Cymraeg

School improvement guidance

This guidance, issued under Section 10 of the Education Act 1996, provides a new point of reference for schools, pupil referral units, local authorities, diocesan authorities, regional consortia and Estyn, which outlines our expectations of them in contributing to school improvement, in the context of their wider legal duties.

The overarching purpose of school improvement is to help schools give learners the best possible learning experiences and outcomes, whatever their background or circumstance, in order to achieve high standards and aspirations for all. Under the Curriculum for Wales, a fundamental part of this will be ensuring that schools support every learner to make progress, contributing to the four purposes of the curriculum (the four purposes).

This guidance supports that objective by setting out a framework for evaluation, improvement and accountability that will deliver sustainable school improvement and drive behaviours and practices that are required by the Curriculum for Wales and the new assessment arrangements, supporting our commitment to tackle the impact of poverty on attainment, set out in this oral statement. To be successful, it is crucial that all aspects of the school system are aligned with and support the Curriculum for Wales along with its underlying principles.

Within this framework, there is a clear distinction between:

  • evaluation and improvement activities
  • accountability
  • transparency

The majority of the energy and focus in the system should be on delivering school improvement, guided by effective self-evaluation, improvement planning and support in all schools. This guidance uses the phrase ‘improvement planning’ and is understood to have the same meaning as ‘development planning’.

As part of -evaluation and improvement, practitioners and school leaders should have the support and confidence to develop and improve their practice continually. This will enable them to thrive in a supportive and collaborative environment that will raise standards and ensure every young person can fulfil their potential.

The school improvement guidance replaces our 2014 guidance ‘School development plans’. It places the requirements of ‘The Education (School Development Plans) (Wales) Regulations 2014’ (School Development Plans Regulations) in the context of the new framework for evaluation, improvement and accountability.

The guidance sets out what schools and others in the education system ‘must’ and ‘should’ do under the framework for evaluation, improvement and accountability. References to what schools and others ‘must’ do are underpinned by a statutory obligation. Those actions which the guidance states that schools and others ‘should’ do is best practice in accordance with the guidance.

By issuing school improvement guidance on a non-statutory basis now, we want schools, local authorities, regional consortia, Estyn and diocesan authorities to implement and test the approaches to school improvement and accountability it sets out. We will then evaluate their impact. Following this we plan to update the guidance, building on learning in 2022 to 2023 and 2023 to 2024, and issue it as statutory guidance to come into force in September 2024.

Evaluation and improvement activities

Robust self-evaluation by schools is fundamental to the new arrangements. We have co-constructed the ‘national resource: evaluation and improvement’ to support schools in undertaking robust, evidence-based, self-evaluation.

To determine schools’ improvement priorities and support, effective self-evaluation will be complemented by professional dialogue between schools, local authorities, diocesan authorities where relevant, and regional consortia. Informed by this, all schools will have a single school development plan they are working towards. This term, ‘school development plan’ is consistent with School Development Plans Regulations and is interchangeable with ‘school improvement plan’.

The arrangements detailed above will be underpinned by a broad range of high-quality information about schools and their locality, and other parts of the system, which will need to be used in a timely, intelligent and supportive way.

Accountability

The accountability system, in contrast, is the processes in place to confirm that evaluation and improvement is functioning effectively and is the safety net for when it is not. It should not drive school improvement activity, although it can contribute to it; and it should ensure that problems are identified and addressed.

The first strand of the accountability system described in this guidance is the role of effective democratic accountability and governance arrangements at all levels of the school system

For schools, accountability lies with and is exercised by their governing bodies.

The second strand is the role of Estyn in delivering regular, consistent, comprehensive and accurate inspections of schools, local authorities and regional consortia. The effective functioning of these 2 strands will be crucial to ensure robust accountability within the system.

Another important part of both improvement and accountability is clarity and understanding about roles and responsibilities. We, the Welsh Government, also recognise the importance of an effective school improvement infrastructure around schools, predominantly through regional consortia, partnership arrangements between local authorities, and individual local authorities, as a key influence to improve the quality and consistency of learning and teaching to support delivery of the Curriculum for Wales in schools and to tackle the impact of poverty on attainment.

There will also be roles for other agencies to support schools; for example, the National Academy for Educational Leadership (NAEL) will work in partnership with regional consortia and local authorities to support leaders and leadership development.

It is vital that schools, especially those in need of greater support, are able to receive effective support from peers, regional consortia, local authorities and other organisations, in order to bring about sustainable improvement.

Aims of the guidance

This guidance aims to:

  • support the principles and practices of the Curriculum for Wales, as highlighted below in the 8 ‘contributory factors’, and help create the significant system and culture changes necessary for it to succeed, raising standards and aspirations for all
  • develop and encourage a continuous improvement culture across all schools, informed by clear national expectations about what good looks like
  • underpin the ongoing development of the self-improving system in which there is collaboration and openness between schools, rather than competition
  • encourage schools to inform evaluation and improvement using a wide range of evidence, which captures the whole learning experience, while ensuring a focus on learner progress and well-being, and learner voice
  • explain how the accountability system should help to increase standards, without having a negative impact on evaluation and improvement
  • bring clarity to the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in assisting the improvement of schools
  • support our commitment to tackle the impact of poverty on attainment and the approach developed to address this.

Curriculum for Wales: the context for improvement

None of the activities or processes described in this guidance can be delivered by schools without an understanding of the legal and policy context in which they are operating. Simply, in order to self-evaluate and improve, schools need to understand what is expected of them more widely and to have an understanding of what success would look like across the breadth of their work.

While it is not possible to summarise the entire education context here, schools will already be aware that the Curriculum for Wales represents a major opportunity, with impacts that extend far beyond their curricula.

For example, the introduction of the Curriculum for Wales contributes to our goals as a nation as set out in the ‘Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015’, and supports the Welsh Government’s well-being objectives. The underlying importance of promoting well-being is a theme that runs through the Curriculum for Wales and is never a secondary consideration. This is strengthened by the all-Wales ‘Framework on embedding a whole-school approach to emotional and mental well-being’.

The Curriculum for Wales also supports another of the Act’s overarching goals, namely ‘A Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language’. This will be realised through our strategy ‘Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers.

Similarly, the Curriculum for Wales is designed to enable the progress of all learners, and particularly disadvantaged and vulnerable learners, aligning closely with the ‘Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018’. Its central focus on individual learner progression is a key lever to address the impact of poverty on educational attainment in Wales.

The importance of learner progress

Learner progress is central to the Curriculum for Wales, so progression needs to have similar importance within evaluation and improvement activities, and accountability processes. This guidance suggests that schools use the following 2 questions as a starting point for their improvement activities:

  1. Are learners progressing in the ways described in the principles of progression, supporting them to develop towards the four purposes?
  2. Is the pace of learners’ progress in line with the expectations of teachers and the curriculum?

A range of information and evidence will need to inform schools’ answers to these 2 questions and, in turn, they will determine the focus of subsequent self-evaluation and improvement work.

From September 2022, the ‘national priorities’ defined in the School Development Plans Regulations will be updated to be consistent with the Curriculum for Wales, similarly emphasising the importance of progression. The new ‘national priorities’, which schools must have regard to when setting their improvement priorities, will be:

  • improving pupils’ progression by ensuring their learning is supported by a range of knowledge, skills and experience
  • reducing the impact of poverty on learners’ progression and attainment

Our vision for successful schools under the Curriculum for Wales

To support schools to navigate this new context, we have set out 8 contributory factors, describing the key attributes that schools that are successfully realising the curriculum will possess. These describe the factors that support reform and which, where absent, are likely to act as barriers to success. The factors cover learner progress and the curriculum itself, as well as wider processes and priorities.

