Same Difference – School Improvement

It has been a very interesting year in our federation this year. The two schools serve very different settings with very different local needs. Being together in a federation therefore raises an interesting question: what is it that is keeps us together, or alternatively, how can federated schools keep their individuality?

Following the Secretary of State’s recent announcement on the latest drive to convert struggling schools in to Academies, I was asked in a recent interview for BBC News 24 to comment upon the dynamics required for successful school improvement. Our two schools have achieved their best ever SATS results this year and we have received glowing reports from the Local Authority school improvement partner for our innovative re-design of pedagogy to engage children better in their learning. Further still we received an outstanding judgement from OfSTED for our use of ICT and New Technologies. Yet it became clear as the year progressed that these successes, and of course the considerable work that still needs to be done to keep the schools restless in their pursuit of excellence, were due to the symbiotic nature of our federation.

It is absolutely clear to me that federations, and perhaps especially those that are borne of school improvement, need to be aware of their particular areas of expertise and to be empowered to share these across the federation. This raises morale and recognises that all parties in a network have valuable learning experiences to contribute to the whole. Somewhere in this lies their sense of individuality and its implicit contribution to the federal goals. There is much more to be reflected upon in understanding ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ as it relates to federated school models, but I am sure that a foundation of equal partnership is vital to each member’s optimal performance.

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