Out with hierarchy, in with improvement

At this year's British Educational Research Association conference David Budge discovers that 42 is not the answer and Maureen O'Connor reports on the pick of the papers at an event that remained upbeat in the face of criticism.

"In some schools staff have to spend a 10-year apprenticeship before they become senior enough to express views on how the school might improve. By then all their radical dimensions have been knocked out of them."

The view of this headteacher sums up one of the problems that the University of Cambridge IQEA (Improving the Quality of Education for All) project is trying to solve, the BERA conference was told.

IQEA attempts to involve all teachers in school improvement by establishing research and development teams (or cadres) which cut across hierarchical and departmental boundaries and deliberately bring together a mix of staff who do not usually meet as a group. Most include the headteacher and all receive support from the Cambridge project team.

IQEA's objective is for the team to plan, implement and evaluate a school's own improvement programme. Over time the Cambridge team has found that such groups renew themselves. New roles for staff emerge and a risk-taking research culture begins to develop in the school.

"School improvement: linking external support to school development" by Michael Fielding and Mel West, University of Cambridge.

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