Successful curriculum realisation will be supported by schools:

  1. Enabling all learners, and in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to progress along their own learning pathway and raise their aspirations to achieve their full potential; allied to a range of assessment approaches to understand and support this progress.
  2. Co-constructing a curriculum, in line with the Curriculum for Wales Framework, which promotes a broad range of knowledge, skills and experiences (including social and interactional experiences) with a clear understanding of why these matter.
  3. Ensuring the school environment supports learners’ and practitioners’ well-being.
  4. Supporting practitioners' understanding of what works in curriculum design by investing in the enquiry and pedagogic skills of all staff.
  5. Enabling ambitious professional learning for all practitioners in a school dedicated to being a learning organisation.
  6. Embedding reflection, self-evaluation and improvement within schools, with good school leadership as a pre-condition for that.
  7. Being at the heart of their communities - building better relationships between schools and families, communities and employers, to support and promote educational achievement and excellent employment, next steps education and training.
  8. Listening to children and young people as they engage with their learning and supporting them in achieving their aspirations

As factors that contribute to curriculum realisation, they should inform schools’ understanding about what successful realisation of the Curriculum for Wales is likely to involve, as well as being an important reference for schools when evaluating their own curriculum realisation and deciding where and how they need to improve. They are not designed to be an exhaustive checklist for schools. They do however offer a consistent framework for use across Wales.

Estyn’s new approach to inspection for schools and pupil referral units (PRUs), which is being piloted with schools and PRUs from spring 2022, reflects these contributory factors throughout. Regional consortia will use the 8 factors to help them evaluate where schools might benefit from additional support for curriculum realisation in a consistent way across Wales; and will use intelligence from their engagement with schools to provide feedback to Welsh Government both on national progress towards curriculum realisation and to help identify where additional support and resources need to be targeted at a national level. Schools will be able to use this framework to agree areas for discussion and collaboration which is relevant locally, regionally and nationally.

Changes to regional working arrangements

This guidance refers to activities being delivered by regional consortia where that will be the case in most regions. The definition is intended to include school improvement partnership arrangements between local authorities. Where local authorities have chosen to deliver these activities themselves, they should be interpreted to apply to them equally.

In all cases, it is important that schools and other partners are clear about who does what. It is ultimately by working in partnerships, based on trust, that regional consortia, local authorities, governing bodies and headteachers will have the biggest impact in continuously improving schools.

The framework for evaluation, improvement and accountability has 3 main aspects: information and evidence, evaluation and improvement, and accountability. In some cases our vision for these aspects covers several strands. Evaluation and improvement covers self-evaluation; improvement priorities and school development plan; as well as support, collaboration and improvement. Similarly, accountability covers democratic accountability and inspection. Each of these aspects, or their related strands, will be discussed in further detail in the guidance which follows our vision for them.

Information and evidence

  • A broad range of high quality, relevant and timely information and evidence underpins all aspects of the framework for evaluation, improvement and accountability.
  • Information and evidence are used appropriately for 3 purposes: improvement, accountability and transparency.
  • For improvement, schools use the widest and richest possible range of evidence available to inform self-evaluation and processes for improvement within their own context, while retaining a constant focus on learner progress.

Evaluation and improvement

Self-evaluation

  • All schools will have honest, robust, evidence-based self-evaluation arrangements in place, building on the range of information and evidence available, as part of their strategic improvement process.
  • Self-evaluation will also identify a school’s strengths, allowing them to contribute to system-wide improvement.
  • The whole school community, that is learners, practitioners, support staff, governors, parents and carers, will contribute to the process.
  • All parts of the school system will see self-evaluation as a mechanism for improving individual schools and the wider school system, and ultimately supporting learner progress, rather than as a compliance exercise within the accountability system.

Improvement priorities and school development plan

  • Schools’ own improvement priorities and development plans are published in summary form for the benefit of learners, parents and carers, as well as other stakeholders. This supports a culture in which schools are open about the support they need and where middle-tier partners work with schools in a supportive, non-judgemental way.

Support, collaboration and improvement

  • With the school’s self-evaluation and development plan as the starting point, regional consortia and local authorities agree with each school the additional support it needs to improve and build its own capacity.
  • The wide range of information being used at school level to evaluate improvements and identify future priorities supports regional consortia and local authorities to identify schools’ support needs, as well as helping them to identify their own improvement priorities in order to improve service delivery.
  • Schools have access to high-quality and timely support from both local authorities and regional consortia, as well as from other schools. This is enhanced by increased collaboration and communication between schools, local authorities and regional consortia.
  • The agreed support schools will receive is incorporated in their development plans, including published summaries, providing an incentive for schools to ask for the help they need and enhancing transparency.
  • Through their engagement with schools, regional consortia also identify where schools have strengths and capacity to support other schools to improve.

Accountability

Democratic accountability

  • Governing bodies are the accountable bodies for their schools. In this role, they take responsibility for strategic leadership of the school, for its effective governance and ultimately for driving improvements in their schools for the benefit of learners.
  • For most schools, governing bodies should be free to oversee the evaluation and improvement process, supported by advice, resources and services from local authorities and regional consortia. However, where schools are causing concern, local authorities take swift and effective action, advised and supported by regional consortia.
  • Democratic accountability in local authorities (councils and scrutiny committees) and in regional consortia (joint committees and company board) is critical to strengthening the middle tier’s role in supporting schools and to monitoring, challenging and improving the work it does as part of this role. (This will be a priority for the Welsh Government’s work with partners going forward.)
  • Alongside clarity about where accountability resides, there is a culture of collective responsibility for the quality of education provided to all children and young people.

Inspection

  • Schools will be inspected more regularly by Estyn. Inspections will provide fair and rigorous evaluations of learner progress, the quality of leadership, learning and teaching in schools, realisation of the Curriculum for Wales, tackling the impact of poverty on attainment, and the well-being of practitioners and learners.
  • Inspection reports will have sufficient explanatory narrative about the effectiveness of schools, supporting schools’ processes for improvement in response to inspections and giving parents and carers a good understanding of schools’ effectiveness, without including summative judgements.

This guidance sets out the key principles determining the use of information for different purposes and at different tiers of the education system. Often, different types and levels of information will be relevant and appropriate for the different purposes. There are 3 main purposes for the use of information in the new system: improvement; accountability and transparency. More detail on each purpose is given below.

The 3 main purposes for the use of information in the new system

Improvement

Improvement is for the learner. A wide range of information supports effective self-evaluation and improvement at all tiers of the system. At school level, it supports schools to continually improve and to give all learners the best possible education in order to progress. It will therefore include information covering the whole school, as well as at an aggregate and individual pupil level. For other tiers of the system, a wide range of information will be used to support self-evaluation and continuous improvement of service delivery to support the education system.

Accountability

Accountability is for governance purposes. Information available and used for this purpose will help governing bodies, local and diocesan authorities and regional consortia to oversee the quality of delivery by their own organisations. In doing this, these bodies will fulfil their democratic accountability functions. While not all of the information that is used to inform accountability processes needs to be publicly available, we would expect the outcomes to be. For example, via school governors’ annual reports or local authority scrutiny committee minutes.

Transparency

Transparency is for the wider citizen, telling us about how well both individual schools, other organisations within the education sector and the system as a whole are doing, as well as providing contextual information. It will include national level information (for example PISA data, official statistics), as well as some information at a sub-national and school level (for example Estyn inspection reports, school development plans), and be easily accessible. This should build and secure public confidence in the education system in Wales.

Under each of these main purposes for information, our aim is to:

  • increase the use of the widest and richest possible range of information to inform self-evaluation and improvement within schools’ own context
  • clarify the use of information for accountability purposes, so that this does not inhibit schools’ improvement or drive negative behaviours
  • broaden the range and quality of information available publicly about schools and the wider system to increase transparency and public confidence

While the immediate aims may differ, and it is important that accountability is separate from evaluation and improvement activities, all 3 purposes should ultimately contribute to the same outcome: all learners making progress so that they achieve their full potential. Below, we will look at how the principles of progression can provide a framework that both accountability processes, and evaluation and improvement activities, may refer to and draw upon in order to ensure this alignment.

As discussed in the introduction (above), references below what schools and others ‘must’ do are underpinned by a statutory obligation. Those actions which the guidance states that schools and others “should” do is best practice in accordance with the guidance.

