Bridging the Gap was initiated in 2001 to complement and add value to national and local initiatives and school-based work. It was designed to build on a diversity of approaches while encouraging and supporting excellence.
From the outset Bridging the Gap’s expected outcomes were stated as:
§ a clearer understanding among relevant target populations of the reasons for, and the impact of, educational disadvantage;
§ a coherent and comprehensive strategy for changing the attitudes and behaviours of learners, families, schools and other institutions;
§ a measurable improvement in the educational experience of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds;
§ improved motivation for success among learners, families, teachers, school management and others.
§ model of change that can be replicated elsewhere in the educational system to produce quality improvement.
In 2001 the strategic plan for Bridging the Gap was drawn up with the following five major strands:
- professional development;
- school-based research;
- school and community level initiatives;
- and dissemination.
Professional Development - aimed to facilitate positive learning experiences for participants, promote interaction between teachers from different schools and areas and to form the basis of future networks on topics of common interest. During the first year a range of professional development activities were organised for principals and teachers. In addition to these events, five scholarships were made available for school principals to attend an intensive one-week Summer Institute in the Harvard Graduate School of Education in summer 2002.
School-based research - In proposing that research would be one of the five major strands of activity for Bridging the Gap, it was suggested that the University could make a valuable contribution by becoming involved in school and community-based research projects. Schools and communities would gain by having access to professional research expertise, and by having a sound basis for action on identified issues. The University, in turn, would gain by engaging with its community in focussed research projects.
School and community level initiatives – for 2001-2002 the aims in relation to school and community based initiatives were to develop, in collaboration with participants, a model of good practice for systematically setting project targets and monitoring results
Networks - In 2001-2002, network activity was initiated by bringing teachers and principals together for professional development events on topics of shared interest. Expert facilitators from within the University and from national and international institutions in the field of educational disadvantage worked with groups on the themes related to the aims of Bridging the Gap and the goals of the schools.
Dissemination - Work on developing the project website, a brochure and a newsletter was started in spring 2002. Other dissemination activities were aimed at publicising Bridging the Gap within the University, on linking with national policy development and national initiatives, and on initiating contact with a range of practitioners in the area of educational disadvantage.