Commentary

Peer Review: the norm, not the exception

Matt Davis

Over the last few months, we have been working with NAHT and some other Peer Review providers on a short report explaining the principles of what excellent school collaboration looks like.

It has now been published and you can find out more on our Schools Partnership Programme website.

NAHT are suggesting that Peer Review should become the norm among schools, rather than the exception and I couldn't agree more. Encouraging all schools to become part of a high-quality collaborative partnership would be such a simple and effective policy nudge here in England.

I completely understand why this remains a difficult proposition for policymakers. The evidence is still emerging on the links between collaboration and impact, and the precise aspects of collaboration which have real value. It certainly isn't a silver bullet and collaboration for its own sake can often be a time drain. Done really well though, Peer Review is one of the best things we have for setting the conditions for schools to improve.

Why so? Three quick reasons.

  1. The 'diagnosis' is really sharp. Something about the nature of the peer relationships, the fact that it's lower stakes than inspection and the specifics of the review process – longer, regular, deeper – means schools are much more likely to get to root causes of performance issues.
  2. The 'prescription' is more likely to be followed. The advice on how to address any issues the process unearths comes from peers who’ve walked in your shoes and therefore have innate credibility. Because it's local, the advice is based on current, practical experience which resonates with what leaders are dealing with in their own schools. And the solutions are negotiated: the advice is owned by the person who has to carry it out.
  3. The resulting changes are more likely to stick. For me, the features I see as important in good Peer Review are essentially those of good change management. The approach attends equally to the culture/people side of change (getting buy in, changing the way things are done around here etc) and the process/system side of change (clear actions, change leadership, regular reminders and clear comms etc).

When you combine all this with the fact that it’s loved by the sector - people who do it have the gleaming eyes of true converts - it's relatively inexpensive and highly scalable, for me it’s an absolutely inarguable proposition.

 

To read more about our peer review work with more than 1,300 schools, visit the Schools Partnership Programme website.

Schools Partnership Programme