Effectiveness, inequality and ethos in three English schools

Many school effectiveness studies have focussed on schools serving disadvantaged communities. ‘Schools matter most for underprivileged and/or initially low achieving students. Effective or ineffective schools are especially effective or ineffective for these students’ (Scheerens & Bosker 1997: 96). Analysing how schools can improve in socially disadvantaged communities is essential. The nature of a school cannot, of course, remove social inequality or social exclusion, but it can have a significant positive impact (Sammons 2007). In a study of improving schools in disadvantaged settings, Muijs et al. (2004) found they focus on a number of factors: teaching and learning; enhancing leadership capacity; creating an information rich environment; creating a positive school culture; building a learning community; promoting continuous professional development; involving parents; and engaging external support. This study of three English schools supports Muijs et al.’s findings, but points also to the importance of an ‘ethos of inclusion’. It also draws attention to role of schools serving students with Special Educational Needs.