School-to-school collaboration

School-to-school collaboration and professional peer review

Education Development Trust has been at the forefront of collaborative school improvement, and our wealth of experience – both in the UK and globally – has shown that really effective school-to-school collaboration takes time and care to develop. Schools need to develop the capabilities to collaborate with purpose and rigour, and to ensure that precious resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible.

The Schools Partnership Programme

Our Schools Partnership Programme (SPP) is a collaborative approach to school improvement, recovery, and reimagining the education system. Developed in partnership with and for schools, it provides schools with the essential tools and support they need to allow them to drive their own improvement in an increasingly autonomous school system. Our vision is to build a sustainable, self-improving, school-led system in which partnerships of schools are jointly responsible for both their own improvements and those of others.

Over the past five years, we have worked with almost 2,000 schools across England, as well as the local systems that support them, to help existing partnerships to mature, to develop a collective will and purpose within them, and to thereby help schools to improve each other’s practice.

The programme builds participants’ skills in peer review, coaching, non-judgemental enquiry, and creating a culture of feedback, empowering schools to undertake their own school-led approaches to improvement. Our framework facilitates a continuous cycle of reviews and improvement workshops, but the training we provide also supports the development of skills that underpin effective peer review and follow-up support, including collaborative enquiry and the collective scrutiny of evidence and research to inform school improvement decision-making. We also ensure that this process builds leadership capacity. Over time, this does not only empower school leaders to create meaningful change and impact, but also middle leaders and staff across the entire school.

We are proud that our framework and materials provide the rigour and structure to help turn school-to-school collaboration into evidence-based action – and, ultimately, into improved outcomes for children and young people. This model not only builds capacity in local areas but, over time, it gives ownership of the model to schools to continue to develop peer review processes, which in turn supports local priorities and enables school-to-school support.

The Schools Partnership Programme benefits from our global network of partners, making it a distinctive and effective model. It has the largest reach of any school to school peer review programme in the UK, and the insight we have gained over the last 6 years has caught the attention of policymakers and influencing bodies in the UK and beyond. Our research has gained the attention of both the Scottish and Welsh governments, and the UN Education Commission. We have also worked with the NAHT in England to contribute to two recent publications, The principles of effective school-to-school peer review and their follow-up report, Improving Schools.

Find out more about the Schools Partnership Programme.

Enabling effective collaboration in a school-led system

Collaboration is key to successful school-led systems more broadly, and many of the principles of our Schools Partnership Programme are central to everything that we do. As an organisation, we are passionate about collaboration and knowledge-sharing – which is reflected in our wider work through our research programme and our school delivery partner network.

Across many areas of our work, our successful approach to large-scale programme delivery is based on school-to-school collaboration and the philosophy of the school-led system. Our school delivery model means that, by working together, schools themselves are invested in our programme: they are advocates, co-creators and learners who can control delivery in the ways that work best for them, supported by our co-ordinating team, who provide the essential strategic drive and continual tactical support.

We believe that the agency of teachers and leaders is critical in successfully embedding new ways of working, and our collaborative school delivery partner model harnesses this potential. Both our research and our experience on the ground have demonstrated the importance of a framework or structure to ensure the necessary rigour for successful collaboration and meaningful change.

Many of our UK programmes are underpinned by the need to enable school-to-school collaboration. These include our Early Career Professional Development Programme, the Accelerate programme (designed in partnership with the Chartered College of Teaching to provide exceptional training materials for early career teachers), and our Future Teaching Scholars programme, which supports the recruitment and development of high-calibre maths and physics teachers.