Living improvement: a case study of a secondary school in England

Ruth Mcginity

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Five years ago we worked on a project that focused on a change process as a plan, a practice and a lived experience at Kingswood High School. Drawing on the evaluation data gathered the paper argued that effective improvement in Kingswood is less about the implementation of external reform agendas, and is more about working for educational goals regarding learners and learning. We located this development within a wider educational project of developing the school as a place that valued research as an educational practice, and as essential to shaping a strategic agenda. In this second paper we report on this challenge through reporting on the current phase of ‘living improvement’ through a three year funded project. We began with a review of the school’s development and plans, and undertook a collection of evidence about the school’s commitment to improvement through research by interviewing members of the school leadership team, staff and students, as well as issuing questionnaires to staff, students and parents. We worked with staff and students over a period of a year to investigate their experiences, and what their aspirations are for learning. Through reporting on this phase of the school’s development we intend examining what it really means to be a researching school and we will address two questions relating to the development of school improvement strategies through internal and external funded research at Kingswood High School; What are the issues that have been generated regarding putting learning at the centre of local policymaking? Secondly how and why might primary and agenda setting research as a framework and process enable learning to develop in productive ways? Our findings support the development of a typology that identifies four main positions that may be adopted by the school within the context of developing strategies for improvement: Delivery, Agenda Following, Evaluation and Agenda Setting. This typology illustrates the difference between the remit of a project based on technical predetermined outcomes e.g. to improve tests results or to improve student attitudes to learning, and a project based on change where the aim is to understand and explain a situation as a means of transformation on a local level. On a national level the typology indicates the difference between a project determined by national policy, guidance and law requiring implementation as a means of improvement or change and one that is designed by the school with their agenda for improvement or change.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationhost publication
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventBritish Educational Research Association - University of Manchester
Duration: 5 Sep 20127 Sep 2012


ConferenceBritish Educational Research Association
CityUniversity of Manchester


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