Tough focus is bucking trend

Karen Thornton

The gap in pupil performance between the most deprived and most well-off primary schools in Wales is shrinking, but still substantial, new research shows.

And all primary schools could learn from colleagues in tough areas who have bucked the historic association of lower attainment with deprivation.

Eight years ago, there was a 32 per cent difference between the best and worst-performing schools in the core subjects of English or Welsh, maths and science in national curriculum tests at 11.

By 2004, this gap had narrowed to 23 per cent, according to a report published by the Assembly government and the Welsh Local Government Association.

It confirms that overall the attainment of school pupils in Wales decreases as disadvantage increases. But some primary schools in the toughest areas are bucking this trend.

The central characteristic of such schools is a "productive, strong and highly inclusive culture" that relentlessly focuses on delivering, and improving, effective and enriching teaching for learning.

Six other key characteristics reinforce this central focus:

* strong leadership by all staff, including headteachers;

* an optimistic mindset, with an expectation of achievement;

* teamwork;

* engaging pupils and parents;

* efficient and effective organisation and management;

* mutual support and valuing of other organisations, including LEAs and community groups.

The findings are based on questionnaires returned by 165 trend-bucking primary schools from across Wales, and case studies of 18 from 12 LEA areas.

pedagogy 4 Narrowing the gap phase II, see www.learning.wales.gov.uk

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Karen Thornton

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