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Impact of the Student Voice Project

This outline of the project has been structured in three sections:

Part one describes the Student Voice Project;

Part two offers a strategy for Assessing the Impact of the Student Voice Project;

Part three introduces a strategy for extending the reach of the impact of the Student Voice Project.

Part One: The Student Voice Project

Context of Anglican schools

The state-maintained system of education in England and Wales has its roots in an initiative of the Church of England in 1811 through the creation of the National Society. The state did not build its own schools until the Education Act 1870. As a consequence through the National Society the Anglican Church (Church of England in England and Church in Wales in Wales) still accepts a dual role for its schools: to serve the nation by providing schools and to serve the Church by providing education within a Christian ethos.

Context of the Researchers

The Student Voice Project was carried out by Dr David W. Lankshear and Professor Leslie J. Francis. Both Dr Lankshear and Professor Francis have been central in shaping policy and conducting research in Anglican schools for many years. Professor Francis published his first research paper on Anglican schools in 1979. Dr Lankshear held the national desk for Anglican schools between 1991 and 2003, having previously chaired the Church of England’s Schools Curriculum Committee from 1986, the period during which the National Curriculum was introduced in England and Wales. He led negotiations with National Government on the School Inspection Act 1992, which introduced the current school inspection system and went on to design the inspection system specific to Anglican schools, currently known as the Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS). He served as secretary and chief architect of the Church in Wales review of its role in Statutory Education in 2009.

The Student Voice Project

The Student Voice Project was a three-year research project using a quantitative survey to access the views of year-five and year-six students across three domains identified by the SIAMS inspection system:

  • school experience;
  • spiritual health;
  • attitude toward Christian faith.

Research design

The Student Voice Project was located within the field of education studies, drawing on the following disciplinary perspectives:

  • history of education, appreciating the background to Anglican schools;
  • educational policy, appreciating the current educational contexts;
  • philosophy of education, appreciating the complexity of the area of spiritual development;
  • theology of education, appreciating the distinctive contribution of the Christian tradition;
  • psychology of education, embedding the project within the individual differences tradition of student assessment;
  • sociology of education, embedding the project within the tradition of school improvement and effectiveness.

Empirically the research employed a mixed-methods approach. The pilot project that preceded the three-year quantitative survey employed qualitative methods to listen both to the stakeholders and to the students in order to design an effective and appropriate quantitative survey.

The project was designed and conducted in close association with two partner organisations: the Education Board of the Church in Wales and the St Mary’s Centre an independent foundation concerned with research and practice in religious education in accordance with the principles of the Anglican Church. This ensured full stakeholder engagement.

Outcome of the Student Voice Project

The three-year research project specified three core outcomes.

The first outcome was an annual report to the Church in Wales profiling the overall findings from the research:

  • in year one (2014-15) 2,988 students participated from 66 schools
  • in year two (2015-16) 4,982 students participated from 86 schools
  • in year three (2016-17) 4,997 participated from 86 schools

The report, designed to influence educational practice, was received by the Church in Wales Advisory Committee on Education and discussed in meetings with headteachers and school inspectors.

The second outcome (and the one of major importance) was a report prepared for each participating school. The reports were presented to each school in a form which could be read as an appendix to the national report and were circulated to participating schools during the same academic year as the survey was completed by pupils. The reports were designed to:

  • help schools locate their individual profile alongside the mean profile of all participating schools;
  • provide schools with a tool to contribute to their own self-evaluation process;
  • enable schools to identify areas for improvement and development and also areas where existing practice could be affirmed;
  • provide the inspectors working within the SIAMS requirements with evidence from the student voice, which could be benchmarked within the principality as a whole.

The third outcome was a sequence of papers prepared for peer-review journals.

Part Two: Assessing Impact Project

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the participating schools have derived considerable benefit from this three-year research project. The aim of the Assessing Impact Project is to quantify this benefit.

Activities to be undertaken by the Assessing Impact Project

1. The primary users of the research data are the senior leadership teams within the participating schools. Step one of the Assessing Impact Project is to conduct face-to-face qualitative (interview) research among headteachers of 10 schools that have participated in the research for all three of the consecutive years. The aim is to scope and document the impact on individual schools. The issues to be addressed are:

  • the way in which the research has been discussed and applied within their school;
  • the value of the research in identifying and addressing key issues within their school;
  • the impact of the research on the inspection process.

2. Step two of the Assessing Impact Project is to design a quantitative survey that can be used among headteachers of all schools that have participated in the project at least once. The questionnaire will draw on the issues learned from the qualitative study in step one. The aim is to quantify the impact across all schools engaged by the project.

3. Step three of the Assessing Impact Project is to conduct face-to-face interviews with 5 leading members of the Board of Education of the Church in Wales and with 5 inspectors involved in the SIAMS inspection system in Wales. The aim is to scope and document the impact as seen by the Central management of church schools in Wales and by the SIAMS inspection system.

4. The fact that the Pupil Voice Survey has been conducted in the same schools on three successive years enables a trajectory to be charted for individual schools. If the survey has successfully impacted improvement this should be detected within the students’ responses. While the objective was not undertaken within the scope of the three year project itself it could be effected as step four of the Assessing Impact Project. This activity would involve merging and restructuring the three sets of data collected for the three separate years in order to align the responses for the three cohorts of students within individual schools in a time sequence.

Part Three: Generating Impact Project

In order to extend the reach of the impact of the Student Voice Project more clearly beyond Wales it is proposed to offer workshops for headteachers and governors of church schools within Dioceses of the Church of England. The Generating Impact Project would target two dioceses within the Church of England that are closely connected with the National Society and committed to investing in the evaluation and development of Anglican primary schools. The aim of these workshops is to:

  • present the research model developed within the Church in Wales;
  • summarise core findings from the research papers arising from the three-year project in Wales;
  • summarise initial findings from the Assessing Impact Project conducted in Wales;
  • engage in dialogue with the participants regarding the relevance and implications of the findings from Wales for the Church of England;
  • explore the potential for extending the research model within dioceses within the Church of England, in order to extend the effective reach of this model of engagement between church schools and the University of Warwick.