School partnerships and cooperation have become an
increasingly important part of a self-improving or school-led
system. We believe that such collaboration has great potential
to continue driving improvement to the English education system.
The diversity of structures and models already in place is a
strength and proof of vitality. Schools should be able to adopt
models of partnership and cooperation that suit their needs within
a legislative and policy framework that is as non-prescriptive
School collaboration offers benefits to all schools
involved. While there are tensions between competition and collaboration,
these are largely creative tensions and collaboration is growing
in many forms within a competitive school system.
Given the high level of enthusiasm for school collaboration,
it is striking that definitive evidence of its impact is lacking.
We recommend that the Government embed evaluation into further
initiatives relating to school partnerships and collects systematic
evidence on what works.
The Government has published similar schools data
to help schools identify possible partners. Much more needs to
be done to provide richer and more easily accessible information
and to make this an effective resource for schools. It is regrettable
that the data system is not modelled more closely on the families
of schools used in the London and City Challenge programmes.
There are different possible incentives to encourage
school collaboration. We support Sir Michael Wilshaw's proposal
for an excellent leadership award to be given to headteachers
who support underperforming schools in disadvantaged communities.
We regret that no one has yet devised a workable model of school
accountability that incentivises school partnerships and we encourage
efforts to generate an appropriate model.
We believe that the Government is right to provide
funding to help schools meet the costs associated with taking
part in collaboration. We recommend that the Government widen
this funding beyond academy sponsorship to assist other partnerships,
in particular using the Primary Chains Grant to help schools cover
the cost of forming federations. We also recommend that the Government
re-introduce targeted seedcorn funding for sustainable Independent
State School Partnerships.
Local authorities have a critical role to play in
a school-led improvement system. We welcome this emerging new
system and we recommend that the Government set out clearly the
role of local authorities in helping to broker school-to-school
partnerships and acting as champions of all parents and children
in their region.
The evidence suggests a need for greater oversight
of school partnerships and cooperation, possibly on a regional
basis. The Government should set out how organisations in the
middle tier will be held to account for strategic oversight of
partnership-working in all schools and how they will ensure that
gaps are not allowed to develop or remain unfilled, particularly
in rural and coastal areas. The DfE and the National College
of Teaching and Leadership should identify and designate system
leaders, such as National Leaders of Education and Teaching Schools,
in areas where they are currently lacking, and increase incentives
for existing leaders to work in the areas of greatest need.
The DfE should make an assessment of the quality
and capacity to provide expertise within a school-led improvement
system and ensure that schools are aware of where they can access
There is no doubt that academy chains will play an
increasingly important part in a self-improvement system. We
recommend that Ofsted is provided with the powers it needs to
inspect academy chains. We also recommend that the procedures
for schools to leave chains by mutual consent are formalised and
published and that the Government explains how an outstanding
school would be able to leave a chain when this is against the
wishes of the chain management.
Convertor academies are expected to support other
schools in return for their academy status and yet the evidence
to us suggested that this is not happening. We recommend that
the DfE urgently reviews its arrangements for monitoring the expectation
that convertor academies support other schools.