Academic work on school improvement is crucial

30th January 1998 at 00:00
As the subject of a "fly on the wall" article (TES Friday magazine, January 16), I wish to compliment the author on capturing something of the urgency found in many inner-city schools during the past week of what is commonly agreed to be the longest and most exhausting term.

The quotes attributed to myself were in almost all cases an accurate reflection of my comments, both guarded and unguarded. There is, however, one quote which I believe demands clarification, suggesting as it does that I am dismissive of academic work in the field of school improvement. In marked contrast to the sentiments attributed to me, I firmly believe that the drive to raise standards in schools has been greatly informed and assisted by academic researchers in this crucial area. Foremost among them is Professor Peter Mortimore, who has amassed a significant body of relevant and highly stimulating research which lies at the heart of the school improvement movement.

This work has had and continues to have a profound influence on my own efforts and those of many others. Far from dismissing the contribution of researchers, I would call for more academic work focused on the underlying factors affecting the ability of institutions and individuals to improve their performance. This research should chart a differentiated pathway for schools depending on their starting points.

WILLIAM SAMUEL ATKINSON

Headteacher Phoenix High School Shepherds Bush London W12

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