We have articulated and illustrated a model of school improvement which enables teachers to make more of a difference in their schools by making a greater contribution to development work which will result in improved learning outcomes for their students.
We see this publication as part of a more widespread focus on the resurgence of teacher professionalism reflected in the creation of a General Teaching Council. In ‘The Learning Game’, Michael Barber, the current chair of the government’s Standards and Effectiveness Unit, highlights the need for teachers to ‘reassert their professional judgement’ (Barber, 1996:197). He argues that the key to rebuilding teachers’ self-confidence lies in a concept of professional development that is founded not on narrowly conceived ideas about INSET, but on the idea of the teacher as a lifelong learner who is a member of a learning, research-based profession: ‘Teachers should not have the power to determine education policy: nor should they be slaves to it. Success depends on them making sense of it for themselves’ (Barber, 1996:197).
We believe that the approach to school improvement described here provides a structure or framework within which teachers, working with the culture and values of their schools, can do much more than ‘make sense of policy; they can exercise leadership, manage change and contribute to the wide professional discourse which helps to shape policy at both local and national levels.
We hope that we have demonstrated that schemes using this approach to enhance teachers’ agency can have real impact, not only on the professional learning of teachers as individuals, but also on the capacity of their organizations to manage change. It is abundantly clear from our experience and from the evidence gathered in the course of our research that such effects have a consequent impact on pupils’ learning. The fact that both CANTIS and CANTARNET continue to flourish and that teachers maintain links with the network long after they have completed their master’s degrees suggests that the participating schools and teachers are convinced of the benefits. It is also encouraging to note that the RAP model has been taken up and adapted