In using information, schools, local authorities, diocesan authorities and regional consortia should:

  • use a balanced approach that draws on a coherent and comprehensive set of qualitative and quantitative information to evaluate learners’ progress in schools in a non-hierarchical manner. This information should be relevant to individual schools’ needs and context, but there are likely to be commonalities across schools to support a shared understanding of progression and to focus schools towards national expectations
  • not rely solely on narrow measures of learner attainment to draw conclusions on school performance
  • ensure that school leaders, practitioners and support staff are not distracted from their work with learners to gather and retain often considerable and unnecessary quantities of evidence to satisfy different requirements

Schools should:

  • use a wide range of information to consider the progress of all learners and the systems that support them, guided by the principles of progression, in order to arrive at a holistic view of learner progression
  • develop lines of enquiry for further self-evaluation and improvement planning, building on evidence collected about learner progress, as well as wider information across the breadth of school activity (see ‘Self-evaluation’).
  • select information used for self-evaluation dependent on their own context, needs and priorities, while aiming to carry out an objective evaluation of their current position
  • consider carefully, and within context, the use of any comparative information: how it can be used to identify potential areas for investigation, and to support increased collaboration between schools and the sharing of effective practice (for example, developing a shared understanding of progress)
  • make effective use of information they hold themselves for the purpose of self-evaluation, as well as using a wide range of evidence either made available to them by others or which they have sourced

Local authorities, regional consortia, and diocesan authorities (where appropriate), should work in partnership to:

  • make available to schools any information they hold which would be beneficial for schools’ self-evaluation (for example, attendance analyses produced by the local authority), as part of a culture of partnership working
  • share relevant information and intelligence about schools between each other, in line with GDPR legislation, reinforcing their professional partnership
  • consider appropriate school-level evidence and information to:
    • help determine schools’ support needs and capacity to support others
    • contribute to their own self-evaluation of their services to support schools (for example direct support; professional learning; use of intervention powers) which should inform councils’ review of their performance at a corporate, strategic level

Estyn should ensure that their inspection framework and arrangements are consistent with the principles and expectations set out for the use of information in this guidance.

With the removal of levels in the Curriculum for Wales, it is necessary for schools and partners to develop a more sophisticated, broad-based understanding of learner progress. Schools need to collect evidence to evaluate learner progress, both at an individual, group and school level. They should use this evidence to answer the following 2 questions:

  1. Are learners progressing in the ways described in the principles of progression, supporting them to develop towards the four purposes?
  2. Is the pace of learners’ progress in line with the expectations of teachers and the curriculum?

Schools’ answers to these questions will help determine the lines of enquiry of subsequent self-evaluation and improvement. These could, for example, include progress by specific groups of learners and the extent to which the school is helping to overcome the impact of poverty on attainment. (Schools will also use other questions to help evaluate learner progress, as exemplified in the national resource.)

To help schools arrive at answers to these questions, the principles of progression include both overarching principles and principles specific to each area of learning and experience. They therefore provide a framework for school leaders to use to design their processes for collecting and analysing evidence about learner progress, both over time and at a group level. This should ensure that schools are helping learners to progress in a way that will support them to develop towards the four purposes.

Qualification and summative assessment or attainment data will not be sufficient on their own for schools, or others, to make a judgement on learner progress. For example, well-being is critical as a platform for high quality learning. Schools will therefore need to draw also on wider sources of information and evidence. These are likely to include: information from teachers who will be assessing learner progress; information relating to learner progress in respect of the principles of progression; data on attendance, behaviour and welfare; observations of learning and teaching; discussions with learners and teachers.

The following sections discuss the specific roles that assessment and qualification data are able to play in both evaluation and improvement, and accountability, processes.

Using learner assessment information

The purpose of assessment within the Curriculum for Wales is to support individual learner progression, as an integral part of learning and teaching. Assessment for the purposes of awarding external qualifications is different in nature, however, as these have a greater level of external control and prescription.

Supporting learner progression: assessment guidance outlines 3 main roles for assessment for progression:

  1. supporting individual learners on an ongoing, day-to-day basis
  2. identifying, capturing and reflecting on individual learner progression over time
  3. understanding group progression in order to reflect on practice

Assessment should support progression by contributing to developing a holistic picture of the learner: their strengths; the ways in which they learn; and their areas for development. This will inform the next steps in learning and teaching. A range of assessment methods should be used on a continuous basis to build this picture of the learner.

Consideration of assessment information gathered to help understand group progression is an important part of a school’s self-evaluation and continuous improvement processes. Leaders and practitioners should use this information to identify whether different groups of learners are making expected progress in relation to a school’s curriculum. In doing so, schools should identify the strengths and areas for improvement in both a school’s curriculum and assessment arrangements and in daily practice. This should ensure a school’s curriculum and assessment arrangements, and the learning and teaching, raise the achievement of all and, in particular, the achievement and attainment of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. This in turn will help to tackle the impact of poverty on attainment and progression.

Using assessment information to support learner progression and to help improve teaching practice is also a core professional responsibility of a school’s teaching staff. Headteachers should, therefore, use ‘Supporting learner progression: assessment guidance as a basis for professional discussions and learning within their schools.

Given the central role of progression to the success and aims of the Curriculum for Wales, governing bodies and Estyn, who play a key role in the school accountability system, have a legitimate interest in evidence schools hold about the progress made by their learners. Qualification and summative assessment data should not be used for accountability purposes in isolation, however, as this type of data is not in and of itself evidence of learner progression or improvement over time. It is, in contrast, a snapshot of the performance of a group of individual learners at a particular point in time. This information should therefore be considered alongside a wider range of evidence.

Assessment should also not be undertaken for accountability purposes (for example to satisfy the perceived needs of governing bodies or Estyn). Similarly, local authorities and regional consortia must not create specific local arrangements to gather individual pupil level information; and, where they collect school level data it should not be aggregated.

Schools’ own learner progression information, and its use in their self-evaluation, is, however, likely to form part of the professional conversations they hold with improvement advisers. Similarly, it will form an important source of evidence for Estyn to consider when inspecting schools, and for governing bodies. While accountability should not drive assessment or improvement activities, it is equally important that accountability and improvement processes are concerned with the same priorities.

Developing a shared understanding of progression

Given that supporting learners to progress is a fundamental driver of the Curriculum for Wales, developing, embedding and maintaining a shared understanding of progression will also form a key part of the school improvement journey. Schools will be required to put arrangements in place to enable practitioners to participate in professional dialogue within their school, across their cluster and with other schools and settings to explore, discuss and understand:

  • their joint expectations for how learners should progress and how knowledge, skills and experiences should contribute to this in their school’s curriculum
  • how to ensure coherent progression for learners throughout their learning journey and in particular at points of transition, including between primary and secondary school
  • how their expectations for progression compare to those of other schools and settings, to ensure coherence and equity across the education system and a sufficient pace and challenge in their approach to progression in their curriculum and assessment arrangements

Collaboration in developing and maintaining a shared understanding of progression should form an ongoing part of a school’s self-evaluation and improvement processes. This professional dialogue should deliver rich information supporting a school’s consideration of what is working well in supporting learner progression, and what areas might be further strengthened. Further information about these processes can be found in ‘Supporting learner progression: assessment guidance’.

External qualifications data

To reflect the ambitions of the Curriculum for Wales and meet the future needs of learners, qualifications for 14 to 16 year olds are being reviewed and reformed. Qualifications Wales is working to co-construct a coherent and inclusive choice of bilingual qualifications for schools that supports their curriculum and meets the needs of all learners. The first of these new qualifications will start to be rolled out for first teaching from 2025, with the first awards being in 2027. The Welsh Government has also committed to significantly expand the range of ‘made in Wales’ vocational qualifications to fit the needs of our learners and our economy.

