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How Very Effective Primary Schools Work


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Table of Contents

A Review of the Literature Key Issues in School Effectiveness The Characteristics of Effective Schools Schools in Challenging Circumstances Organisational Culture Contextual Influences on Effectiveness A Way of Understanding Schools as Institutions Theories - Purposes and Problems System Psychodynamics Aspects of the System Psychodynamics The Research The Education System in Wales The Central Issue The Kind of Study We Undertook The Schools We Studies The Data Collection and Analysis The Case Study Schools - The Nature of Disadvantage The Central Characteristic A Productive Culture A Strong Culture A Highly Inclusive Culture Continuing Professional Development Changes/Initiatives Extra-Curricular Activities Leadership The Headteacher The Development of Leadership Density and Depth The Leadership Work of the Governing Bodies The Mindset The Mindset The Teaching Team The Teachers Teamwork Additional Classroom Support The Pupils and Their Parents Pupil Engagement and Commitment Parental Engagement and Commitment Very Efficient and Effective Organisation Structure, Management and Systems The Management of Pupil Performance Data The Sizes of the Schools The Mutual Support, Validation and Valuing Of The Community The Schools and Their Local Communities The Schools and the Wider Community The Schools and the Education System What Makes These Schools Very Effective? An Interpretive Review of the Findings The Characteristics of the Case Study Schools In Comparison With the Characteristics of Effective Schools Why Were These Schools Very Effective? Concluding Comments The Primary Task - Interpreting the Outcomes Group Mentalities Espoused Theories and In Use Theories Leadership Boundaries Defensive Behaviours Containment and the Transformation of Anxiety and Emotion into Creativity Working with Passion Collaboration Concluding Comments Reflections on the Research and the Outcomes New Research Issues Messages for All Schools Very Effective Schools Are What All Children Deserve

About the Author

Chris James is the Professor of Educational Leadership and Management in the Department of Education at the University of Bath. He researches leadership and management in schools and colleges, the affective aspects of educational organisations, collaborative working in schools and school governing and governance. During his career, Chris has worked with a range of public, private and not-for-profit organizations including numerous local authorities and schools. He has directed a large number of educational research projects and published over 200 items including six books. Michael Connolly is Emeritus Professor of Public Policy and Management, University of South Wales, UK, as a Visiting Professor of Education and Policy, University of Bath, UK. In addition, he is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. Professor Connolly has published a number of books, chapter in books and articles on education policy and management, learning in Higher Education as well as papers on public policy in Northern Ireland. Michael has been a co-editor of Pubic Money and Management, book editor of Public Administration and a member of number of editorial Boards for a range of academic journals. His research interests include education policy and management and the role of local government and local services.


'Chris James, Michael Connolly, Gerald Dunning and Tony Elliott have produced a comprehensive analysis of the very effective primary school. Although the research for the book draws on the authors' experiences in Welsh Primary Schools, the range of literature cited and the analytical frameworks employed ensure that their findings have a much broader relevance. They define `a very effective' school as one that provides high levels of attainment and rich educational experiences despite being located in extremely challenging circumstances. A key insight of the book is that although these schools are consequently `extraordinary' their practice was in many ways quite `ordinary'. This is because these schools worked in much the same way as the very best of schools have always done. In many ways, this as the authors note, is an optimistic message - that all children deserve to be educated in such very effective schools. The virtue of How Very Effective Primary Schools Work is that it makes clear those characteristics and strategies that can help every school to become great' - David Hopkins, HSBC iNet Chair of International Leadership, and formerly Chief Adviser on School Standards to the Secretary of State 2002-2005 'All children, especially the poorest, deserve capable, mature and well adjusted teachers and leaders who work together to lay firm foundations of learning and behaviour, then enrich and elevate everyone's learning far beyond that in optimistic cultures of security, persistence and hope. Based on solid research from 18 outstanding schools in challenging circumstances, this is the vital message of this important and unique book. Chris James and his colleagues show that highly effective schools need high functioning adults and communities who expect and get the best from everyone, dedicate themselves to others without burning themselves out, are not frightened of challenges and contradictions, stay around to fulfil their obligations to others and see their efforts bear fruit, and are emotionally comfortable in their own skin. If you want to become more effective as a school you will need to become more effective and adjusted as a teacher, a leader and an all-round human being. This inspiring and indispensable book, will stir and steer all who read it in that educationally essential quest' - Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair in Education, Boston College
"...This book provides a valuable theoretical underpinning for those who want to develop their schools into learning institutions and make a strong commitment to their communities." -JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL CHANGE -- Karl-Heinz Arnold * Journal of Educational Change *

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