A new research report by CfBT Education Trust reveals how partnerships between small schools can be a key driver for improvement.
The report, written by Robert Hill, former policy advisor to Number 10, explores different models of partnerships and their effect on school performance and outcomes in Lincolnshire.
- Pupil performance in small primary schools in Lincolnshire went from being more than 3 per cent below the national average in 2011 to 1 per cent higher in 2013; partnership working played an instrumental role
- Ofsted inspectors cite partnership working and/or the role of executive headteachers and federations as being instrumental in school improvement in 45 of the 65 Lincolnshire school inspection reports
Major education review suggest stripping Welsh councils of responsibility for school improvement
Writing in his report, Mr Hill said current arrangements in Wales are “profoundly unsatisfactory” and fall short of good practice.
“The good news is that I found a widespread recognition among just about everyone I met that things cannot continue as they are,” he said. “This is a key moment in the improvement journey for schools in Wales. There are some parts of the system that are demonstrating outstanding practice and others where performance is poor. Overall, the system might be said to be fair.
“Many participants recognise the need for change and want to be in the vanguard of improving outcomes and life chances for young people in Wales. They want to see the pathway for taking Welsh schools to a level where they are acclaimed as forming a great system.”
Concerned by the effectiveness of regional consortia in their current form, Mr Hill suggests a standardised approach with all clusters requiring ministerial consent for their structures, business plans and senior appointments.
As well as structural change, options put forward include more support for the new national Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) and a standardised tracking system for all pupils in years two to nine across Wales.
Mr Hill also suggests developing a system of “lead practitioner departments” – to mirror those currently applicable to schools – in order to share best practice and “maximise the skills of the best teachers”.
He adds that “teachers should be seen as leaders from the start of their career” and leadership development boards should be developed at both national and regional level to lead a “step-change” in capacity to run schools.
Mr Hill said there is a “strong case on both educational and cost-effectiveness grounds” for the majority, and potentially all, of schools in Wales to be part of a formal federation or hard cluster with shared governance arrangements.
If approved, the federation or cluster could be primary-to-primary or secondary-to-secondary in structure, to be led by an overarching executive headteacher. Typically, federated schools retain their own identities but share services in order to enhance opportunities for their pupils. Currently, school governing bodies have the final say on federation but Mr Hill suggests the Welsh Government take a stronger role in setting out “clear direction of travel” for schools to work together more formally.
How would teachers like to see the profession shaping up in the years ahead? They told us at the Guardian Innovation in Education conference
In a panel session on school partnership models, it was acknowledged that competition and collaboration are not necessarily polar opposites, with Robert Hill, Visiting senior research fellow at the Department of Education and Professional Studies, King’s College London, arguing that aligning the two can actually drive innovation. “Some teachers would say ‘I collaborate so I can compete’,” he said.
Education Guardian – Tuesday 11th December 2012
2015 what’s next for school reform?
Increase the focus on school learning: Robert Hill, visiting senior research fellow at King’s College London
The focus in education policy will switch away from structural reforms such as academies and free schools (though diversity in the school system will stay and grow) to focus on what goes on in the classroom.
The emphasis will be along the lines advocated by Professor John Hattie of Melbourne University in his 2008 book Visible Learning: on teachers learning together (and with their pupils) in a rigorous and disciplined way about how to make teaching and learning more effective.
That will lead to a shift in the curriculum with ‘learning how to learn’ being set alongside subject knowledge as key outcomes for the system. A true baccalaureate system based on students’ academic and wider achievements at age 18 will be introduced.
The accountability system will remain vigorous with data on individual and groups of schools being transparent but inspection will become more about supporting improvement than of being of a ‘pass’ ‘fail’ variety.
The Guardian Teacher Network, Teacher blog – Tuesday 23rd October 2012
Report calls for shake-up of DfE school powers
The Department for Educations should be slimmed down and responsibilities devolved to a network of local school commissioners, a report has urged, amid mounting debate over the DfE’s future.
The proposals by the Royal Society of Arts would address concerns that the coalition’s education reforms have concentrated too much power in the DfE. Coalition policy has allowed local authority schools to opt to become academies – state schools directly funded by central government – in a move that has given the DfE direct responsibility for about half of all English secondary schools.
In the RSA report, Robert Hill, former adviser to Tony Blair, says: “It is folly to belive that as the number of academies surges into thousands they can be overseen by ministers and officials based in Whitehall.”
He proposes that commissioners whose regions would cover boroughs, should control the capital budget…and have the duty and power to decide when to close or refranchise failing schools”
Financial Times – Wednesday July 4th 2012