“School-to-school support is more important than ever”

In Nicky Morgan’s first major announcement since the election, the education secretary has declared she would accelerate plans to “revolutionise” state schools, with tough new measures to sack underperforming headteachers.

Although addressing the failings of schools is important; care and attention should be given to ensure schools receive the best chance of survival.

If we want to forward the educational system and ignite real change, is simply getting rid of existing headteachers the right approach?

School-to-school support is becoming more widespread and valued than ever before. Schools, eager to share their high quality practices, can support others while simultaneously re-affirming their own systems and practice.

One of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal in the education sector is the ability to collaborate. While there are on-going questions about who understands the needs of teachers and education professionals, one thing can be certain – schools understand each other.

At St John Bosco Arts College, we’ve seen the improvements that can be achieved when collaboration and partnership takes place. As a national teaching school, we provide support and advice to schools which, for one reason or another, needs assistance.

Addressing the root of the problem is of upmost importance: Are there certain subject areas which are underperforming? Is the school lacking leadership skills?

It is these questions, and many others, which will lead to a measured, thought out plan to improve school standards. One shoe does not fit all in the dynamic world of teaching, so education professionals, and the government, should be working towards a more personalised, individual structure.

A focus on collaboration is a key factor in improving and maintaining teaching standards.

There are often misconceptions that schools receiving support do so reluctantly, which in our experience is not the case. Schools are very open about school-to-school support and the results which can be achieved.

For many, the additional advice, experience and development is welcomed; support from colleagues in the same profession, facing the same challenges and demands is a welcome perspective.

Research has shown that professional development is most effective when it is done collaboratively by teachers together. Although this is a daunting concept to some schools, encouraging this culture of teamwork can result in vast improvements.

But teaching schools do not focus solely on headteachers – in fact, fostering outstanding teaching at all levels helps create a flourishing school environment.

Of course, a headteacher plays a significant role within the school, so the development and leadership training within this role should be paramount, but so should the progress of each team member.

Working on leadership development, CPD and the improvement of young teachers coming in to the profession should not be overlooked. This is where school-to-school support can make a real impact.

Partnering with a teaching school can start a healthy and useful dialogue between schools. Visiting teachers can spot differences in teaching techniques and observe disparities to learn from.

Starting this dialogue is key to success, as it’s only then that schools can move forward and begin the process of change.

As government involvement continues to cause problems for teachers and school staff, those on the frontline have demonstrated an admirable sense of solidity and unity.

Change does not come overnight, and to expect so would be unrealistic. But building on the school-to-school support available to underperforming schools will help combat below par standards and allow for whole-school development. The impact? Wide-reaching, sustainable and long-lasting teaching.

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