Consistency the key to good practice

6th June 2003 at 01:00
A programme that dramatically improves the performance of schools by making their practice more consistent is to be set out today by international specialists at a conference in London.

The method, which is to underpin practice in the new city academies, aims to introduce the same reliability into education that is found in systems such as air traffic control, where constant training, monitoring and precision are needed to avoid disaster.

Schools in Wales that have followed the programme - which involves constant evaluation of pupil and teacher performance, the pursuit of a small number of finite goals, and close attention to the school environment - have seen striking improvements in their performance. David Reynolds, professor of education at Exeter University, will tell the conference that their GCSE results have improved at nearly twice the rate for all Welsh schools and nearly three times the rate for all English schools. The conference is being sponsored by the Centre for British Teachers (CfBT).

The concept of "high reliability schools" was originally developed in the United States after research in Louisiana showed that the quality most often demonstrated by successful schools was not brilliance of administration or teaching but consistency.

The first two pilot schemes in England did not produce improvements in schools' performance until the method was adapted to meet their needs and focused on good practice in the classroom.

And in Wales, the initial emphasis on producing "failure-free schools" had to be changed after teachers said it was "wildly unrealistic".

"Air traffic controllers don't have to deal with planes that don't want to be landed," one said.

Another pointed out: "Teachers have to deal with children who want to fly to Paris when they've been told to fly to London."

Other speakers at today's conference include Eugene Schaffer of the University of Maryland and Sam Stringfield of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

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