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Research Published That Distinguishes Common Qualities In High Performing Uk Schools

Research Published That Distinguishes Common Qualities In High Performing Uk Schools

By Gavin Mackintosh And Bethany Ruby Rose-

A report on ‘School cultures and practices: supporting the attainment of disadvantaged pupils’, has been released today, in which the qualities of high performing primary and secondary Uk schools were highlighted. The report based on research conducted by a think-tank group called LKMco was authoured by Sam Baars, Bart Shaw, Ellie Mulcahy and Loic Menzies.

The research  examined the ‘London Effect’ from a number of different angles from the effects of policy initiatives, accountability and governance, to demographics pupil characteristics and workforce factors. It was based on a deep two-day  qualitative case studies of 16 primary and 7 secondary schools
across England, conducted between September 2016 and July 2017. The research provides an in-depth analysis of a set of school cultures and practices that
existing research has linked to positive outcomes for disadvantaged pupils.

The authors said the research ranged from  ”cultures and practices and how schools support parents’ and pupils’ aspirations and expectations, to the way in which they use data and evidence to monitor outcomes and how they respond to the latest developments in research.providing a rich description and comparison of different cultures and practices, rather than looking to provide a full causal account of how these cultures and practices shape
pupil outcomes.  Its appraisal sought to seek the contrast between high-performing schools at both primary and secondary level  with lower performing schools. The research found  striking similarities between high performing schools across the country , highlighting strong qualities that were  common practise in high performing schools that have produced excellent results for its pupils. Attention given to disadvantaged pupils in high performing schools was one of the noted qualities by the researchers, but so was the tendency for such schools to continue to raise challenges presented to academically strong pupils in order to keep improving their standards. The research reveal key strategies used in ensuring high standards of behaviour- a problem that plagues many low performing schools.

One factor that seems to be missing in the research, but independently discovered by The Eye Of Media.Com’s own excellent research team is  the fact that many high performing schools select a proportion of pupils from stable parental backgrounds and professions to ensure a high presence of seriousness and dedication in their school. This factor is not present in all high performing schools, but actually adopted in many of them.

It cannot be legitimately criticized because  secures the kind of serious learning environment high performing schools want for those other children in the school who may not have the same level of support that children from educated or professional backgrounds have. Parental educational  backgrounds has also been long established as influential factors in a child’s intelligence level, although their are a number that defy this conclusion. A key factor present in high performing schools was also the skill and expertise in actively involving parents in the educational development of their children, ensuring that they respond to the high standards  of academic being established by those schools.

The extensive findings of the research is to be studied by all serious primary and secondary schools in the Uk, especially those that need to raise the performance of their students. It is also being studied in detail by four members of The Eye Of Media.Com team involved in education research on behalf of this publication. Every detail of the well studied research is highly valuable, but different organisations, teachers and parents will take different things from it. Data literacy has been highlighted by Schools Week Uk highlighting  a limited application and understanding of data literacy in different schools. High performing schools revealed  staff  who were “confident in handling data and using data to inform their practice”, the authors of the research from the think-tank group LKMco., concluded. Many schools made the error of not acknowledging the usefulness of data in being used for the benefit of individual pupils, rather than just serving a wider system of accountability.

High-performing schools at both primary and secondary level made sure all their staff were “confident in handling data and using data to inform their practice”, according to authors of the report Sam Baars, Bart Shaw, Ellie Mulcahy and Loic Menzies of the think-tank LKMco.School cultures and practices varied more by a school’s performance than by location. Some features of school culture were recognizable across all the schools involved in the
research. The researchers observed that leaders and staff shared common motivations across all schools, and believed that they were able to have a positive impact on disadvantaged pupils’ outcomes.

Many common practices were also recognizable from the extensive research, such as the way data were collected and analysed and the day-to-day systems used for managing behaviour and attendance.  However, other cultures and practices did appear to vary with school performance. In general, high-performing schools inside and outside London resembled each other closely.  Sometimes these common cultures and practices spanned high performing primaries and secondaries, while in other cases they appeared to be more phase specific.


High-performing primaries appeared to be particularly attentive to raising disadvantaged  pupils’ attainment, and displayed particularly high levels of shared staff purpose compared to lower-performing primaries. High-performing schools across both phases tended to hold particularly high expectations that mainly influence teacher practice.  They also engender particularly positive relationships between staff, parents and pupils,

In addition, they have greater conviction that their practices were enough to ‘make a difference’
with disadvantaged pupils, and also respond positively to pupils’ aspirational goals and clearly structure their practice
around them.

Lower-performing schools that  exhibited these cultures and strong values did so less frequently than high-peforming schools. They also  tended not to state their culture in the specific terms that high-performing schools used. Moreover, cultures were less often linked explicitly to practice in lower-performing schools. The research also revealed some distinctive practices  evident in both high-performing primary and secondary schools. It highlights that high-performing schools in both phases appeared to make more use of very early support for pupils falling behind in key curriculum areas. Other practices
of high-performing schools appeared to be distinctive to primary schools.

Another useful observation was that  high performing primary schools appeared to be more likely than lower-performing primary
schools to tailor teaching to individual pupils such as by setting more challenging work for
pupils who were progressing well. Opportunities for philosophy, oracy and debating were also common place in both high performing primary and secondary schools.  The research also revealed  that where lower-performing schools demonstrated similar practices to high-performing
schools,  a narrower range of strategies or were adopted in earlier stages of implementing their approaches.


The content of this article was contributed to by both authours.

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