Principal study

Phase 3 and Phase 4

The principal study likewise consists of a qualitative and a quantitative part. The qualitative strand (phase 3), 43 headteachers of highly effective schools in different areas of England are interviewed. In particular, schools with a high proportion of disadvantaged pupils will be included in the sample. Particular attention will be paid to effective schools in London and in the so-called Social Mobility and Opportunity Areas.

We contact prospective interviewees by email ( here is a link to the official participant information sheet sent to the headteachers). All interviewees sign a consent form (see here) prior to the interview. Interviewees decide whether or not to grant us permission to name their school in publications. Interviews take place in the participants’ schools. Thus far, we have visited 17 schools in eight different towns and cities (London, Birmingham, Bradford, Winchester, Tunbridge Wells, Norwich, Oxford and Didcot). As of February 2020, all interviews conducted thus far have been completely transcribed following Drehsing and Pehl (2011) and are currently undergoing analysis.

In line with the mixed-methods research design, analysis of these interviews serves as a basis for forming categories and hypotheses for the construction of a questionnaire which will be sent to a large sample of headteachers across England for the quantitative strand of the principal study (phase 4). This process promises to generate comprehensive qualitative and quantitative findings on the experience of headteachers in highly effective schools and their beliefs about what really works in school quality development. This combination of qualitative and quantitative methods enables the researchers to identify the extent to which a quantitative sample can reflect the dimensions of quality pinpointed in the interviews.

Interview with Adrian Kneeshaw and Jane Girt, CEO and Head of School respectively at Carlton Bolling College, Bradford. At the time of the interview, 90.1 % of pupils had a first language other than English, and most children were from a Muslim background. 46.2 % of pupils were considered disadvantaged as measured by the Free School Meal Score. The school, which had a reputation for religious extremism among its pupils, received a rating of „inadequate“ from Ofsted in 2014.

Adrian Kneeshaw credits the school’s highly positive development since then to strong pedagogical leadership. Today, the school has a reputation as a flagship school, particularly with regard to improving the learning outcomes of children from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2017, Ofsted rated the school „outstanding“ in almost all categories, drawing media attention (link to an example of the reporting).