The Schools Partnership Programme is our cluster-based school improvement model based on rigorous and impact-focused peer review. We support school leaders to drive their own improvement, through a continuous cycle of self-review, peer review and school-to-school support and improvement.
The Schools Partnership Programme (SPP) was developed with schools and launched by Education Development Trust in response to emerging changes in the education system in England. Schools are becoming more autonomous; as centralisation diminishes, responsibility for school improvement has begun to move away from local authorities to the schools themselves.
Headteachers are gaining greater freedoms to lead outstanding schools and a range of policy levers have been put in place to encourage collaboration, particularly between successful schools and local peers facing challenge. This move towards a self-improving system means that schools are becoming more aware of the need to collaborate better with others to support improvement, with a desire to ensure that partnership working is efficient, positive, and leads to real impact.
We established SPP, our school improvement model founded on professional peer review, in 2014. It is the only peer review model that is informed by research evidence and benefits from our global network of partners, making it distinctive and effective.
The model develops the capacity and culture needed for impactful partnership working through a continuous cycle of school self-review, peer review and school to school support and improvement. As well as providing a framework to facilitate a continuous cycle of reviews and improvement workshops, the training also supports the development of skills that underpin effective peer review and follow-up support. This includes collaborative enquiry and the collective scrutiny of evidence and research to inform school improvement decision making, ensuring the process builds leadership capacity and has real impact.
There are three key phases that build the skills of peer review and culture change required to develop a mature cluster or local system:
Phase 1: developing senior leaders
Focus on building the skills of peer review and follow-up support at the senior level of the cluster
Phase 2: embedding at all levels
Focus on building the skills of peer review and follow-up support at all levels of the cluster
Phase 3: sustaining and local ownership
Improvement and responsibility for building any further capacity is led and sustained by the cluster
Over time, local areas will own the SPP model and continue to develop it so it has impact locally. SPP is designed to incorporate and build on, not side line, schools’ existing best practice. Some of our more mature partnerships have become strategic partners to help lead further development of SPP across their locality and network.
More than 1,300 schools across England have engaged in the SPP programme, and that number continues to grow year on year. Through our work with these schools, we have seen that carefully designed, well managed, rigorous peer review that involves senior leaders, middle leaders and teachers is one of the most valuable and impactful activities that schools can undertake. Adopting this approach helps to build a culture of trust-based accountability, backed up by a focus on tangible improvement, and a commitment to school to-school support.
SPP schools are reporting that being part of the programme has helped to drive change in their schools by enabling them to raise the profile of school improvement. They are embedding peer review into their planning cycles and including it in performance management systems and that SPP has helped them make their conversations more focused and turn them into action.
Our emerging evidence base suggests the model is making a real difference in schools. Initial analysis of Ofsted data shows that the first cohort of schools improved against their baseline Ofsted grades at better than the national rate of improvement. SPP schools are significantly more likely to improve by one or more grades in inspection than the national average.
To further support our emerging evidence, Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) are currently undertaking an evaluation of the Schools Partnership Programme. It is one of the largest studies EEF have undertaken with 450 schools taking part. The evaluation report will be published Spring 2021.
SPP is the driving change in our schools at the moment and is the backbone of our planning for next year. It provides good accountability for the school and is getting us to think more broadly, raising the bar.
Mark Precious, headteacher, Old Basford Primary School