A study of external intervention and school improvement in schools facing challenging circumstances
Central Government has identified a group of schools deemed to be 'Schools facing Challenging Circumstances'. These schools tend to be low attaining schools that serve socio-economically deprived communities. A range of policy initiatives have resulted in a number of centrally driven interventions aimed at improving these schools. This thesis focuses on the relationship between external intervention and school improvement in schools facing challenging circumstances. The research strategy consisted of three phases, combining case study and survey approaches to explore two examples of centrally driven external intervention. Phases one and two adopted a case study approach to explore OfSTED inspection and the Schools facing Challenging Circumstances Initiative as mechanisms for improvement, while phase three consisted of a survey to triangulate data and explore some general questions pertaining to external interventions. Thus, this research adopted a mixed methods approach collecting interview, questionnaire and documentary evidence from a range of sources and perspectives. The findings are based on data collected from interviews with over 150 teachers in 21 schools and survey data collected from a further 94 teachers in 6 schools facing challenging circumstances in one LEA. This is the first study to explore the relationship between external intervention and school improvement in this particularly challenging group of schools. The findings suggest that if widespread reform is to be achieved a more sophisticated approach to external intervention must be developed. Rather than treating these schools as a homogeneous group, interventions must be differentiated to match individual school cultures, capacity for change and development phase. In conclusion, a typology of schools facing challenging circumstances is presented. It is argued that this typology can inform our thinking to support more sophisticated approaches to intervening and improving these schools.