Qualifications are principally of importance to individual learners. They are a record of the knowledge and skills they have attained, a passport to further or higher education and employment, and a key part of their successful transition to the next stage of their development. For many learners, their achievements in qualifications will play an important role in helping them to realise their aspirations. This is the main reason why external qualification outcomes should be important to schools, including for self-evaluation and improvement purposes, serving the best interests of individual learners.

The outcomes of independent external qualifications, both academic and vocational, are also of legitimate and valid public interest. They have, therefore, routinely featured in the range of information made publicly available about schools, and will continue to be so. This practice of publishing external qualification attainment data is for transparency, not for accountability (as outlined in this guidance).

This data has previously been described as school performance measures. In reality, it is data about one aspect of learner attainment, the performance in external qualifications of specific cohorts of a school’s learners. It cannot be understood or analysed in isolation. Therefore, for the purpose of this guidance, we describe it as ‘external qualifications data’.

Published external qualification data is limited by design in what it can convey. The information is useful as a starting point for self-evaluation of relevant areas, including the progress made by some learners, but should not be used in isolation for accountability or school improvement.

Where schools fail to use external qualifications data, appropriately triangulated and contextualised, to self-evaluate and improve, they may need support to do so in the first instance. Ultimately schools are to be held account by their governing body and/or Estyn if this is not addressed.

It is important for schools, governing bodies, local authorities and regional consortia to consider and engage with the wider policy and Curriculum for Wales intentions that sit behind published data. In particular, schools should be mindful of the need to offer a broad and balanced curriculum, including a sufficient range and choice to learners in relation to qualifications and programmes of learning at 14 to 16 as part of this. They should also ensure that the progress made by every learner is their priority, ensuring they are supported and challenged accordingly.

There is considerable public interest in information about schools. The provision of information to the public is for transparency. It is not for accountability, but has often been perceived as such by the schools sector and presented in this way in public reporting of the education system in Wales. As this guidance sets out, accountability is a process underpinned by effective governance within schools, democratic scrutiny and inspection, not simply the release of information into the public arena. The frequent conflation of transparency and accountability has not been helped by excessive overlap in the information used for different purposes. While information can be used legitimately for multiple purposes, it is important that the way in which it is used is appropriate.

Schools

Information should be made publicly available about schools by:

  • the schools themselves (for example, on their websites and in prospectuses, governors’ annual reports and school development plans)
  • local authorities (for example. in composite school prospectuses)
  • where applicable, diocesan authorities (for example, section 50 inspection reports)
  • the Welsh Government (for example,. in official statistics and on the My Local School website)
  • Estyn (for example, in inspection reports)

The information made publicly available should enable a school’s context to be understood and appreciated. Through the My Local School website, the Welsh Government ensures that a consistent set of contextual information is available about schools and their learners and operations.

For each school, Welsh Government publishes the following information about its learners:

  • number of pupils by year and gender
  • percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals (3-year average)
  • percentage of learners with additional learning needs (ALN)
  • percentage of pupils learning English as an additional language
  • percentage of pupils that recorded their ethnic background as anything other than ‘White-British’.

In relation to a school’s resources and operations, Welsh Government publishes:

This information should help enable the consideration of contextual information alongside that of learner outcomes.

The outcome of a school’s self-evaluation provides more meaningful transparency about areas of strength and priorities for improvement, which will be reflected in their school development plan, than un-contextualised attainment data. To help increase confidence in, and commitment to, the school and its development plan, the school should publish the summary copy on its website. This summary should include a high-level summary of the school’s self-evaluation, high-level priorities for the current year and progress against those for the previous year (see ‘Improvement priorities and school development plan’).

In this way, parents, carers, and learners will be able to access standardised information that is available for all schools (which will include a range of contextual information and external qualifications data where relevant to the school), along with information that is specific to their school (for example, Estyn reports and summary development plans).

Local authorities and regional consortia

Information that is relevant to the services they deliver to support schools and learners should be made publicly available by local authorities and regional consortia. This should not be based on aggregations of the school-level information they will use for other purposes (such as: resource allocation, identifying support needs and ensuring strategic plans meet the needs of schools).

As for individual school development plans, local authorities and regional consortia should publish their service delivery plans, as these will provide more meaningful information to the public about their strengths and priorities for improvement, with respect to the services they provide. These should be in summary form, proportionate to the need for a meaningful level of transparency, and not so detailed that the production of documentation detracts from the core purpose of securing improvements.

They should also publish the minutes of their principal council and scrutiny committee meetings (for local authorities) and of their joint committee/executive board meetings (for regional consortia), as a public record of their accountability arrangements that relate to schools and the services they provide them. Similarly, the decisions of local authority executives, their committees and individual members of the executive must be made public.

Also, the ‘Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021’ (The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act) introduced a new performance and governance regime for local authorities. The Act places a duty on a principal council to keep its performance under review, specifically by reviewing the extent to which it is meeting the ‘performance requirements’. That is, the extent to which a council:

  • is exercising its functions effectively
  • is using its resources economically, efficiently and effectively
  • has effective governance in place for securing the above

Local authorities will review how they are meeting the performance requirements through annual self-assessments, complemented by peer-led panel performance assessments once every 5 years. Reports summarising the outcome of both of these processes will be published. While considering the extent to which the council is meeting the performance requirements is a corporate assessment, rather than an assessment of individual services, it is still likely to lead to findings and improvement priorities that are relevant to education services.

The Welsh Government

Information is also made publicly available at a national level that is relevant to the effectiveness of the education system in Wales and Welsh Government policies. This includes:

Estyn annual report: This report provides Estyn’s summary and analysis of evidence collected in their inspections, during the previous academic year, about the performance and standards in education sectors across Wales, including schools. It also identifies trends and progress from year to year, helping to monitor performance in the education system at a national level, and informing national policy development and decision-making.

Estyn thematic reviews: Each year, Welsh Ministers also commission Estyn to undertake thematic reviews and/or inspections on specified topics. Estyn’s subsequent reports help to inform policy development and to monitor progress, by both identifying what is working well, as well as highlighting policies or practices that do not benefit learners nor support the quality of educational provision.

PISA: Currently conducted on a 3-year cycle, PISA is the OECD's programme for international student assessment. Please note, as a result of the pandemic, there is a 4-year gap between the 2018 and 2022 assessments.

PISA measures a sample of 15-year-olds’ ability to use the knowledge and skills they have accumulated during their education to meet real-life challenges. First conducted in 2000, the major area of study rotates between reading, mathematics and science in each cycle, although all 3 are assessed each time. By design, PISA emphasises functional skills that students have acquired as they near the end of compulsory schooling. The evidence it provides helps us to understand young people, gauge their well-being and skills, and learn from their experiences as we emerge from the pandemic. It will play an important part in our approach to recovery and improvement.

Statistical releases: Welsh Government collects and publishes a range of data in the form of a statistical headline, release or bulletin, along with associated StatsWales tables, to account for a broad range of user needs. Official statistical releases include:

  • Schools census
  • EOTAS census
  • School Workforce Annual census
  • attendance
  • exclusions
  • GCSE and A Level results

National monitoring programme: In order to understand learners’ progress and attainment nationally, the Welsh Government is also developing a national monitoring programme. National monitoring will allow us to understand learners’ progress and attainment over time in different areas, and draw out common themes and challenges nationally to feed back into policy-making. Crucially, it will provide this information across different groups of learners, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds and other groups. This will enable us to track the success of the actions the Welsh Government is taking to tackle the impact of poverty on educational outcomes, and inform further work.

The Welsh Government has commissioned research to support the creation of a new data and information ecosystem for the school system in Wales to support the ambitions of Curriculum for Wales, which will report in autumn 2022. The national monitoring programme will be developed in the context of the information ecosystem, with a clear understanding of its potential interactions with, and impacts on, the wider system. A regular sampling approach involving a limited number of schools, rather than universal testing, is being evaluated as part of this research.

The monitoring programme will not be linked in any way to external accountability for individual schools. It will also be clearly separate to school-level curriculum and assessment arrangements to avoid negatively driving curriculum and assessment design. Instead, it will provide a consistent picture across Wales of how learners are progressing towards the four purposes and achieving the expectations set out in the Curriculum for Wales framework.

