Race to top edges out good practice

7th August 1998 at 01:00
CONTINUING competition between some secondary schools is getting in the way of spreading good practice, according to a survey of chief education officers.

And over-modest teachers and schools are reluctant to share their insights with colleagues for fear of appearing "boastful".

The survey on the identification and dissemination of good practice by education authorities was carried out for the good ideas good practice subgroup of the government's Standards Task Force.

"You don't raise standards or identify good practice by wagging fingers at people. You have to create a climate of professional trust," said Carol Adams, chair of the subgroup and chief education officer in Shropshire.

The responses - from 64 of the 150 authorities surveyed - show that having to write education development plans is focusing officers' attention on good practice: nearly a third of authorities are refining existing practice or establishing new mechanisms for sharing good practice.

But while a fifth felt their methods of identifying and disseminating good practice were effective, 15 per cent felt they were patchy or only partially effective, one in 10 said it was difficult to judge or quantify, and another 10 per cent said they could be more systematic.

Ms Adams said it was not clear from the survey how the effectiveness of good practice initiatives was being evaluated. "We need to know which strategies lead to better teaching, learning and attainment, and this will require monitoring over time," she said.

She also said that competition over funding, status, and admissions remained a problem at secondary level, although dissemination of good practice was taking place at departmental and subject level. One authority brokered an agreement that all local schools would support another's bid for specialist status, in exchange for access to the specialist facilities gained.

Several chief education officers highlighted the necessity to create a positive, supportive climate in which examples of good practice could be debated - partly to encourage good practitioners to overcome their modesty and share their experiences with colleagues.

"An important role for the education authority is to boost morale and performance in the many schools who are good but not yet excellent," said one.

"Additionally, there is a reticence by teachers to publicly demonstrate their successes and it is a priority of the authority to find more ways for class teachers to share their successes."

Members of the Standards Task Force subgroup may now visit some of the survey authorities. Ms Adams is also hoping to ask some respondents to lead seminars at a conference on good practice, and wants to develop a handbook for education authorities on identifying and disseminating good practice.

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