Schools working together should focus on pupil outcomes

Nearly all schools are involved in some form of partnership with other schools, but there is not enough evaluation of the impact on pupils of this joint work, according to an Estyn report published today.

The report gives examples of school-to-school support, including informal self-generated or brokered arrangements, collaborations and federations. The report considers what works, and how and why it works. It also discusses the impact, success factors and obstacles facing school-to-school initiatives.

Only a minority of schools with informal, self-generated partnerships can identify the impact of joint working on standards. It is too early to evaluate the impact on standards of schools working in a formal federation.

Estyn's report ‘School-to-school support and collaboration’ found that successful school-to-school support works best when there is a clear need identified, a genuine commitment from school leaders, and a partnership that is designed to be mutually beneficial. It is also essential that schools working together have clearly identified strategic objectives and success criteria.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says:

"There are clear benefits for schools in working together, including improving outcomes for pupils and generating a collective sense of responsibility for improvement. Openness, trust and transparency between school leaders are crucial, as well as investing in staff time for research, development and collaboration. 

"Although school-to-school working is becoming more common, it needs more support and direction from local authorities and regional consortia. Today’s report includes case studies outlining different types of school-to-school collaboration and identifies the barriers to effective collaboration between schools."

The main barrier to effective school-to-school working is a reluctance to invest staff time in collaborative work. School leaders need to tackle concerns about pressure on staff time, particularly if staff need to be released from teaching commitments.

One example of school-to-school working identified in the report involves Cwmtawe Community School, Neath Port Talbot and their work with other schools, including work on literacy and numeracy, improving Welsh language development, and supporting pupils with additional learning needs. As a result of a clearly-defined strategy, the school has benefited from sharing good practice and is commended for its culture of professional development and increased capacity for continuous improvement.

The report recommends that school leaders are clear about the desired outcome of school to school support, identify specific success criteria, and make sure that the focus is on raising standards. Local authorities and consortia should have a clear strategy for matching schools to work together, set expectations about how groupings of schools will operate, make resources available to support school-to-school work, and disseminate good practice. The Welsh Government should consider ways of allowing federations to register as a single school and co-ordinate a national database of good practice.

Notes to Editors:

About the report

The findings and recommendations in this report draw on visits to 9 providers. These were selected because they are engaged in the particular types of school-to-school support considered in this survey. In these visits, activities included:

  • discussions with senior leaders, class teachers and governors
  • meetings with local authority staff and partners involved in the school-to-school work
  • inspection outcomes and questionnaires from a sample of schools in each secondary Family of schools

The report contains case studies on:

  • Anglesey ‘primary’ families
  • Elfed High School, Flintshire
  • Ysgol Tregarth and Ysgol Bodfeurig, Gwynedd
  • The Federation of Schools in the Upper Afan Valley, Neath Port Talbot
  • Cwmtawe Community School, Neath Port Talbot
  • Crownbridge Special Day School and its partners Portfield Special School, Greenfields Special School, Heronsbridge Special School, Ysgol Hen Felin and Ty Gwyn Special School

Publication date

Tuesday, 23 June, 2015