- Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the National College for School Leadership


    — The National College for School Leadership (NCSL) delivers the School Improvement Partner Accreditation Programme under contract to the National Strategies on behalf of DCSF. — Since 1 April 2008, every maintained school and academy in England has had a SIP attached to it. — The aims of the NCSL accreditation programme are to:

    — increase candidates' understanding of the role of the School Improvement Partner (SIP);

    — provide opportunities for them to apply their skills and personal qualities to the role; and

    — assess their skills and competencies through a variety of assessment activities.

    — At every stage of the programme development and assessment are informed by A New Relationship with Schools: The School Improvement Partner's Brief (DCSF 2007, Edition 3).

    — Applicants follow three stages towards becoming accredited as a SIP:

    — Stage 1:  Application

    — Stage 2:  Online assessment for primary and secondary candidates

    Online self-assessment for special school applicants

    — Stage 3:  Two-day residential development and assessment programme

    — National Strategies' quality assurance of the accreditation programme confirms that they consider that it prepares candidates effectively for the role.

    — The accreditation programme is very well received by candidates who consider it fit for purpose.


  1.1  The National College for School Leadership (the College/NCSL) is a non-departmental public body, reporting directly to the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). NCSL was launched in November 2000 and is responsible for developing excellent leadership in England's schools and children's centres. It exists to serve school leaders and improve school leadership through the highest quality professional development, strategic initiatives and by providing considered and informed advice to government.

1.2  This submission deals with: the accreditation of SIPs for which NCSL is the accrediting body. NCSL delivers a contract on behalf of the National Strategies. It is responsible for recruiting potential SIPs and for planning and delivering the accreditation programme for SIPs. NCSL assesses the competence of candidates to become school improvement partners. Those who are successful are entered on the register of those approved to work with schools that is held and maintained by the National Strategies on behalf of the DCSF.

  1.3  NCSL works closely with DCSF and the National Strategies through the School Improvement Partner Assessment and Accreditation Steering Group. This body is established within the governance arrangements for the contract between NCSL and the National Strategies and is charged with strategic responsibility and oversight of all matters relating to SIP assessment and accreditation. Its membership comprises representatives of NCSL, the National Strategies and DCSF.

  1.4  The submission focuses on the accreditation programme, its design and development and its contribution to the effectiveness of SIPs.


  2.1  In 2004 NCSL delivered a successful pilot accreditation programme on behalf of the DfES in which some 50 potential secondary SIPS from the six trial LAs undertook a three-day development and assessment programme. Following this, as part of the implementation of the New Relationship with Schools policy, in March 2005 NCSL was invited to bid for the provision of the assessment and development for the national roll out of SIPs for secondary schools. In December 2005 it was invited to provide a pilot programme for primary SIPs which took place in March 2006, followed by national rollout. Following the national special school trial, a trial special school accreditation programme took place in June 2007, followed by national rollout in autumn 2007.

2.2  Since 1 April 2008, every maintained school and academy in England has had a SIP attached to it. Numbers of accredited SIPs as at 1 April 2009 are as follows:
Special school402


  3.1  The format and design of the programme were initially informed by the outcomes of the 2004 pilot programme and have been further shaped and refined in consultation with the Steering Group. At every stage the programme is informed by A New Relationship with Schools: The School Improvement Partner's Brief (DCSF 2007, Edition 3). The eligibility criteria are drawn from the person specification as are the assessment criteria used in the programme. Throughout the process, assessment is related to the knowledge and skills set out in the person specification in the SIP's Brief. The eligibility criteria draw on the following statement in the SIP's Brief:

    "School improvement partners should be able to demonstrate the following:

      — membership of school leadership team or experience of senior local authority advisory work and/or related areas of work relevant to the phase of the school improvement partner's work."

      3.2  The assessment process is rigorous, evaluating skills, expertise and personal qualities, to ensure that the right people are accredited as SIPs. The assessment focuses throughout the programme on:

      — analytical ability;

      — judgement—evaluation of performance and potential;

      — judgement—evaluation of how to improve; and

      — personal qualities—oral and written communication.

      3.3  The programme aims, as far as possible, to present candidates with authentic SIP activities and tasks. Development and assessment activities are based on case study schools which are kept as up to date as possible. The following documentation is used for these anonymised schools during the assessment process with primary and secondary candidates:

      — the school's RAISEonline Full Report;

      — Fischer Family Trust Analyses to Support Self-Evaluation;

      — the school's self-evaluation form (abridged);

      — the school's Ofsted inspection report (abridged); and

      — for primary candidates, extracts from the school's Early Years Foundation Stage Profile.