Together with external qualifications data, Estyn’s national reports, and data from other sources, information from national monitoring will provide a rounded view of educational standards and learner progress across Wales.

Purpose of self-evaluation for schools

Schools should use self-evaluation to:

  • evaluate how they are performing, covering all aspects of school operations over time, with an ongoing focus on learner progress
  • inform the school’s processes for improvement (both priorities and actions)
  • support sustained improvements in learning and teaching, as well as in leadership, as opposed to short-term ‘quick fixes’
  • identify areas of strength to be shared with others
  • promote professional reflection and discussion
  • inform professional learning for all staff
  • improve the planning of Welsh-medium education

Areas schools should evaluate

Schools should decide which aspects of their operations to evaluate in detail. This should be informed by leaders’ judgements about learner progress, informed by the principles of progression.

There are 3 overarching areas for self-evaluation included in this guidance to help schools group or categorise the main areas where both issues and solutions are likely to be found and delivered:

  1. vision and leadership
  2. curriculum, learning and teaching
  3. well-being, equity and inclusion

The national resource: evaluation and improvement’ (‘the national resource’) is structured in line with these 3 areas. (It breaks down ‘curriculum, learning and teaching’ into ‘Curriculum’ and ‘Learning and teaching’.) The national resource provides further practical guidance, including discussion prompts, to support schools in undertaking robust, evidence-based self-evaluation and to identify and monitor their improvement priorities.

A school’s standard self-evaluation cycle should include coverage of the following areas:

  • Vision and leadership:
    • strategic vision
    • leadership capacity across the whole school (including governing body)
    • effectiveness of self-evaluation and improvement processes, including impact of existing improvement strategies and any support received
    • tackling the impact of poverty on attainment
    • being a dedicated learning organisation, with ambitious professional learning for all
    • financial management and use of resources
  • Curriculum, learning and teaching:
    • enabling progress for all learners, and in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds in order to tackle the impact of poverty on attainment
    • learner progress along a Welsh language (and cultural) continuum, including within school settings other than Welsh-medium
    • assessment systems that support progression
    • co-constructing a curriculum, in line with the Curriculum for Wales framework, that promotes a broad range of knowledge, skills and experiences
    • being a school at the heart of its community
    • listening to children and young people
    • workforce capacity and capability, underpinned by investment in the enquiry and pedagogical skills of all staff
  • Well-being, equity and inclusion:
    • progress in embedding a whole-school approach to mental health and emotional well-being
    • ensuring the school environment supports the well-being of learners and staff. This specifically includes promoting race, gender and wider equalities, as well as anti-discrimination activity, through learning and the wider school environment
    • arrangements to safeguard learners
    • ensuring that all learners, particularly those disadvantaged by background or circumstance, are included equally in all aspects of school life
    • ensuring that all learners are given equal opportunities to succeed and that barriers to meaningful participation or learning are actively identified and addressed

What good self-evaluation looks like

Schools should take into account the following principles and guidance when designing and carrying out self-evaluation:

  • Self-evaluation is most effective when it:
    • is continuous and aligned with processes for improvement as an integrated action
    • is reflective, honest and inclusive, using rigorous evidence-based approaches that take in a wide range of views from across the school (including learner voice), the wider community and peers
    • uses evidence-based practice to innovate and improve, while driving the sharing of effective practice within and between schools
    • is based on a wide range of evidence, using data proportionately alongside first-hand evidence, to evaluate their own strengths and areas for improvement
    • keeps progress against improvement priorities under review, continually evaluating the impact of planned actions
  • The analysis of data and information is important, but should not be valued more highly than other sources of evidence for self-evaluation (for example listening to learners; observing teaching). Where it is used, it is most effective for self-evaluation and improvement when it:
    • focuses clearly on learner progress and well-being
    • takes into account a wide range of evidence, not just a single ‘narrow’ set of data
    • takes the school’s context into consideration
    • is used to evaluate the progress and well-being of all learners and groups of learners
    • is based on reliable and accurate assessment.

The roles of regional consortia, local and diocesan authorities in school self-evaluation?

Both local and diocesan authorities and regional consortia should:

  • make available to schools any data and information they hold that could enhance schools’ self-evaluation, where it is appropriate to do so
  • support school leaders and governing bodies to identify areas where they may require additional support, without fear that this will count against them for accountability purposes

Regional consortia should:

  • advise schools on effective self-evaluation based on robust, evidence-based approaches, and provide support to schools where needed (this might include helping schools to use the national resource)
  • facilitate relevant professional learning
  • encourage and broker peer-to-peer working between schools on self-evaluation, drawing on the principles in Annex C
  • promote the culture of open and honest reflection and evaluation for improvement

Based on the School Development Plans Regulations, governing bodies must:

  • prepare a school development plan that covers a period of at least 3 years
  • cover the areas set out in the Schedule (see Annex B) in their school development plan, including:
    • provision for addressing the professional learning needs of all staff, including leadership development, in relation to achieving the school improvement priorities. These provisions also include teaching assistants and staff temporarily placed at the school, including both short- and long-term supply teachers. Schools’ provision for supporting the professional development of these practitioners will naturally reflect the nature of their tenure and deployment
    • how the school deploys its staff and other resources including, but not limited to, funding, equipment, school buildings and grounds. Schools should consider the skills and capacity of their workforce and other resources available to them in order to deliver their school improvement priorities and targets. This will link closely with the school’s plans to develop its staff so it has a workforce with the necessary skills and experience to meet learners’ needs
  • revise the plan at least annually, and following an inspection by Estyn
  • consult the following people when preparing or revising the plan:
    • the headteacher of the school (if that person is not a member of the governing body)
    • registered pupils at the school
    • parents or carers of registered pupils
    • school staff
    • such other persons as the governing body considers appropriate
  • publish the plan by providing copies to each member of the governing body and school staff. They may also choose to make the whole plan available on request to parents and carers.

As a consequence of the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021, the ‘national priorities’ in the School Development Plans Regulations have been updated and amended. Therefore, with effect from September 2022, all governing bodies must also take account of the following national priorities in setting their improvement priorities:

  • improving pupils’ progression by ensuring their learning is supported by a range of knowledge, skills and experience
  • reducing the impact of poverty on pupils’ progression and attainment

Following a school’s inspection, the school development plan must be amended to reflect post-inspection feedback, findings, recommendations and proposed action. This should be done within 20 working days, (in line with Regulation 7 of the ‘Inspection of the Careers and Related Services (Wales) Regulations 2006’ as amended by the ‘Education (Amendments Relating to the Inspection of Education and Training) (Wales) Regulations 2014’), and distributed to relevant parties (as specified in the Education Act 2005 and the Education (School Inspection) (Wales) Regulations 2006).

