A two-year study into the work of national Teaching School Alliances (TSAs) in England has concluded the system has improved the sharing of good practice among participating schools and their alliances but there has been, as yet, a lack of measured overall effect on pupils’ academic achievement within alliance schools.
Teaching School Alliances were initially set up by the government in 2011 to try to raise educational standards by outstanding schools sharing best practice with other ‘alliance’ schools in their area. There are now around 600 Teaching Schools in England working in 486 Teaching School Alliances.
The £300,000 research project was led by experts in The University of Nottingham’s School of Education on behalf of the National College for Teaching and Leadership and was funded by the Department for Education. The team was commissioned to investigate the effectiveness and impact of Teaching School Alliances (TSAs) established after a government white paper ‘The Importance of Teaching’ was published in November 2010.
Scope of study
The researchers used 26 case studies of TSAs set up between 2013 and 2015. These alliances were led by teaching schools from contrasting socioeconomic areas, of different sizes, types and urban/rural locations with different governance structures and varying legacies of collaboration and partnership.
They also used online surveys which were completed by 345 participating schools, one for middle leaders of teaching schools and the other for senior leaders and their strategic partner school leaders. These sought to explore the characteristics of the TSAs, their key areas of change and the extent to which involvement in a TSA related to improvement in aspects of teaching and learning in participants own schools.
A total of 149 school leaders from 127 TSAs responded to the senior leader survey, a response rate of 37 per cent. Responses from strategic partner schools and middle leaders were too low to be statistically meaningful and were not included in the analysis as a result.
A separate investigation using the National Pupil Database, propensity score matching (PSM) and multilevel modelling to explore whether there was a relationship between membership of a TSA and improved pupil results at Key Stages 2 and 4.
Leading the study, Professor Qing Gu from the University’s School of Education said:
“Teaching Schools and their alliances can make and have made a marked difference to the sharing of good practice among schools and to enhancing the professional practice of many teachers and school leaders within and beyond alliance partnerships. In this sense, the teaching school model clearly has an important role to play in driving forward a school-led ‘self-improving’ system. However, as yet, the lack of measured overall effect on pupils’ academic outcomes within TSAs suggests that caution should be exercised in making claims concerning the potential contribution of the teaching school model to raising attainment in schools across the partnership.”
This landmark evaluation project concludes that as one of a number of government initiated innovations, designed to achieve a ‘self-improving’ school system, teaching schools and their alliances have taken on a challenging role. The best examples from this evaluation suggest that teaching schools may hold a key to the organic emergence of a coordinated collaboration between partnerships across localities and regions. However, continuing systemic support in terms of resources, funding and accountability infrastructure are necessary to incentivise collaborations at different levels and move the teaching school concept forward effectively and sustainably.
The study was commissioned under the under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. As a result, the content may not reflect current Government policy. The views expressed in this report are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department for Education.
The research team was a partnership between The University of Nottingham, Isos Partnership, Nottingham Trent University, University of Oxford and University of Manchester.
The full Teaching Schools Evaluation Final Report is available to download at:
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