Five trailblazers in Wales join the world's best

The success of five trailblazing secondary schools in Wales is to be profiled in a study of best educational practice in six countries.

Darren Evans

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A series of books, to be published by the Australian company Acer over the next two months, is intended to offer ideas on a good strategy for making education and schools more effective.

Wales's chosen schools line up against top performing schools in Australia, China, England, Finland, and the United States in the study called Why Not The Best Schools? Experts were asked to investigate how they use resources to get the best results.

Professor David Egan, director of the institute of applied education research at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff, carried out the Welsh research. He told TES Cymru that he hopes the results of the study could help shape the Assembly government's attainment-raising school effectiveness framework - a strategy to narrow the gap between Wales's best and worst performing schools and classrooms - as it is introduced nationally across Wales.

Professor Egan chose Treorchy Comprehensive, Barry Comprehensive, Cardiff High, St Joseph's RC Comprehensive in Newport and Ebbw Vale's Glyncoed Comprehensive. These schools were selected because they believed they were successful in their own right.

Cardiff High, Treorchy and St Joseph's each gained a string of seven grades 1s, the highest possible, in their latest inspections. Barry and Glyncoed achieved a mixture of grade 1s and 2s, but the Estyn inspectors said both schools had shown "significant improvement" in teaching standards since previous inspections.

"They are all different schools, from privileged to disadvantaged backgrounds, but all equally effective and successful," said Professor Egan. The global study looks at how schools use teaching skill, funding, resources, social networking and moral and spiritual values to advance. "We explored how much, and to what extent, schools are using those resources and how they are brought together to see if we can better understand what makes a successful school," said Professor Egan.

The authors say the books will provide a detailed account of how schools can be transformed. They offer a 10-point, 10-year strategy for improvement, which Professor Egan hopes will have an impact on policy in Wales.

"All schools can be more effective. Hopefully this will inform the SEF, and be of interest to different types of schools in Wales," he said.

`Why Not the Best Schools?' (Caldwell and Harris, 2008) by Acer Press in Australia available now. The Welsh report is published next month.

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Darren Evans

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