      For special schools RAISEonline and Fischer Family Trust documentation are replaced by school and LA data.

      3.4  Applicants and candidates follow three stages towards becoming accredited as a SIP:
    Stage 1Application: an online process, where applicants provide a career profile, a pen portrait, and references. Some applications are rejected at this stage
    Stage 2Online assessment: an estimated five to six hour assessment task, to be completed within a continuous 36 hour period, designed to allow a preliminary assessment of a candidate's analytical ability, and judgement of performance and potential. The assessment includes the use of data, written reports and knowledge of education.
    Candidates who meet the requirements of the online assessment are invited to attend a two-day development and assessment programme.
    For special school applicants and candidates the stages include an online self-assessment to help potential applicants decide whether to proceed with their application.
    Stage 3Two-day residential development and assessment programme: a programme designed to increase a candidate's understanding of the SIP role and provide a further opportunity for assessment.
    Candidates who meet the requirements of the assessment activities on the two-day programme are accredited as SIPs.

      Two-day residential development and assessment programme

      3.5  Day 1 of the programme comprises development sessions on the role of the SIP based on a case study school, using authentic SIP activities and materials. As candidates are all highly experienced professionals, the programme does not seek to train them as SIPs, it sets out rather to deepen their understanding of the role. The sessions are:

      1. Introductory session.

      2. Using data to form a view about a school's performance.

      3. Forming a preliminary view about a school's capacity for improvement.

      4. Report writing.

      5. Exploring the role of the SIP.

      6. Plenary session.

      3.6  Day 2 of the programme comprises assessment related to a different case study school from the case study used on Day 1. Each candidate takes part in three assessment activities which represent authentic aspects of the SIP's role, albeit in a condensed time frame. After initial marking, all the assessment is subject to national moderation.

      Assessment task 1: a further assessment of candidates' analytical ability is made in order to provide a secure foundation for forming views about the case study school.

      Assessment task 2: meeting with the headteacher of the case study school to explore issues arising from the data and to summarise priorities for the school.

      Assessment task 3: Section of a written report on the school.


      4.1  NCSL has worked closely with the DCSF and the National Strategies in seeking to ensure that, through the accreditation programme, applicants are selected who match the SIP person specification and that the development and assessment provided are fit for purpose. The National Strategies' quality assurance reports on the programme state that the programme is appropriately focused on the SIP's role and that tutors are knowledgeable and demonstrate a good command of the subject matter. Candidates' evaluations of the programme rate it as highly effective and fit for purpose. Headteachers consider that national accreditation is crucial to establishing a SIP's credibility. (National Strategies' presentation on two-day residential SIP accreditation programme)

    4.2  The New Relationship with Schools Evaluation Report (DCSF 2008) refers to the effectiveness of the accreditation programme in stating that:

    "The vast majority of SIPs appear to be equipped to undertake their role based on stakeholder perceptions (from the surveys) and corroborated through our triangulated assessments at the case study level (through repeated consultations, document reviews and observations). This is in terms of:

    — background experience—most SIPs have either experience of being a headteacher or of working within a LA school improvement service, and many have experience of both;

    — accreditation—all practising SIPs are accredited ensuring that a minimum level of skills and knowledge is evident;

    — specific skills and knowledge—most stakeholders agree that skills and experience have been effectively matched and that SIPs:

    — have a clear understanding of the school circumstances;

    — have an effective relationship with headteachers;

    — respect school autonomy; and

    — have the knowledge and information required to discuss packages of challenge and support."


  5.1  NCSL has systematically used the evidence from the National Strategies' evaluation of the programme, candidates' evaluations and its own quality assurance to develop and improve the programme further. The session materials are constantly under review to ensure that they reflect current SIP practice. The case study school materials used for development and assessment are changed regularly to ensure that they match the latest version of RAISEonline and the Ofsted inspection framework.

5.2  All tutors and assessors are experienced education professionals with a background of headship, senior school leadership, senior LA advisory work and inspection experience. Several are practising SIPs. All have considerable experience in training, development and assessment. Regular updating meetings are held which tutors and assessors are expected to attend.

  5.3  The NCSL contract with Capita was originally for three years, from 2005 to 2008. In 2008 it was extended for a further two years, to March 2010, subject to an annual review in March 2009. This review has taken place and discussions are in progress to agree the programme for the financial year 2009-10.

April 2009

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