Improving leadership, teaching and outcomes for disadvantaged learners across secondary provision in South Gloucestershire, through peer review and collaborative approaches to professional development.

Bristol MET Teaching School

1. Overview

The application addressed the urgent need to improve progress of pupils in South Gloucestershire (S Glos), especially disadvantaged (PP) pupils. In 2016, S Glos held the lowest progress in the SW and the largest PP progress gap.

The Secondary outcomes data in 2017 showed little change in 4 stubborn groups: PP P8, Boys P8, HAP P8 and SEND P8. Only one of the Secondary schools had positive (close to zero) P8 and PP P8 in 2017. The % Good/Outstanding schools was only 41% in S Glos (with none graded Outstanding), compared with 85% in the SW and 78% nationally.

In order to secure rapid improvement in progress for all pupils to achieve their potential, the application proposed a set of interventions and leadership development which focussed on leading and improving the quality and effectiveness of teaching, in particular to address the progress and attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The selected schools in scope for the project were all the S Glos Secondary schools because the provision across the county was not yet good enough and there was a shared, collective priority to significantly improve this picture and the local offer for S Glos pupils and families.


2. Good practice to share with others interested in running school improvement projects to ensure projects deliver the intended outcome.

  1. The project was focused on developing leadership across the Secondary provision in S Glos and had 4 strands: peer review, leadership development, school-to-school support using new capacity/expertise and coaching.
  2. Enablers: engagement of MAT CEOs and LA (via CEOs group) and Heads/Principals (via Secondary Heads group) - engagement of the most senior leaders in the participating schools was essential to maintaining engagement from schools and other staff;
  3. Sharing data was really significant to the focus pupil groups and the school-to-school support; collaborative working between two lead Teaching Schools also supported the project.
  4. The coaching strand was “invaluable for well-being for Heads”; there were high levels of satisfaction from all participants, especially with the executive coaches (not from an education background). There was demand for further, affordable coaching for Heads, Senior teams and leaders.
  5. The leadership development through the NPQ programmes, bespoke S Glos cohorts, were reported to be beneficial, “very beneficial”; “staff feel more invested in and valued”; “impact will be seen longer term”. Providing funded courses and cover made the NPQs accessible in a LA with no scholarship funding. However, it was difficult for schools to let several leaders out of school on the same day and over-stretched sponsors where this rested on the Head only.
  6. Integration of special and AP with mainstream was very valuable – helped all feel part of one community and shared aims; it would have further benefitted from a cross-phase approach. The next step (after funding has ceased) will be to engage S Glos Primaries in 2019-20; having projects themed and linked to SSIF priorities was beneficial to delivering the SSIF intended outcomes.
  7. A number of participants have made leadership career steps.
  8. School to school support was most effective when: Heads/SLT engaged and helped with monitoring and de-briefing; informed by data/outcomes, therefore very targeted; SEND reviews and support highly valued.
  9. Peer review strand of the project did not really happen other than within the MATs.

3. Lessons learned - What the project may do differently in the future

  1. We appointed a project administrator who mainly worked on administering financial transactions between schools and the project.
  2. The project aims and progress was reported to the Secondary Heads group on a regular basis at meetings and through email communications. However not all Heads/schools took up everything that was on offer through the project. 1:1 contact between the project manager and Heads by phone or regular short catch ups might have secured more consistent engagement.
  3. Having existing leadership groups monitor/provide governance for the project was efficient, however in future we would establish an independent project steering group.

4. Sustainability measures taken by the project to ensure improvement are sustained beyond the funding period

  1. We held an end of project evaluation event which was attended by some of the MAT CEOs and LA representatives, several of the Headteachers from the supported schools and our RDD team link. The programme for this event was designed to gather and share evaluation and learning from the project participants and school leaders about the 4 strands of project activity and provide some time to reflect on next steps for collaboration in S Glos and how to disseminate the school improvement project outcomes. Two Middle Leaders presented the outcomes of their school improvement projects.
  2. A number of actions arose from this event in order to secure wider and on-going impact:
  • - Teaching School Leads (with support of CEOs/Heads) to create an online library of school improvement project impact reports for leaders across S Glos to access and potentially replicate in their own schools;

    - Teaching School Leads to continue to collaborate to coordinate the School-to-school support offer provided through SLEs, sharing knowledge of where there is expertise and signposting best placed people for support;

    - Teaching School Leads to make available a bank of coaches and a coaching training offer;

    - S Glos Heads group to perpetuate and extend shared purpose, cross-MAT/LA-wide working, consider continued data sharing (with some cost) to facilitate precision in S2SS;

    - LA and Teaching Schools plan on-going coordinated leadership development offer;

    - LA and Teaching Schools explore how to develop cross-phase working.

    - The project manager presented to the South West A Rep Board on 30 April and to the Local Schools Standards Board (LSSB) on 10 May.