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How Very Effective Primary Schools Work
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How Very Effective Primary Schools Work



February 2006 | 208 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
'Chris James, Michael Connolly, Gerald Dunning and Tony Elliott have produced a comprehensive analysis of the very effective primary school. Although the research for the book draws on the authors' experiences in Welsh Primary Schools, the range of literature cited and the analytical frameworks employed ensure that their findings have a much broader relevance. They define 'a very effective' school as one that provides high levels of attainment and rich educational experiences despite being located in extremely challenging circumstances. A key insight of the book is that although these schools are consequently 'extraordinary' their practice was in many ways quite 'ordinary'. This is because these schools worked in much the same way as the very best of schools have always done. In many ways, this as the authors note, is an optimistic message – that all children deserve to be educated in such very effective schools. The virtue of How Very Effective Primary Schools Work is that it makes clear those characteristics and strategies that can help every school to become great' - David Hopkins, HSBC iNet Chair of International Leadership, and formerly Chief Adviser on School Standards to the Secretary of State 2002-2005

'All children, especially the poorest, deserve capable, mature and well adjusted teachers and leaders who work together to lay firm foundations of learning and behaviour, then enrich and elevate everyone's learning far beyond that in optimistic cultures of security, persistence and hope. Based on solid research from 18 outstanding schools in challenging circumstances, this is the vital message of this important and unique book. Chris James and his colleagues show that highly effective schools need high functioning adults and communities who expect and get the best from everyone, dedicate themselves to others without burning themselves out, are not frightened of challenges and contradictions, stay around to fulfil their obligations to others and see their efforts bear fruit, and are emotionally comfortable in their own skin. If you want to become more effective as a school you will need to become more effective and adjusted as a teacher, a leader and an all-round human being. This inspiring and indispensable book, will stir and steer all who read it in that educationally essential quest' - Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education, Boston College

All good teachers and headteachers are concerned with improving pupil attainment. In high attainment schools, they must recognize how to sustain success. In schools with low attainment levels, they must come to understand the challenges they face and find ways of overcoming the difficulties.

This practical, research-based book describes the key approaches used by very effective schools. The authors explain how success can be achieved and maintained and describe ways of working that bring about high levels of pupil attainment. They also explain why these ways of working are successful.

This book is essential reading for headteachers, teachers, students of educational leadership and management, school governors, and those who work in local authorities.

 
A Review of the Literature
Key Issues in School Effectiveness

 
The Characteristics of Effective Schools

 
Schools in Challenging Circumstances

 
Organisational Culture

 
Contextual Influences on Effectiveness

 
 
A Way of Understanding Schools as Institutions
Theories - Purposes and Problems

 
System Psychodynamics

 
Aspects of the System Psychodynamics

 
 
The Research
The Education System in Wales

 
The Central Issue

 
The Kind of Study We Undertook

 
The Schools We Studies

 
The Data Collection and Analysis

 
The Case Study Schools - The Nature of Disadvantage

 
 
The Central Characteristic
A Productive Culture

 
A Strong Culture

 
A Highly Inclusive Culture

 
Continuing Professional Development

 
Changes/Initiatives

 
Extra-Curricular Activities

 
 
Leadership
The Headteacher

 
The Development of Leadership Density and Depth

 
The Leadership Work of the Governing Bodies

 
 
The Mindset
The Mindset

 
 
The Teaching Team
The Teachers

 
Teamwork

 
Additional Classroom Support

 
 
The Pupils and Their Parents
Pupil Engagement and Commitment

 
Parental Engagement and Commitment

 
 
Very Efficient and Effective Organisation
Structure, Management and Systems

 
The Management of Pupil Performance Data

 
The Sizes of the Schools

 
 
The Mutual Support, Validation and Valuing Of The Community
The Schools and Their Local Communities

 
The Schools and the Wider Community

 
The Schools and the Education System

 
 
What Makes These Schools Very Effective?
An Interpretive Review of the Findings

 
The Characteristics of the Case Study Schools In Comparison With the Characteristics of Effective Schools

 
Why Were These Schools Very Effective?

 
Concluding Comments

 
The Primary Task

Interpreting the Outcomes
Group Mentalities

 
Espoused Theories and In Use Theories

 
Leadership

 
Boundaries

 
Defensive Behaviours

 
Containment and the Transformation of Anxiety and Emotion into Creativity

 
Working with Passion

 
Collaboration

 
 
Concluding Comments
Reflections on the Research and the Outcomes

 
New Research Issues

 
Messages for All Schools

 
Very Effective Schools Are What All Children Deserve

 

'Chris James, Michael Connolly, Gerald Dunning and Tony Elliott have produced a comprehensive analysis of the very effective primary school. Although the research for the book draws on the authors’ experiences in Welsh Primary Schools, the range of literature cited and the analytical frameworks employed ensure that their findings have a much broader relevance. They define ‘a very effective’ school as one that provides high levels of attainment and rich educational experiences despite being located in extremely challenging circumstances. A key insight of the book is that although these schools are consequently ‘extraordinary’ their practice was in many ways quite ‘ordinary’. This is because these schools worked in much the same way as the very best of schools have always done. In many ways, this as the authors note, is an optimistic message – that all children deserve to be educated in such very effective schools. The virtue of How Very Effective Primary Schools Work is that it makes clear those characteristics and strategies that can help every school to become great' - David Hopkins, HSBC iNet Chair of International Leadership, and formerly Chief Adviser on School Standards to the Secretary of State 2002-2005

'All children, especially the poorest, deserve capable, mature and well adjusted teachers and leaders who work together to lay firm foundations of learning and behaviour, then enrich and elevate everyone's learning far beyond that in optimistic cultures of security, persistence and hope. Based on solid research from 18 outstanding schools in challenging circumstances, this is the vital message of this important and unique book. Chris James and his colleagues show that highly effective schools need high functioning adults and communities who expect and get the best from everyone, dedicate themselves to others without burning themselves out, are not frightened of challenges and contradictions, stay around to fulfil their obligations to others and see their efforts bear fruit, and are emotionally comfortable in their own skin. If you want to become more effective as a school you will need to become more effective and adjusted as a teacher, a leader and an all-round human being. This inspiring and indispensable book, will stir and steer all who read it in that educationally essential quest' - Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education, Boston College


"...This book provides a valuable theoretical underpinning for those who want to develop their schools into learning institutions and make a strong commitment to their communities."  —JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE

Karl-Heinz Arnold
University of Hildesheim
Journal of Educational Change

Some interesting and thought provoking ideas that makes this publication useful for both students and lecturers.

Mr Gwyn Ellis
School of Education, Bangor University
February 13, 2013

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