Own Writing 2126
Reference List 303
There has been a lot of research and government initiatives to create good schools in recent times. The former Labour government’s academy “concept” and the current coalition’s government’s proposal for free schools are examples of such initiatives. The question is what are the key features of a good school and what will make their implementation widespread? There are various views on what make a good school. For example, Ofsted (2009a) observes that “...the outstanding schools manage behaviour issues very well without instilling an oppressive atmosphere. (para53)”. McComack (1997) observes, “Classroom management is the most concern cited by pre-service, beginning and experienced teachers as well as being the focus of media reports, professional literature, and school staffroom conversations” and as such its success is a distinguished characteristic of a good school. Another characteristic of an outstanding school as noted by Ofsted (2009a) is “that good schools use continual improvement of learning, teaching and pedagogy as their most important activity (para88)”. Ofsted has also captured the headlines recently with its plan to “to tackle teaching that is dull, lacking in challenge and failing to engage learners”. The above viewpoints highlight two basic tenets of a good school − excellent teaching and well managed pupil behaviour. This incidentally is the mark of a good teacher underscoring the cliché that good teachers make good schools.
Various reports (Ofsted 2009a) have shown that though varying circumstances make it more difficult for certain schools to achieve excellent results, successful and mediocre schools are found in all strata of society. The outstanding performance of schools in even challenging circumstances is largely due to their outstanding leaders who have effectual school policies and the capacity to attract and keep excellent teachers to deliver high performance. My observations at four high schools in Ipswich between 12th May and 30th June underscore these claims. In each school, there were lessons with good and poor teaching as well as badly and well managed pupil behaviour. What makes a school good is the pervasive occurrence of good teachers and their consistently high performance. The consistency has more to do with the contribution of the individual teacher and the pervasiveness has to do with the leadership. In one of the schools I visited, the order in the Maths Department had no semblance to the reputation the school had in respect of pupil behaviour, and in discussion with staff, they put it down to the ‘new’ Head of Department. Marzano (2003) identifies three levels of factors that make a school – (a) school, (b) teacher, and (c) pupil. In this study I will like to focus on the teacher level factors that make a good school. I will briefly describe two cases from my observations to elucidate the key features of a good school.
Mr P introduces the topic and the students are expected to complete the set task. Talking begins and the class soon gets very unruly, with no work taking place except for a couple of students who have the LSA explaining the task to them. I had to get the LSA to explain the task to me again before I could offer help. Mr. P ignores all unruly behaviour and after a while, he says from the back of the class in a non-committal voice, ‘I know the weather is hot but please try and do some work.’ I asked one girl why she was behaving so differently from the previous lesson I had been in with her. Her response has been pivotal in my quest to learn. She said “I don’t like this class, we don’t learn anything. I like Mr X’s class because we learn. We used to have a proper teacher like Mr. X for this lesson but now we have this one. I want a proper teacher”. Then I remembered I had met this group of students before, not in Mr P’s class but in Mr. X’s class. In Mr X’s class, their behaviour and eagerness to