School partnerships need to be deep and tight to be effective

On 6th December I presented the attached slides to the Guardian’s Innovation in Education conference.

I  explained how the way that schools work in partnership can be shown on a spectrum:

  • at one end of the spectrum are the many schools that still look primarily within their own institution to drive their improvement and engage in little meaningful collaborative activity
  • an increasing number of schools are now working in informal partnerships or clusters – supporting each other with CPD
  •  some schools work through more formal partnerships and may share specialist staff, peer review each other’s practice as well as provide training and support for each other
  • the advent of federations and academy chains has provided a more formal and structured means for schools to work together and realise the benefits of economies of scale – often led by executive principals
  • at the  far end of the spectrum are chains and federations that are not just jointly led and linked together but  also have – or are evolving – a shared approach to teaching and learning

However,  drawing on a graphic developed by Professor David Hargreaves for the National College of School Leadership – I also argued that schools gain the most from partnerships when they are deep as well as ‘tight’. That is to say the schools are engaging in teacher-to-teacher learning  and research and developing leaders jointly as well as having  a hard organisational structure that ensures they are accountable to each other.

The latter slides  go on to develop this theme and to describe the hallmarks of really effective school partnerships. Very few school partnerships have matured to the extent of meeting all the criteria described in the penultimate slide of the presentation, which you can find here Guardian Innovation in Education

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