Impact of Teaching Schools examined in new report

Nottingham Trent University's School of Education has contributed to a two-year study into the effectiveness of Teaching School Alliances (TSAs) in England.

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Alliances work together to raise attainment and improve professional development

Nottingham Trent University's School of Education has contributed to a two-year study into the effectiveness of Teaching School Alliances (TSAs) in England – which has revealed significant advances in the efforts of schools to establish professional development and school improvement, but as yet no measured overall effect on pupils' academic achievement within alliance schools.

What is fascinating is the speed and significance of the changes taking place in the school sector at the moment.

Matt Varley, Head of Partnership at NTU's School of Education.

Teaching schools are outstanding schools that work with other schools and partners in ‘alliances' to provide high-quality training and development to new and experienced school staff. They are part of the government's plan to give schools a central role in raising standards by developing a self-improving and sustainable school-led system. There are now around 500 TSAs established in England.

Led by The University of Nottingham's School of Education, the £300,000 project was carried out on behalf of the National College for Teaching and Leadership, and was funded by the Department for Education. Matt Varley, Head of Partnership at NTU's School of Education, was part of the research team along with colleagues from Isos Partnership, the University of Oxford, and the University of Manchester.

The research involved the in-depth examination of 26 TSAs of different sizes and longevity, operating in areas of contrasting socioeconomic and urban / rural characteristics, with different governance structures and varying legacies of collaboration and partnership. The study also involved a national survey of the first three cohorts of 345 TSAs, and secondary research and analysis of national examination performance and inspection results.

Variations in what TSA membership means in terms of engagement, operation and fulfilling the assigned teaching school priorities were highlighted in the evidence. However, almost all TSAs evaluated were committed to developing and deepening the scope and impact of their partnership work. Commitment, values, passion, resilience, hope and vision were identified as key qualities that are driving these school partnerships.

Their commitment and growing confidence in establishing inter-school partnerships is impressive.

Matt Varley

The report revealed compelling evidence of the strides that teaching schools and their alliances have made in developing the necessary relationships, social and intellectual capital, and collaborative activities to improve the professional practice of teachers and school leaders within and beyond TSA partnerships. TSAs have also attempted to address issues of leadership, succession planning and to engage teachers in and with research in various ways. However, the numerical evidence of the success of TSAs in terms of driving improvement in raising pupils' examination outcomes across alliances is so far limited.

Matt Varley, who co-authored the report, said: "The lack of numerical evidence so far of TSA impact on examination results isn't that surprising, partly because the TSA movement is relatively young and partly because measuring the impact of this kind of policy intervention is very tricky in such complex environments.

"What is fascinating is the speed and significance of the changes taking place in the school sector at the moment and the contribution to this that TSAs are making. Their commitment and growing confidence in establishing inter-school partnerships is impressive, and it is fascinating to see how they are engaging with other partners including local authorities and universities.

"They face real challenges in terms of sustainability, particularly in the context of the national focus on austerity and the projected budget deficits that many schools are facing, and we can't be sure what may happen next, but they are a significant development in the evolution of schools in this country."

The full Teaching Schools Evaluation final report is available to download from the Gov.uk website.

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Impact of Teaching Schools examined in new report

Published on 26 February 2016
  • Category: Press; Nottingham Institute of Education

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