School Quality and Teacher Education

About the study


The FWF project ‘School Quality and Teacher Education’ (SQTE) conducts research on the historico-political, social and pedagogical factors of successful school quality development and school turnaround in England (1990-2020).

Which policies and initiatives enabled school development? Which measures contributed to the compensation of social disadvantage in London and other regions of England, which received worldwide attention?

Theoretical background
Research questions
Research design


The FWF project ‘School Quality and Teacher Education’ (SQTE) conducts research with headteachers of successful and highly effective schools in England on their experiences with school quality development. In asking them to identify key levers for the improvement of their schools and to describe how they succeeded in boosting their pupils’ learning outcomes, the research seeks to establish potential learnings for the Austrian setting as regards school development practices, continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers and senior school leadership teams, and wider education policy.

The project focuses particularly on schools in difficult circumstances that attain excellent learning outcomes despite a high proportion of pupils from disadvantaged home backgrounds; specifically, the research looks at schools in deprived areas of London that have improved considerably over the last 15 years in the context of the „London effect“. Funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the project is based at the Kirchlich Pädagogische Hochschule Vienna/Krems (former: University of Salzburg) and the University of Oxford.

In recent years, marked improvements in the performance of learners in schools in difficult locations in London have drawn the attention of educationalists.

Theoretical background of the study

The OECD Review of School Resources for Austria recommended a shift towards a stronger culture of pedagogical leadership in schools. It proposed giving greater consideration to the views and experiences of teachers and headteachers in relation to school-based quality development, citing England as an ‘interesting example’ of pedagogical leadership and quality development from which Austria might learn (Nusche et al 2016, 38).

Several international partner institutions and individuals from both these areas of research agreed to support the study. The Austrian Science Fund (FWF) has generously awarded a grant to the project as the outcome of an international peer review process. school effectiveness research and teacher education . Several international project partners from different academic traditions have pledged their support to the study. Generous funding for the research project was approved by the Austrian Science Fund following an international peer review process.

Research questions

  • Which social, political and pedagogical factors and initiatives contributed to school improvement and enhanced social mobility in various regions of England (London, Social Mobility and Opportunity Areas) from 1990 to 2020?
  • How do heads and teachers in highly effective and improving schools in England define ‘school quality’?
  • What accounts do heads of effective and improving schools in England give of the process of measuring, reviewing and developing quality in their schools?
  • What do heads and teachers at effective and improving schools understand by the terms ‘good teachers’ and ‘good teaching’?
  • What do teachers need to learn in initial teacher education and in continuous professional development if they are to contribute effectively to school quality?

The comprehensive quality monitoring structures in place in the English education system have provided it with a wealth of experience in measuring and developing school quality.
In recent years, marked improvements in pupil performance in schools situated in deprived areas of London have drawn the attention of educationalists.

In this context, English universities, particularly the University of Oxford, have conducted pioneering empirical work on school quality and school development.

Research design

The project is employing a sequential mixed-methods approach to its investigation of the research questions. Within this research design, qualitative and quantitative data collection alternate and culminate in an integrative phase.

The SQTE project consists of three parts, across which a total of five phases are planned:

  1. Exploratory study
    • Phase 1 – qual
    • Phase 2 – quan
  2. Principal study
    • Phase 3 – QUAL
    • Phase 4 – QUAN
  3. Dissemination
    • Phase 5 – Integration

"Mixed methods" research design

In the exploratory study, stakeholders in the Austrian education system are interviewed and relevant data and reports from highly effective schools in England are analysed.

In the main study, interviews are conducted with headteachers of effective schools in England and, building on this, numerous headteachers across England are interviewed about their experiences.

The integration phase will reflect on how the results of the project can be utilised in the training of school headmasters and teachers as well as in Austrian school practice.

In the late 1990s, London’s state schools, particularly those in inner-city areas, were, in general, attaining very poor learning outcomes for their pupils. Gang culture, drugs, violence and radicalism were rife in many of these schools. 

he subsequent implementation of school quality initiatives on the basis of findings made by school effectiveness research saw London’s schools improve to the point that they now outperform those elsewhere in England.

Research report February 2020

In March 2020, the first interim report of the SQTE project is published. Roland Bernhard reports on the progress and preliminary findings of the SQTE project. Proceeding from the practical and theoretical background of the study, the project lead describes how the SQTE project came into existence. Furthermore, he gives a description of the specific research design, including sampling procedures for the respective phases. Finally, an overview of dissemination activities, such as conferences and presentations, is provided.

School Quality and Teacher Education
Research report February 2020