There is also the very significant problem here, as in most areas of deprivation, of feelings of despair and hopelessness. Many young people assume that they cannot succeed: they do not believe that they are clever, and they receive little positive encouragement at home. Schools can reinforce this negative self-image by their discipline and exclusion procedures. The problem is not confined only to students, but also affects teachers. Teaching staff in these areas often suffer their own problems of self-esteem, facing immense social problems among their pupils on a daily basis, in which they are often powerless to intervene.
- A significantly high proportion of children is statemented, or has additional needs.
- There are concerns about reconciling the delivery of the national curriculum with dealing with other factors that affect children's learning.
- Resources were found to be inflexible and inadequate to target need. Compounding the difficulty were factors such as health, poor housing and unemployment.
- Practices condoning non-attendance were high among parents.
- Access to psychological services when required by schools is limited.
How the Project was Developed
Investment in Excellence is one of several education and training projects funded by the Speke Garston Partnership's SRB budget: the partnership and the local community were quick to recognise the importance of education in the area's long-term regeneration, particularly given the low educational attainment from which it suffers. The importance of education to the SRB partnership can be seen in the fact that their largest flagship scheme, due to go on site in the summer, is a £13.5 million Forward Learning Centre. This will provide a new site, buildings and facilities for Speke Comprehensive, a new Library, access facilities for adults for vocational and non-vocational training and a community services centre.
The Pacific Institute's Investment in Excellence programme begins in schools with work with teachers; the benefits for them then trickle down to the classroom, resulting in gains for students too. The projects aims to:
The programme consists of two distinct stages built around two residential weekends, about six weeks apart. Although staff are not paid to attend, all their expenses are covered. At Speke Comprehensive, about three-quarters of the staff volunteered to take part.
According to Pacific Institute, 'the first phase of the programme consists of a series of videos, discussions and activities led by a trained facilitator. This stage of the training presents the concepts and the tools for change: the focus is on a range of aspects of cognitive psychology … [and] personal development of the whole person.' This is followed by a four-week, audio-supported self-study programme designed to reinforce the key concepts. In the second phase, the focus shifts to 'the application of tools or concepts … in the professional or organisational setting.' It is designed to be used flexibly to accommodate the needs of the participating school, but includes organisational vision and goal-setting, styles and teamwork, feedback, creativity, resilience, empowerment and accountability, and the development of optimism.
- help staff, students and pupils face challenges, think positively, make decisions about their own development, manage relationships, develop motivation and self-belief;
- empower people to realise much more of their potential;
- build upon the psychology, which created records of achievement and Individual Action Planning;
- develop the management potential of staff in schools by developing sound problem-solving techniques and
- build upon traditional school industry links in the development of leadership programmes, personnel development programmes, support for 'at risk' students and career development programmes.
The programme then begins to have an effect on the students in two ways:
The cost of the teacher development side of the activity was approximately £17,000, which trained 72 staff (of whom 6 were trained as facilitators) and met all costs of lecturers, accommodation, materials and travel. This was met on a shared basis equally by the SRB Partnership and the European Social Fund. The cost of the continuing activity within the school is approximately £200 per pupil per year.
The staff do things in a different way. They use the techniques learnt to promote positive attitudes amongst pupils by continual reinforcement of good behaviour activity whereas in the past they may have reacted to poor behaviour and activity. The school promotes a 'can do' culture in all its activities and interactions with students.
The type of programme used for teachers has been modified to meet the needs of two sets of students:
- Year 7 students, who work though the principles for one hour per week as part of the National Curriculum. They use a Pacific Institute programme, It Starts With Me, developed for this age group.
- Year 10 and 11 students: marginal students who have ability but are in danger of under achieving are given more encouragement through a variation of the programme, Pathways to Excellence. In this case students are taken away for a residential weekend and encouraged to stretch themselves for pre-exam preparation and their GCSEs.
Outcomes and Achievements
As yet there has been no formal evaluation of this work, and full analysis will not be possible until the first year 7 group to have been involved in the project moves through the system so that SAT and GSCE results are available for comparison. However, two sets of teachers have received the training and one set of year 10/11 pupils, along with the whole of last year's year 7, have benefited from the appropriate elements of activity. Informal reviews suggest that Investment in Excellence is working for Speke Comprehensive.
- Some teachers say that they have 'had their lives changed' by the process, and feel much more confident in their work and relationships with students. A side effect of this has been an improved number of promotions among staff, though unfortunately in some cases this has taken them outside the area.
- The year 7 pupils are thought to be more developed than their predecessors, and cause fewer problems. However, different year groups do present themselves differently, so it is hard to make direct comparisons.
- The year 11 pupils were thought to have achieved better exam results than would otherwise have been the case.
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