This chapter looks at research undertaken on school effectiveness and improvement and examines both the policies of successive governments and the initiatives taken by schools to further school improvement. Some policies have had far-reaching consequences for the ways schools are organized and managed, whilst others have focused on improving teacher effectiveness. In looking at school effectiveness and improvement, it is important to consider the values and assumptions behind both the research and the policies.
The desire to see standards of education and pupil performance improving is driven by several concerns, such as individual fulfilment and social justice. For example, the role of education in serving the economy has been an issue for governments over the past two centuries. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, pupil success, or lack of it, was the basis upon which grants were awarded to schools from which teachers were paid – hence what became known as the notorious 'payment by results' system.
Different causal factors for student underachievement have been emphasized at various times. The dominant model in this country and the USA in the 1940s and 1950s focused on psychological determinants. Cyril Burt, among others, suggested that intelligence was an innate and relatively fixed quality and that tests could be devised to determine an individual's intelligence score. Under the tripartite system of secondary schooling