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Schools 'can bolster attainment levels by generating social capital'

07/04/2017 Joanna

Schools can use the power of social capital to drive improved educational performances among their students, regardless of the resources available to them.

This is the finding of a new US study from Ohio State University, which highlighted the value of efforts to develop a network of relationships between school officials, teachers, parents and the community, as this can build trust and norms that promote academic achievement.

The research examined data for 96 public high schools in Ohio, finding that schools with higher levels of social capital generally saw their students perform better on maths and reading tests. Notably, this trend was consistent for urban schools in high-poverty areas as much as wealthy suburban schools.

Although schools in wealthier areas tended to have higher levels of social capital than those in more disadvantaged areas, the majority of the difference in levels of social capital between schools could not be explained by their socioeconomic status.

This emphasises the importance of schools making sure that teachers have frequent contact with parents, place trust in their students and monitor whether parental involvement is supporting learning.

Although schools in wealthy areas maintained an overall advantage, the researchers were keen to emphasise the fact that the benefits of social capital can be achieved even without spending a lot of money, provided that school leaders are engaged with the concept and proactive in their efforts to promote it.

Study author Roger Goddard, professor of educational administration at the Ohio State University, said: "School leaders drive a lot of this. They can have open houses, meet with parents and invite them into their schools. They need to organise and engage people across the community, and not only parents. School leaders are the key to setting the tone."

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