SLT4AA

SLT4AA, School Leadership Toolkit for Accelerating Achievement, a two-year Erasmus+ KA2 Strategic Partnership project, which aims to equip leadership teams with the competences, structures and tools to transform underperforming schools into high performing schools has now drawn to a close.

Partners trialled the ‘toolkit’ modules in 5 schools in Hungary, 6 schools in Bulgaria, 4 schools in Estonia and two school consortia in Portugal, which covered 23 schools in total.

All six training modules have now been evaluated and the feedback was incorporated into the final evaluation report, conducted by the external evaluator, Vilmos Vass, Associate Professor of Education Science at Budapest Metropolitan University. They are available to download on the project website http://slt4aa.eu

He concluded that:

  • the project provided opportunities for schools to reflect on their current performance, target setting and strategies for improvement
  • it built stronger bonds between schools and Universities
  • it improved communication with the leadership team,
  • it enabled staff to carry out meaningful lesson observations with greater consistency
  • it prioritised student learning
  • there was a perception of improvements in staff attitudes, with support networks and greater confidence in tackling issues in the school.

Final Partner Meeting

The final partner meeting was held at the University of Debrecen in Hungary on 30th June.

Much of the time was spent on administrative and financial issues in preparation for the final report, feedback from the external evaluator and an update on the school and research activities.

Time was also spent on discussing the exploitation plan, which has focused on exploiting existing networks, embedding the outcomes into leadership programmes and working at a policy level with the successor organisation to EPNoSL (European Policy Network on School Leadership). The UK, Estonian, Portuguese and Hungarian representatives of that body were partners in this project and we are fortunate that Dr Ana Paula Silva, coordinating Professor of the School of Education and Dr Carmo Climaco former President of the Association of Inspectorates of Education and specialist in School Evaluation are members of the new EPNoSL transition group and will play a key role in the further exploitation of the project outcomes. This will start with the EPNoSL conference to be held in Malta in January 2017

Final Conference

The final international conference was held in Debrecen on 1st July. It was very well attended with around 100 representatives, from Hungary, Portugal, UK, Estonia, Bulgaria and Romania.

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The conference was opened by two keynote speakers, Kcarrie Valentine from ASCL (Association of School and College Leaders) in the UK and the external evaluator Vilmos Vass

The aim of the conference was to provide as many opportunities to explore and try out the resources as possible and so it was organized into a set of workshop sessions, led by the different partners.

In each case, the workshops covered the training modules which were the final outcomes of the project and also involved schools that had taken part in the trials. This enabled participants to have a meaning ful discussion about the practicalities of the work and to gain real feedback from schools.

The afternoon session was opened with a keynote from Professor Carl Bagley of Durham University on the project’s research strand and outcomes.

Research Strand

Throughout the project, the University of Durham in the UK carried out an overarching research strand, which explored five research questions:

  • How does the project develop clarity of vision and the direction of this in each setting?
  • What are successful relationships between the development of leadership, school improvement and the learning environments like?
  • What does student and staff engagement/distributed leadership look like in each setting and what are the impacts on transformation?
  • What can we say about the application of methods and their impacts across all settings?
  • Are there any unique or specific contextual impacts and what are they?

The University researcher Stephen Clough, visited numerous schools that were involved in the project and interviewed key staff from the leadership teams.

The conclusions are summarized as follows:

Background

SLT4AA addresses the EU Erasmus+ Priorities of improving the leadership and management of schools and developing new training resources. The project consisted of a European consortium of four countries (Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary and Portugal) working with schools in areas of social disadvantage to equip leadership teams with the competences, structures and tools required to improve the academic performance of students. The project included a research strand with the primary aim of providing a comparative analysis of the process of change undertaken by the project teams in each country.

Approach

The research team monitored the work of the partnership teams in each country over the two year duration of the project. This included participation in peer learning activities, attendance at project meetings in situ and on-line, interviews with individual partners and interviews with senior leaders in the project schools in Hungary, Portugal, Bulgaria, and Estonia. Secondary source literature from organisations such as the OECD were utilised to obtain a broader understanding of the national policy contexts. In addition, existing research literature relating to school leadership and student achievement and the management of change was reviewed.

Findings

The research identified the following key factors governing the process of change:

  • Direction

Clear goal setting and possessing a shared vision and mission identified as an important factor in facilitating change

  • Styles and Structures

A distributed leadership style involving teaching teams found to be an important characteristic in leading change but leadership skills ‘are mediated by context, especially in those schools confronting the greatest socioeconomic challenges.’ (Jacobson et al. 2007, p.315)

  • Commitment

Possessing a strong commitment to change in relation to the issue is important in sustaining and managing change

  • Staff Development

Utilising staff development sessions identified as an important part of the process of change

  • Strategic Management

Providing a an enabling organisational culture which is responsive to context with a degree of autonomy in terms of governance

The full research report is available on the project website: http://slt4aa.eu

 

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