The RAP scheme is in essence a school improvement initiative, in that it aims to increase pupils’ academic achievement by encouraging teachers to take a systematic, sustained and active approach to change. Fullan and Hargreaves (1992) point out that the key success indicator of any innovatory programme is the extent to which teachers’ classroom practice is changed. They draw a distinction between large-scale top-down innovations that demand rapid, radical changes in practice and small-scale, school-initiated, collaborative attempts to work on specific areas of practice. The former have a poor record of success, while the long-term effects of the latter approach appear to be more long lasting and become more deep-rooted within the culture of the school.
Successful schools, argue Hillman and Stoll (1994), ‘depend on people… understanding the school’s culture and developing it in such a way that supports the process of change’ (Hillman and Stoll, 1994:3). This accurately echoes the ideas underlying the RAP scheme. Individuals are invited to take on the role of change agents in their school, collaborating with other professionals in development activities, and to report on these activities both to audiences within the school, and, via a portfolio of evidence, for accreditation from the HEI. The approach to change is therefore both individual and institutional.
In Chapters 1 and 2, we made it clear that the RAP scheme was seen by its instigators as an antidote to the kind of INSET that is characterized by low levels of relevance and impact. The aims of the pilot project were couched in terms of professional and school development but the statement on the leaflet inviting teachers to take part said quite directly that such development work ‘will enhance the quality of learning experienced by students at St Andrew’s School’. As the scheme has grown, this assumption, that teacher-led development work will lead to enhanced pupil learning, has been shared comfortably between both group leaders and participants, and it is only quite recently that the question of the link between development work and pupils’ learning has become such a challenging one within our network. The school effectiveness discourse has, of course, penetrated our discussions more and more as it poses