Education and Lifelong Learning: Research Findings No.62/2010: Research to Support Schools of Ambition

These research findings were published in October 2010.

“The Schools of Ambition (SoA) programme operated between 2005 and 2010. Schools were invited to apply through their local authority, with support from the Scottish Government, for additional resources to implement a locally negotiated plan for transformational change. A total of 52 schools from across the 32 local authorities of Scotland participated in the programme. Schools joined the programme in three tranches between 2005 and 2007. Research to Support Schools of Ambition was commissioned to provide formative feedback to participating schools; and to share the wider lessons learnt across the education community and with policy makers and other stakeholders. The programme was distinctive in Scotland in its promotion of an action research model within a national programme for school change.

Main Findings

  • Staff ownership of transformation was seen as key to success in encouraging and supporting engagement with innovative pedagogical approaches, cross-curricular working and school-based Continuing Professional Development ( CPD).
  • Enhanced networking with other schools, sharing ideas and evidence led to an increasing development of learning communities. Initiatives that involved working in partnership with further education colleges and a range of organisations, e.g. arts and sports providers, were easier to initiate and sustain than business community partnerships and parental engagement.
  • The main reported accelerators of transformation were: staff commitment, collegiality and willingness to collaborate; followed by funding/resources; strong leadership/support from senior management; devolved leadership opportunities; and pupil involvement.
  • The main inhibitors were perceived to be lack of time, staff negativity and other competing initiatives and priorities.
  • Between 2007-09, encouraged by team advisers and mentors, increasing numbers of staff participated in evaluation groups. Although the number of staff actively engaged in professional enquiry overall was a small minority and predominantly involved senior staff, there is some evidence of increased confidence in, and use of, a range of research and evaluation techniques.
  • Whilst attributing impact to specific polices is highly problematic in complex education settings, leaders in five case study schools showing a relative improvement in pupil attainment and school leaver destinations, positively associated Schools of Ambition with these improvements. Headteachers reported that the additional resource supported a range of intervention strategies designed to address specific pupil needs.
  • The more sustainable School of Ambition initiatives beyond the life of the programme were those premised on attitudinal, relational or pedagogical change.
  • Through involvement in the SoA programme, school managers felt more confident in meeting the challenge of fully implementing Curriculum for Excellence.”

The full report is also available.

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