Internet insights

28th April 2000 at 01:00
HARD facts and cold percentages don't always capture the subtle qualities of good school leadership. Adrian Smith and Catherine Sykes from Edge Hill College, Lancashire, thought a different research approach was needed. First they carried out interviews and observations in primaries that were achieving very different results in similar catchment areas.

This led them to pick out three management styles: the peaches, the plums and the damsons. The peaches seemed to be doing well, the plums were beginning to perform but still lacked at least one key ingredient, and the damsons' progress was only "modest". Heads in peach schools paid more attention to monitoring the curriculum and were more likely to have served in other schools on secondment. The plum heads had vision but were sometimes struggling to get the staff they needed to achieve their goals.

Heads in the damson schools had been a long time in post, or had been recently promoted within their own school. They were probably teaching classes rather than observing their colleagues teach.

The full report The Soft Fruits of School Improvement has recommendations for heads, deputies, governors and curriculum co-ordinators. It's online at

documents00001397.htm.The study is a contribution to a forthcoming conference on the role of qualitative evidence in professional practice being held at Coventry University from May 15 to 17. The conference website is at Another paper to be discussed there will be Beverley Hardcastle Stanford's American study of mature and resilient teachers who seem to be thriving in inner-city Los Angeles and Washington.

Their high morale and perseverance seems to be built on ordinary human values. They ask for help from colleagues, and they enjoy working with their children.Professor Stanford writes "the predominant reason they have persevered with enthusiasm is their passion for making a difference in the lives of their students". Her worry is that the wisdom of these veterans is in danger of being lost. Her full report is at: Readers can suggest future Internet Insights to Sam Saunders at Education researchers who wish to disseminate their

findings in The TES should send summaries of no more than 750 words to David Budge, Research

Editor, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East

Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Tel 020 7782 3276. E-mail:

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