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Schools Partnership Programme

The best way to achieve an excellent school system is through a school-led model of improvement. When leaders are empowered to make a difference and teachers receive the support and development they need to become exceptional, children and young people achieve their very best. Working with successful and committed school leaders and using the most up-to-date research, Education Development Trust has developed this partnership programme which links self-evaluation, peer review and school-to-school support in a systematic cycle of continuous school improvement.

Schools work in partnerships and their leaders are trained in the key components of the model, including peer review, which uses a national benchmarked framework to facilitate rigorous, consistent reviews. Education Development Trust works with these partnerships to embed a culture of high quality self-evaluation, peer review and school-led support and challenge, within and between schools. Through the programme, partnerships connect with each other at a national level, sharing expertise and influencing the future shape of the model.

The Model

The model, co-constructed with school leaders, builds on, but goes beyond both the Ofsted and Estyn inspection frameworks and draws on the most effective practice nationally and internationally. The process is cyclical and aims to build a culture where self-evaluation, peer review and school-led support and challenge are part of everyday practice within schools and across the partnership. Figure 1 shows how school partnerships engage through our programme in a systematic cycle of school improvement, underpinned by a number of key themes.

Figure 1

Principle of Peer Review

The Schools Partnership Programme (SPP) peer review process is based on the belief that the best form of support is rigorous and timely, provides valuable challenge focused on improvement, and is led by trusted and highly regarded peers. Peer review is an essential next step in the improvement process and will draw on the school self-evaluation audit.

All schools in the partnership are expected to take part in the peer review process. It should be seen as reciprocal and mutually beneficial and a joint exercise between the review team and the school. It is also a powerful model of professional development and part of an ongoing self-directed process of scrutiny, reflection, challenge and improvement. The SPP approach is underpinned by a coaching model of change, improvement and professional development designed to build trust and collective accountability across the partnership.

The peer review cycle provides an opportunity to identify inspiring, excellent and effective practice, as well as areas for development. It will, therefore, be followed up by brokerage and school-to-school support. The peer review process builds on skills developed through self-evaluation and will further enhance both individuals’ skills and the capability and capacity of the partnership to be self-improving.

Peer reviews take place annually (as a minimum requirement) for each school within the partnership. They are carried out by a team of headteachers and other senior leaders as agreed within the partnership. When the school being reviewed is Outstanding, it is strongly recommended that the review is led by a headteacher from another outstanding school. There are four stages, as outlined in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Plan the Review


Partnerships will have a data-sharing agreement in place and the review school will provide the review team with their most recent school data, details of the self-evaluation audit and SIP in advance of the review.

Pre-review meetings:

Meeting 1:
Agree the focus of the review: At this meeting, the lead reviewer and the headteacher of the review school consider the school’s self-evaluation audit and interrogate the school’s most recent data. The head also tells the story of their school and agrees, with the lead reviewer, the focus of the review. All reviews should have a whole-school focus and should cover at least two of the four themes within the benchmark framework: Our Impact; Looking Inward; Looking Outward and Looking Forward (Appendix 3). The review must cover ‘Our Impact’ and at least one (as a minimum) of the three other themes selected from the benchmark framework.

Agree the processes of the review: The mechanics of the review are discussed so that the lead reviewer can plan the programme, taking account of any specific circumstances, e.g. staff who should not be observed (e.g. those on capability) and any special events taking place during the review days.

Meeting 2:
At this meeting, the lead reviewer briefs the review team and agrees specific of focus for team members (taking into account areas of knowledge and expertise). It may take place on the morning of the first review day and may also include the headteacher of the review school.

The Review

The overall aims of the review team will be to:

  • assess the validity of the self-review process through examining the school’s own assessment of its strengths and areas for improvement
  • identify areas of inspirational, excellent and effective practice which will be of benefit to the partnership
  • strengthen the school’s own capacity for review through its engagement with the review team
  • identify areas for development which will be met either through the school’s own improvement plan and/or through follow-up brokered school-to-school support.


The review will usually take place over two days and, depending on the size of the school, involve between two and four reviewers led by a headteacher. All reviews should include a range of ways in which evidence/information is collected, such as:

  • lesson observations, and paired observations (and feedback)
  • work scrutiny
  • observations of meetings
  • discussions with members of staff, pupils, governors, parents/carers and other stakeholders
  • meetings with relevant middle leaders, the headteacher and other relevant staff
  • School data.

Schools will usually use their own lesson observation proformas and other self evaluation tools (e.g. work scrutiny analysis sheets). Evidence will be recorded in the benchmark framework document (see Appendix 3).

At the end of the review, the team will discuss what they have learned about the school and agree where the school should be benchmarked (in each of the different aspects of each theme reviewed – ‘Our Impact’ plus one other as a minimum). Specific evidence which led to conclusions should be noted. It is important to note that the peer review process does not give an overall grade but provides a profile of the school’s performance across the review themes at that particular time.


Immediate feedback: This will take place at the end of the final review day. The lead reviewer will give brief feedback to the headteacher. The peer review team will then create a final profile using the benchmarked statements which will be highlighted to indicate judgements made. The judgements will be supported by a short commentary, citing evidence collected.

Interactive feedback workshop: In-depth feedback takes place up to a week later at an interactive workshop. All members of the review team attend and the school will invite all senior leaders and any colleagues they wish to involve, such as governors and middle leaders. The workshop is deliberately designed to enhance the senior team’s ability to reflect on the review and make evidence-based decisions for follow-up action. It will address the root causes of issues which may have been noted in the review as well as identify immediate action which can be taken. It will be based on a coaching model. This important workshop will conclude by determining follow-up actions (documented in an action plan – see Appendix 4) for the school and agreeing how the outcomes of the peer review will be shared with the rest of the staff and other stakeholders. The action plan will also identify any follow-up support and joint practice development that can be delivered through the partnership as well as identifying support that may be required from the wider Education Development Trust partnerships.

The school’s senior team will also be invited to give feedback on the peer review process – what went well and what could be improved – as part of ongoing development for the peer review team.

Once Improvement Champions (ICs) have been identified and trained, it is recommended that they play a key role in leading / facilitating the interactive workshops and the planning and organisation of school-to-school support and learning.

Education Development Trust will be responsible for overseeing the QA process for the peer reviews and will be requesting feedback from a sample of schools and review teams.

If the review has uncovered performance or safeguarding concerns, action must be taken immediately in line with the agreed Partnership Memorandum of Understanding.

Following the interactive workshop, implementation of the action plan should start as soon as is practicable; possible approaches are outlined in the next section.

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