Earlier this year it was reported that some of the 75 schools that the Government had held up as models of excellence were being overwhelmed with calls for advice and being ostracised by their local authorities.
But researchers who have been monitoring the beacon schools initiative since its inception last September believe that the initial results have been much more positive than its detractors have suggested. Most of the 48 beacon schools that responded to a survey mounted by De Montfort University and the University of Leicester were enjoying their new status.
"The vast majority of the schools (85 per cent) claimed that beacon status led to further improvements and developments and over 80 per cent also believed that the year had been a worthwhile and positive experience," said researchers Mark Brundrett and Neil Burton.
Fewer schools (56 per cent) said that beacon status had raised the morale and enthusiasm of staff.
The survey suggests that some beacon schools, which have received about pound;30,000 each to disseminate good practice, do have a difficult relationship with their local authorities and neighbouring schools. "While nearly 70 per cent were able to say that they had been extensively used to support the development of other professionals, the recognition within the LEA was less pronounced with less than 50 per cent claiming an increased achnowledgement of their strengths within their own LEAs."
But the pioneers of the initiative had other advice for the second tranche of 125 schools that have had beacon status since September: ensure that school planning retains a balance between school life and beacon school work, be sensitive to the perceptions of other schools, and link up with other beacon schools. However, their final piece of advice may be most important: "Keep it simple and enjoy the success."
Mark Brundrett is principal lecturer in educational management at De Montfort University. Neil Burton is a lecturer in educational management at the University of Leicester. Their book on the first cohort of beacon schools, Case studies in excellence: the beacon school experience, will be published by Peter Francis next year. A complete list of beacon schools can be found at www.standards.dfee.gov.ukguidancebeaconschools