Overseen by governing bodies, schools should also:

  • use its conclusions from self-evaluation, having taken into account the national priorities, to identify a manageable number of specific improvement priorities, designed to deliver sustainable improvement
  • include detailed priorities, targets and strategies for year 1 of the school development plan
  • capture higher-level priorities and targets for years 2, 3 and any further years
  • refresh improvement priorities at least annually, but take account of the impact of self-evaluation and new information on priorities throughout the year
  • plan focused actions to bring about improvements in these areas, identify necessary resources or funding where applicable, agree suitable milestones and success criteria, and set out how and when it will monitor and evaluate progress made
  • consider how they can both build on their existing strengths and learn from those of other schools, being alert to opportunities to work collaboratively and share best practice
  • specify in the school development plan where they would benefit from or require external support to implement improvements, along with who will provide the support and when
  • use the school development plan to provide a context for the performance management process for all staff
  • via the accountability arrangements of the governing body, scrutinise and agree the improvement priorities, the outcomes expected, progress made against the school development plan, and support required to deliver the priorities
  • use its self-evaluation processes to evaluate regularly the progress made against its improvement priorities
  • clearly report on progress against the previous year’s priorities at least annually

To further enhance their improvement planning, schools may:

  • engage peers in the self-evaluation process to gain external perspective on improvement priorities. (The principles of peer-working are discussed in Annex C of this guidance)
  • draw on the outcomes of professional dialogue to develop a shared understanding of progression, using this information to inform where they can make improvements regarding the pace, challenge, and rigour of curriculum and assessment arrangements

Local authorities should:

  • ensure that schools are not set predetermined common priorities
  • work in partnership with their regional consortia to engage with schools on their development plan, based on a shared understanding of their respective roles in supporting schools. (For example, where schools have improvement priorities around behaviour and emotional and mental well-being, ALN or attendance, it is likely the local authority will have more involvement than if curriculum or learning and teaching is the focus)
  • agree with schools what support they will provide on attendance, ALN and behaviour and emotional and mental well-being. While not all individual issues of poor behaviour will be related to the well-being of the young person, schools need to understand the root cause of poor behaviour, as in some instances these will be linked to wider issues of emotional and mental well-being, or neurodiversity. Schools will need to identify and address the wider issues as part of plans to support learners with additional needs
  • work in partnership with schools that are increasing the amount of Welsh-medium provision offered to learners, to support progression along a Welsh-language continuum (in line with statutory requirements set out in local authority Welsh in education strategic plans (WESPs))
  • agree with schools what support they will provide on human resources (HR), finance, Welsh-language development, buildings and other areas
  • share with regional consortia information on their proposals and decisions in relation to supporting the delivery of services to pupils with ALN
  • communicate any concerns they have about the appropriateness of schools’ identified improvement priorities, or schools’ judgements on progress against prior improvement priorities, to schools’ governing bodies (the accountable body for the school). As above, this should be done in partnership with their regional consortia, and involve the diocesan authority where relevant
  • use the rich information from schools’ development plans in their local authority to inform their own improvement planning and to review the services they provide to schools. This might include setting strategic priorities to address common issues identified by schools. (For example, local authorities may address common themes relating to Welsh-language planning and development in their WESP).

Regional consortia should:

  • ensure that schools are not set predetermined common priorities
  • provide support, feedback and guidance to schools on the content, quality and impact of their self-evaluation arrangements, the appropriate identification of improvement priorities, and on school development plans
  • agree with schools what support they will provide or broker on learning and teaching, leadership (including NAEL-endorsed leadership development) and professional learning, curriculum planning, Welsh-language development (for example, the ‘Siarter Iaith’ (Welsh language Charter)) and any other area
  • work in partnership with local authorities when engaging with schools on their development plans
  • communicate any concerns they have about the appropriateness of schools’ identified improvement priorities, or schools’ judgements on progress against prior improvement priorities, to schools’ governing bodies
  • use the rich information from schools’ development plans across the region to inform their own improvement planning and to review their professional learning and support offer to schools.

Estyn should:

  • rely on the above arrangements in each school, local authority and region in order to use schools’ development plans to support the inspection process

In addition and jointly agreed, local authorities and regional consortia may provide Estyn with a short note of any issues which may affect the inspection.

Published summaries

Governing bodies must make a summary copy of their school development plan available via the School Governors Annual Report (in line with Regulation 11 of the School Development Plans Regulations which amended the School Governors’ Annual Reports (Wales) Regulations 2001 to include provision to that effect).

To help increase confidence in and commitment to the school and its development plan, the school should publish the summary copy on its website. This will support transparency by providing parents and carers, as well as the wider community, with regular, consistent information about the school and its development. The summary should be written in language that is accessible to parents, carers and learners.

The summary should include:

  • a 1-page overview of the conclusions or findings of the school’s self-evaluation, communicating the school’s main strengths and areas for development, providing the context to parents and carers for the school’s improvement priorities and planned actions. This overview should cover learner progress and well-being, and other issues reflected in the 3 overarching areas for self-evaluation set out in this guidance (vision and leadership; curriculum, learning and teaching; well-being, equity and inclusion). It will be informed by schools' understanding of the 8 contributory factors for successful curriculum realisation
  • high level improvement priorities; planned actions to achieve those priorities; and relevant milestones
  • external support the school will access to help it achieve its improvement priorities during the current academic year (including support provided or brokered by regional consortia)
  • a report on progress against the previous year’s priorities

Other than that listed above, prescribed content is not being proposed, to avoid creating a tick-box approach which could have a negative impact on overall improvement processes.

Regional consortia should support schools’ self-evaluation activity and provide advice on the production of these summaries to enhance the consistency and quality of information provided to parents and carers. They may also need to support schools to ensure that their evaluation and improvement processes retain primacy, and are not negatively impacted by the requirement to document and report them in summary form. Their advice and involvement will help strengthen schools’ published summaries, although their content is ultimately the responsibility of governing bodies.

To support governing bodies in fulfilling their accountability function, regional consortia should engage in professional dialogue with them to consider:

  • the school’s self-evaluation processes and improvement priorities
  • the school’s strengths which it feels could be used, or are already being used, to support other schools
  • any particular issues governing bodies need to be aware of and monitor in the school, as its accountable body.

In this way, governing bodies will have access to an independent source of educational expertise which supports their role in the evaluation and improvement process within their school.

Regional consortia should also provide the governing body with a report outlining how they propose to support and/or broker support to address its improvement priorities, and more widely. These will represent a commitment to the governing body and school about the support they should be provided, to which they can refer back.

The following section provides more information about the role of improvement advisers working with schools.

The support system described below should have the following features.

  • The process should be jointly-constructed and collaborative, and should draw upon robust, evidence-based approaches, starting with the school’s self-evaluation and school development plan, and responding to feedback from schools and individual school needs. (This should also help to keep requirements for additional school preparatory work to a minimum.)
  • Support should be designed to build schools’ capacity, with schools making incremental improvements over time; it should not encourage a dependency culture.
  • Support provided to schools is proportionate and flexible to their needs, with more support provided to schools that require it most.
  • Engagement with schools should facilitate the early identification of schools that are declining and in need of support, to prevent them becoming a ‘school causing concern’.
  • All activity should be working towards the ultimate outcome of enabling children and young people to realise the four purposes through high-quality leadership, learning and teaching.
  • Promotion and encouragement of peer-working, collaboration and support between schools.

Support to schools from regional consortia and local authorities

Regional consortia and local authorities, through their different functions, both play an important role in supporting improvements in schools. The support they provide to schools helps local authorities fulfil their duties that derive both from their role in maintaining schools and the specific duty ‘to promote high standards’. (See Annex A for more information.)

Some support provided by local authorities to schools will be an extension of the general education services they provide to maintained schools. The relative need of schools for these services will obviously differ, with support being more extensive for some schools than others. Examples of this may include:

  • HR support for the governing body on recruitment and retention, and performance management
  • financial support and advice
  • advice and specialist support on ALN
  • behaviour and emotional and mental well-being support
  • attendance support

All schools will also have access to professional learning from their regional consortium or local authority that builds their own capacity to improve, as well as the skills and capacity of their workforce. This is likely to include their self-evaluation arrangements, the use of evidence-based approaches for monitoring and evaluation, curriculum development, and development of leadership capacity.

Improvement advisers

Within regional consortia, and some local authorities, improvement advisers play a critical role in ensuring that the appropriate support is identified and provided to all schools. All schools should be assigned an improvement adviser, with suitable experience and expertise, by their regional consortium or local authority. The fundamental role of the improvement adviser is not primarily to challenge the school, but to be a professional partner in the school’s improvement, drawing on external expertise where required. While there will be an element of challenge in any professional dialogue, it should not be the focus of the relationship. For this reason, this guidance uses the term ‘improvement adviser’ rather than ‘challenge adviser’. This shift in emphasis and language is consistent with terminology used by regional consortia.

