As schools are facing unprecedented challenges and a new level of uncertainty, Teach First has published a study of schools defying disadvantage.
The research was completed and written before the outbreak of COVID-19 and therefore does not reflect the new reality or reflect on its consequences. It can, however, give schools ideas of the key features and practices of workplaces where teachers feel motivated to stay and work to reduce the attainment gap likely to be aggravated by this crisis.
In the 17 years since our foundation, we've seen how some state schools in disadvantaged areas are thriving. Despite their challenging circumstances, not only are these schools achieving good results for their pupils and closing the attainment gap between them and their wealthier peers, but they’re also maintaining good working conditions for their teachers.
In other words, these schools are sustainably successful. But what do these thriving schools have in common with each other, and what are the doing that could serve as an inspiration for others?
To find out, Teach First researchers identified and visited seven secondary schools up and down the country to conduct in-depth case studies. The schools vary in geography, size and intake, but are united in their commitment to achieving high pupil attainment alongside maintaining positive working conditions. By interviewing teachers, senior leaders and headteachers – as well as observing lessons, staff meetings, break times and general daily routines – we were able to identify some common trends and approaches uniting them.