A Context and Overview

The coalition government published a White Paper (Cm 7580) in November 2010, which signalled that the statutory requirement for local authorities to appoint a School Improvement Partner (SIP) for every maintained school will be removed. The published Education Bill confirms this intent.

As a result, all local authorities reviewed thire range and scope of school improvement services and the role of their school improvement advisers/inspectors. At the same time, the Department for Education closed down the National Challenge Programme which had focused on those secondary schools which had the weakest performance profiles.

Currently, local authorities receive government funding for the school improvement partner function but this will be withdrawn. As such, many local authorities are considering the extent to which they will continue with the school improment partner function beyond the 2010 to 2011 academic year. Some have already taken the decision to conclude contracts drawn up with independent consultants to act as school improvement partners for their schools. In others, a programme for schools supporting schools has been established to share effective practice and provide focused support.

In many local authorities, the school improvement partner function is continuing for the time being though ,amy are under severe pressure to reduce costs. The increase in the number of acdemies has also reduced the scale of school improvement services for secondary schools in particular. A number of Academy Trusts have established their own school improvement services as part of their role in challenging and supporting the academies they are responsible for to improve.

During this tranistional phase, an interview with a former secondary school improvement partner and Natioanal Challenge Adviser is still available. The scope of the original SIP role (see below) has remained a useful framework for the design of school improvement responsibilities.

The school improvement partner role

According to the original documentation, the purpose of the SIP is to:

  • contribute to whole-school improvement in a number of secondary schools in one or more local authorities.
  • provide challenge and support for the senior management team in a number of secondary schools.
  • provide information to a governing body on their school's performance and development.
  • work with a range of partners in order to deliver challenge and support for schools.

The main accountabilities of a SIP are to:

  • Discuss and assess a school's self evaluation and school improvement plan against available evidence including the Ofsted report, and comment on the effectiveness of these.
  • Provide an objective review of the school's performance data by considering its most recent national test results, trends over time, other pupil achievement data, and analysing the evidence for the school's improvement.
  • Discuss the school's targets and priorities for the coming year, based on the analysis of the data above, to ensure that they are ambitious but realistic.
  • Challenge the school where necessary, particularly on its capacity to improve and whether it is focusing on the most important priorities for improvement and development.
  • Discuss a package of support and challenge for the school (provided both by the LEA and/or external sources) and ensure that this is appropriately managed to give the school maximum value (particularly in the case of complex arrangements for schools in difficulties).
  • Report the outcomes of the "Single Conversation" to the school's Governing Body, the head teacher and the school's maintaining authority.
  • Provide advice and guidance to the governing body to inform the performance management of the head teacher.
  • Contribute to the effective development of the SIPs programme.

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School Improvement Strategies