Through their improvement advisers and wider teams working with schools, regional consortia should:

  • provide feedback and advice to schools on their self-evaluation arrangements, their impact on improvement and their capacity to improve
  • in partnership with the school, using the school’s self-evaluation as a foundation, agree with the school what specific support the school needs
  • help determine the type and level of support required, relative to other schools
  • signpost schools to relevant professional learning and leadership programmes, including support available for leadership through NAEL
  • provide or broker additional bespoke support for schools, based on their self-evaluation and improvement priorities
  • promote, broker and oversee school-to-school collaboration and cluster working, including professional dialogue to develop a shared understanding of progression. (This should be an increasingly important role of both regional consortia and local authorities in a collaborative, self-improving system)
  • Provide feedback to governing bodies (as described above) on their schools, along with a report which outlines how they propose to support and/or broker support to address the school’s improvement priorities, and more widely.

Regional consortia should not determine the support provided for schools by fixed time allocations or rigid, pre-determined professional learning offers.

In brokering support for schools, improvement advisers are likely to draw on resources from both within the consortium and local authority, as well as from other schools in the region, based on consortium’s knowledge of their strengths and capacity. Where necessary the local authority and regional consortium will jointly agree the rationale for the range of support being made available.

Improvement advisers may also, of course, broker support from schools outside of their region, particularly for Welsh-medium schools, schools with a religious character, special schools and PRUs. When brokering support for schools with a religious character outside of their own region, the relevant diocesan directors of education should be informed.

Regional consortia will need to quality assure the support improvement advisers broker for schools.

Having agreed their support needs and plans with their improvement adviser, schools should integrate these in their school development plan, linked to the relevant improvement priorities. This should also form part of the published summary of the school’s development plan. In this way, learners, parents and carers, as well as the wider community will be able to see and understand how their school is being helped to improve and by whom.

School-to-school support

An important feature of the self-improving system is the central role of schools and practitioners in supporting other schools, so that strengths are spread across the system and areas for improvement are addressed through collaboration between peers. This will be an important pre-requisite for the achievement of genuine equity for all in the education system. While this may happen organically in many cases, through existing relationships and structures, there is an important role for regional consortia in helping to facilitate this.

Given the requirements for schools to work with schools in their cluster, and more widely, on a shared understanding of progression, regional consortia should help ensure that these arrangements and relationships contribute to school-to-school working and improvement more widely. (In some cases, the discussions between schools to develop and maintain a shared understanding of progression will in themselves help identify improvement priorities and support needs for individual schools.)

Generally, both regional consortia and local authorities should champion collaboration between schools, encouraging a new system of collaborative working in which school leaders see their role as improving the whole system, as well as their individual institution.

The self-improving system needs every professional and institution to become aware of their own strengths and areas for improvement, and with this knowledge seek support for their own improvement and offer support for others to improve. It is unlikely to be the case, however, that individual schools know where their strengths can best be deployed to support others or which schools would be best placed to support them.

Therefore, in their engagement with all schools, in addition to brokering them support, improvement advisers will also assess what strengths schools have, and in what areas, to enable them to provide support to other schools. As above, the starting point for this work should be schools’ own self-evaluation.

It is likely that all schools have strengths and good practices to share and contribute to system-wide improvement, while the strongest schools will have areas to improve and develop. Identifying and encouraging schools that are well placed to provide peer-support for others should be as important a feature of improvement advisers’ work as brokering support for those in need.

Considering schools’ strengths alongside their areas for development for different aspects of a school’s activities is likely to prove useful for the purpose of internal resource allocation by regional consortia and local authorities. It will also help match those schools that need specific support with those best placed to offer it.

Support models established by regional consortia should be multi-dimensional and allow schools to receive support in line with a specific area of need, which may increase or decrease at any time.

Given the flexibility of the system, regional consortia will not need to moderate the work of improvement advisers with schools. They should, however, establish an internal quality assurance process for their improvement work with schools, to check that schools are getting a level of support that is proportionate to their needs.

Regional consortia and local authorities should also collaborate and share good practice between each other, in line with the principles of evaluation and continuous improvement set out in this guidance for schools.

What schools can expect from the new system

All schools will:

  • have access to ongoing professional dialogue and support from a named improvement adviser in their regional consortium or local authority who can advise and broker support (including on self-evaluation and improvement planning; leadership; curriculum realisation; school-to-school support; and other relevant professional learning)
  • receive an annual, internal report from their improvement adviser which summarises the support they have agreed
  • include in their school development plan what the local authority, regional consortium and other schools will provide to support them to meet their improvement priorities

It is anticipated that all schools will:

  • have at least 1 strong area of practice to share, and draw attention to this in the governing body’s annual report
  • work with other schools in a supportive and collaborative way, where they have the capacity to do so, in order to raise standards for all learners and to drive system improvement

Schools with the most significant improvement needs will also:

  • have access to greater support, focused on the key areas identified
  • receive multi-agency support through a support plan agreed by all parties (governing body, local authority, diocesan authority where relevant, regional consortium, and, in some cases, Estyn and the Welsh Government)
  • note the additional support in the governing body’s annual report to parents and carers
  • be discussed through Estyn’s local authority link inspector work.

In schools needing more intensive support, local authorities should not reduce or change the levels of support they are providing for ALN, behaviour and emotional and mental well-being, finance and HR, without discussing and agreeing this with the governing body.

Schools causing concern

One of the features of the support system described above is that it should help prevent schools getting to the point where they are ‘causing concern’. This will be done through early identification of need, initially by schools themselves through self-evaluation, and the provision of tailored, proportionate support in partnership with local authorities and regional consortia. However, there will still be cases where local authorities or Welsh Ministers do need to intervene in schools.

The Welsh Government has issued revised statutory guidance ‘Schools Causing Concern: statutory guidance for schools and local authorities’. The guidance sets out the legislative requirements and powers available to local authorities and Welsh Ministers for intervening in schools causing concern, as prescribed in the ‘School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013’. The schools causing concern guidance describes the formal process and various types of intervention available for both local authorities and Welsh Ministers when specific grounds for intervention exist.

Local authorities may determine, through their engagement with schools and regional consortia on evaluation and improvement, that the grounds for issuing a warning notice have been met. (This will include, but not be restricted to, a use of school-level information to inform their judgement of how effectively school governing bodies’ are discharging their own duties.) At that point, the powers of intervention and the guidance will become relevant.

The principles and processes set out in this guidance in relation to evaluation and improvement continue to apply for schools causing concern.

Governing bodies and schools

School governing bodies are responsible for the strategic leadership of their school. They decide what they want the school to achieve and set the strategic framework for getting there.

The school development plan, along with the governing body’s agreed policies, will generally provide the strategic framework. Governing bodies monitor progress and regularly review the framework for the school in the light of that progress. Separately, governing bodies must provide an annual report to parents and carers about progress made over the year against the strategic framework, in line with ‘The School Governors' Annual Reports (Wales) Regulations 2011’.

With regards to evaluation and improvement more generally, governing bodies should:

  • use the principles and approach to self-evaluation set out in this guidance in order to evaluate their own effectiveness, strengths and areas for improvement
  • ensure that the school development plan is a fair and well understood reflection of the strengths and areas for improvement in the school
  • approve the school’s improvement priorities and agree the support expectations proposed by the local authority and regional consortia
  • ensure a summary of the school development plan is published on the school’s website.

As the accountable body for a school, governing bodies should:

  • monitor delivery of the school development plan and take action where progress against improvement priorities is unsatisfactory
  • use the school development plan to provide a context for the performance management process for all staff, so that all staff are accountable for their role in delivering against the plan
  • provide challenge to the headteacher and hold the headteacher to account for the overall performance and effectiveness of the school

PRUs

Local authorities should take account of the role of management committees of PRUs and to the statutory requirement for local authorities to delegate certain functions to management committees, in line with ‘The Education (Pupil Referral Units) (Management Committees etc.) (Wales) Regulations 2014’ (2014 Regulations). These functions include conducting the PRU and dealing with complaints relating to the curriculum. Working closely with the local authority, management committees should set up a strategic framework for the PRU which should include:

  • setting out appropriate aims and objectives
  • identifying and including policies, targets and priorities
  • setting out arrangements for monitoring and reviewing aims and objectives
  • whether the policies, targets and priorities are being achieved

Management committee members should use self-evaluation to review and evaluate progress against any targets set to see whether a policy is working or needs changing.

