School Effectiveness

School Effectiveness

This project aims to generate knowledge about how to improve the monitoring and implementation of school effectiveness initiatives.

To do this we have been analysing survey data on education quality collected from nearly 42,000 primary school pupils and their teachers and headteachers in 14 Sub-Saharan African countries.

We use multi-level modelling statistical techniques to explore how different factors in and out of school might explain variability in pupil performance.


Research and key findings

The data, collected by SACMEQ (Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality) in 2000-2, is still the most recent cross-national survey on education quality in the region available. We have analysed data from Botswana, Lesotho, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania Mainland, Uganda, Zambia and Zanzibar.

We analyse the reading and mathematics test scores and pupil background, headteacher and teacher questionnaires collected by SACMEQ using multi-level modelling statistical techniques. These allow us to measure how much variability in pupil performance is due to country, school and pupil level factors, and to identify factors explaining this from three categories:

  • pupil background (e.g. gender, age, socio-economic status)
  • school context (e.g. school location, size, average pupil socio-economic status)
  • school process (e.g. facilities, procedures and teacher characteristics)

Explanations of and training in multi-level modelling are available on the website for the Centre for Multilevel Modelling (CMM), University of Bristol.

Findings to date

  • Factors affecting pupil welfare and security, such as eating less than two meals a day or living independently, had a negative impact on score.
  • Factors that enhanced opportunities to read or study, such as having artificial light in the home, had a positive impact.
  • Neighbourhood effects were important - going to a school with a large proportion of disadvantaged pupils was a disadvantage. 
  • Factors with a positive impact included access to basic stationery, a desk and chair at school, and going to a school with a safe and disciplined environment.
  • There are clear differences in the mix of factors hindering or improving an individual learner's attainment in South Africa, depending on their socio-economic status and the wider influences and circumstances of the community they live in. Fundamentally, in and out of school factors together impact on the opportunities poorer pupils have to succeed and attain higher scores.

Lead contact details

Dr. Michèle Smith, University of Bristol,

Research team

University of Bristol, UK

  • 2008 - Current: Dr. Michèle Smith, Dr. Angeline M. Barrett, Prof. Fiona Steele (advisor), Prof. Leon Tikly (director).
  • 2005-2007: Dr. Guoxing Yu, Prof. Sally Thomas.