'Fresh start' : a model for success and sustainable change?
This thesis examines the rationale and debate of the ‘Fresh Start’ schools policy introduced by the New Labour government in 1997 as a vehicle for improvement in schools that historically had been classified as failing. Underpinning the policy is the assumption that Fresh Start can act as a catalytic agent of positive change to performance, school cultures and the school community. The literature review examines school improvement in schools with challenging circumstances (where many Fresh Start schools are based) and includes the theoretical framework underpinning school improvement. It examines the recent political context that has driven school improvement, the role of inspection in identifying failing schools, the development of Fresh Start policy and alternative routes available to schools failing their OFSTED inspection. The case study traces the transformation process and outlines the profile of the first Fresh Start Primary School in England with a population of 40% Travellers on the school roll. It includes an early evaluation of a number of initiatives associated with catalytic change and school improvement that have been employed in the case study school, in other Fresh Start Primary Schools in England and in socio-economically disadvantaged schools around the world. It looks particularly at the impact of breakfast clubs, a school-wide literacy scheme, ‘Success for All’, and community education based in the school. The impact of these initiatives is considered within the context of the school, the school community and government policy. The research findings conclude that Fresh Start together with the initiatives have been effective strategies for improvement in the case study school, and may provide a good model for other schools in similar circumstances.