5. Pre-16 School Management and Classroom Practice
Many SRB schemes recognise - often implicitly but sometimes explicitly - the need for improvements in the delivery and management of provision, both in the school and the classroom. This may be tackled, for example, by acknowledging the importance of:
- strong and effective leadership within schools;
- classroom management practices and teaching styles which are challenging;
- performance measurement which helps improve techniques and standards; and
- partnerships involving students, teachers, parents, employers and the wider community.
Tackling the Issues
A number of projects directly or indirectly address school and classroom management and practice.
- Speke Garston's Invest in Excellence scheme aims to help participants form a positive self-image and to provide strategies for coping with change. In Speke Garston the programme was introduced to help teachers and students, whose poor self-image tended to lower teachers' expectations of their students and thus hinder educational development and attainment.
The self-image programme has distinct stages built around two residential weekends, held about six weeks apart. The first phase consists of a series of videos, discussions and activities led by a trained facilitator, which present the concepts and tools for change. In the second phase, the focus shifts to the application of tools or concepts in the professional or organisational setting.
The programme is designed to be used flexibly to accommodate the needs of schools. It includes organisational goal-setting, styles and teamwork and also looks at developing feedback, resilience, empowerment, accountability and optimism.
The programme then begins to have an effect on the students in two ways.
- Informally: the staff do things in different way. They use their new techniques to promote positive attitudes among pupils by continually reinforcing good behaviour whereas in the past they might have reacted to poor behaviour. The school favours a 'can do' culture in all its activities and interactions with students.
- Formally: the type of programme used for teachers has been modified to help two sets of students:
- Year 7 students, who work through the principles for one hour a week as part of the National Curriculum. A Pacific Institute programme, 'It Starts with Me', developed for this age group;
- Year 10 and 11 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.
- Raising Attainment, Coventry is designed to increase attainment among pupils who have a first language other than English. It seeks among other things to improve curriculum planning through the provision of in-service training (INSET) for mainstream staff. The project is tailored for each school to ensure that:
- there is local ownership;
- the project supports the priorities identified in the school development plan; and
- there is enhanced INSET to improve curriculum planning and resource development.
The project's monitoring arrangements are closely linked to the Local Education Authority's overall management information system.
- Quality Starts - Primary Standards Scheme, Sandwell: This improves attainment explicitly by enhancing support for teachers by:
- focusing on the teacher's skills as a promoter of a broad curriculum;
- making more resources available for learning;
- providing professional development and classroom support on project themes that are consistent with school development plans; and
- using the project as a means of developing links with other organisations such as the Educational Technology Unit, Child Psychology Unit, Early Years Support Team and Library Service.
- Waltham Forest's Towards Employability scheme aims to equip local young people with the skills needed to take up local employment opportunities. But two of its four strategic objectives emphasise the improvement of school performance as the mechanism for achieving this substantive goal.
Key features of the scheme include:
- improving the quality of leadership and management through training for 300 heads and senior staff; a programme to secure Investors in People status for all schools; and a project to increase numbers of governors from the private sector (including ethnic minority businesses); and
- improving the quality of delivery through staff retention and re-training; good practice in curriculum leadership; and management information systems linking all schools to the Education Department.
Key Good Practice Lessons
- It is possible, through collaborative approaches to project development and implementation, to use special funding resources to improve mainstream practice.
- Regeneration-funded programmes work best when they are closely integrated with mainstream practice - for example, the school development plan.
- Wherever SRB supports innovative activity, there has to be some element of in-service development built into the project.
- Project monitoring requirements can help improve overall approaches to performance management.