5 Evaluating impact
Whatever the challenge for equity that you are grappling with in your school, you need to establish a baseline as your starting point before you make a plan. This baseline is an honest, factual assessment of the situation that will quantify the extent and characteristics of the inequality that you are going to tackle. You can then track your progress in order to evaluate the impact of your interventions and resource allocations because you will be able to demonstrate how far the situation changes from your baseline.
Evaluating the impact of your actions will take two forms: data evaluation (which will include attendance and attainment results) and information about the experiences of the group. For instance, if we use the example of ‘female students from the economically weaker section of a minority community with poor access to education and awareness as well as being the object of prejudice’, you might find out if the female students are becoming more vocal as they experience being heard, feeling more valued as they experience respect, and through data analysis that they have improved their academic achievement.
Think about how you might gather your evidence in an inclusive way. You might like to consider talking to the students themselves, or asking them to interview each other and then present a report to you.
The purpose of evaluation is to ensure that the actions you have taken have led to better learning outcomes but also to enable you to learn from the process and identify what could be improved if you were to repeat it. It is highly likely that if you are tackling issues of inclusion that have a significant effect on attainment in your school that it will never stop being a priority. Instead you will be evaluating one intervention and identifying further actions that could be taken to improve the situation even further. In this way the process is likely to be circular.
In such a long-term strategic planning and evaluation cycle you will need to maintain your staff’s commitment and enthusiasm towards making changes in attitudes and behaviours. Sharing the results of evaluations with the staff is critical. There is nothing better to keep the staff interested and motivated as letting them know how you are tracking the impact they have had. Small steps towards a larger goal need to be recognised when the ambition is great. Equally, sharing evaluations with staff shouldn’t be a one-way process. They need to contribute to the evaluation process and help you to identify the next steps to be taken to further address the issues . For instance, they can ask: How did they find the changes that were made? What have they noticed about the learning of the students involved?
Developing inclusive practices takes time and a lot of effort. If you have successes, writing them up as case studies or organising opportunities to share your work with others either in the school or with other schools is highly valuable. In return, you may find others have addressed similar issues to your own priority areas and have some tried and tested ways of addressing them that you can then learn from.