Local authorities must also take account of the statutory duty (Regulation 23 of the 2014 Regulations) for the local authority, management committee and teacher in charge of a PRU (acting jointly) to make, and from time to time review, a written statement of the policy in relation to the curriculum for the unit.

Detailed information about the roles and responsibilities of PRU management committees is set out in ‘The Education (Pupil Referral Units) (Management Committees etc.) (Wales) Regulations 2014: Statutory guidance for local authorities and pupil referral units’.

Local authorities

In their role ‘maintaining’ schools, local authorities provide a range of core services and support to schools. This typically includes:

  • HR
  • Finance
  • Estates and buildings
  • school admissions (in voluntary aided and foundation schools, the governing body employs the staff and sets the admissions criteria) and organisation school (including planning of Welsh-medium education in accordance to Section 84 of the ‘School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013’ which requires a local authority to prepare a WESP and outlines that a WESP must outline how the local authority will improve the planning of the provision of education through the medium of Welsh and also the standards of Welsh-medium education and of the teaching of Welsh in its area.)
  • attendance
  • inclusion
  • supporting the delivery of services to learners with ALN

Scrutiny committees within local authorities oversee the work of the council in delivering statutory functions and wider services. Scrutiny is undertaken by elected members who do not hold executive positions within the council. Effective scrutiny should enhance improvement, accountability and transparency within the local authority.

In this context, Councils should:

  • put arrangements in place to set expectations and manage the quality and impact of any shared-service providing support to schools
  • make arrangements to implement sustainable improvement strategies to support schools, both in delivering their own direct services and delivering in partnership with their regional consortium
  • use the information it holds about the performance of its education function to inform the broader strategic-level understanding of how the council is:
  • use a broad range of information to monitor and understand well the performance of schools in their area, rather than a narrow focus on learner attainment measures
  • build on this broad range of information to support schools, for example by using the information from school development plans to identify common improvement priorities and improvement needs to inform the design of services and prioritisation of resources
  • identify and intervene in schools causing concern, drawing on a broad range of evidence, using the full range of statutory powers
  • not put pressure on schools to make short-term gains in qualification outcomes, in a way that may not be in the interests of all learners or be sustainable
  • support headteachers to improve their schools and build capacity, taking into account the level of challenge. (They should not, for example, place unrealistic expectations on newly appointed school leaders in schools with longstanding issues.)

Scrutiny committees should:

  • hold cabinet members to account for the quality and impact of the council’s services to support schools
  • scrutinise the work of the council with regard to the services provided to support schools, rather than using their accountability arrangements to hold schools to account
  • scrutinise how effectively the local authority works with the regional consortium or other local authority partners (if applicable) understanding that accountability for regional consortia is through their joint committee or company board (see ‘Regional consortia’ section below)
  • monitor and scrutinise the use of statutory powers to support and improve schools causing concern
  • consider the impact of decisions to reorganise schools on the improvement of schools

Regional consortia

Governing structures

The regional consortia governing structures are all comprised of their member local authorities. They, therefore, carry out activities that derive from local authorities’ statutory functions and duties in relation to school improvement. South-East Wales

Education Achievement Service

South-East Wales Education Achievement Service, (EAS) is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, that was set up by the five local authorities in the south-east Wales regional consortia (Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen) ‘to improve the standard of education’ in the regional consortia by providing services to the local authorities and their schools. The voting members of the EAS company board are cabinet members from each local authority, who do not hold the education portfolio. The operation of EAS is overseen by the Joint Executive Group which includes the education portfolio holders for each local authority.

Central South Consortium, Partneriaeth and GwE

The Central South Consortium (CSC), Partneriaeth and GwE are all overseen by a joint committee of their constituent local authorities, under section 102 of the Local Government Act 1972. Joint committees are the decision-making body within these regional consortia al consortia, and it is the local authority members (leaders or education portfolio holders) who hold full voting rights.

The Mid Wales Education Partnership is underpinned by a memorandum of understanding which includes governance arrangements.

Accountability

While the consortia have their own governance structures, they are all directly accountable to their constituent local authorities through their structure. Local authorities and regional consortia should, therefore, work in partnership to deliver the underlying local authority duties and functions in relation to education. Given the in-built accountability mechanisms described above, local authorities do not need to create additional processes to oversee the work of their regional consortium. Instead, regional consortia should be held to account through their governing structure, which includes elected local authority members.

Regional consortia joint committees or joint executive group should:

  • lead and monitor the effectiveness of regional consortia’s work to help improve schools, and to inform and support local authorities to fulfil their statutory functions and duties
  • ensure that regional consortia are using the rich information available to them from individual schools’ development plans to inform their own planning and prioritisation
  • monitor and review the quality and timeliness of their advice to local authorities on the use of statutory powers to support and improve schools causing concern, particularly for secondary schools

Welsh Government

The Welsh Government has overall responsibility for the design and operation of the school system in Wales. One of its main roles is planning and policy-making, through evidence-based collaboration and co-construction with all tiers of the system. It also has a responsibility to support the framework for evaluation, improvement and accountability through its actions and behaviours. This includes helping to build capacity to support system-improvement, and being clear about where accountabilities lie.

While the Welsh Government does not have a direct accountability function with regards to individual schools, Welsh Ministers are rightly held to account by the Senedd and the Children, Young People and Education Committee for the overall performance and operation of the school system. This scrutiny is an important way democratic accountability is discharged within the overall framework, while also enhancing transparency.

Welsh Ministers’ do have intervention powers in relation to schools causing concern. Local authorities are expected to intervene initially, however, making decisive and effective use of their own intervention powers. Welsh Ministers will only use their powers where local authorities have failed to do so, or have done so inadequately.

The Welsh Government will continue to hold bi-annual ‘review and challenge’ meetings with regional consortia and local authorities (1 per region). These meetings will allow the Welsh Government to interrogate and understand how the evaluation and improvement system is operating in practice, informing what is needed for system-wide improvement. The meetings will also provide the Welsh Government with relevant intelligence to inform its own scrutiny in the Senedd. Part of the focus of each meeting will be on the progress of schools causing concern and the impact of the support being provided to them.

(See Annex A for a fuller description of the respective roles and responsibilities of schools, governing bodies, local authorities, regional consortia and Estyn, including their statutory underpinning).

Inspection information

The main purpose of inspection is to provide objective, independent, and impartial information. It is a fundamental part of accountability within the system.

At the same time, the information provided through inspections and inspection reports should be used for all 3 main purposes of information described in this guidance: Improvement; Accountability; Transparency.

Improvement

Evaluative inspection reports on schools, local authorities and regional consortia will inform and underpin subsequent improvement work.

Accountability

Inspections and reports provide important evidence to governing bodies, local authority councils and regional consortia joint committees or joint company boards in fulfilling their accountability functions within their respective organisations.

Transparency

Published inspection reports tell parents and carers, as well as communities about how well individual schools and the wider system is doing

Estyn’s inspection activity, and inspection guidance for inspectors, must take account of the principles around evaluation, improvement and the use of information set out in this guidance. Schools will be judged within their own context, using their own self-evaluation arrangements and school development plan as a starting point. The progress of all learners, the quality of schools’ curricula and pedagogy, as well as well-being will be important elements of all inspections.

Estyn’s inspection framework

From February 2022, Estyn have started piloting a revised school inspection framework that closely aligns with the Welsh Government’s vision for successful schools under the Curriculum for Wales.

Following the recommendations from ‘A Learning Inspectorate’, summative judgements will be removed from inspection reports. Headline judgements too often over-simplify and mask areas and findings that are important. Instead, summative judgements will be replaced with deeper evaluation of a school’s work within reports, providing better information for parents and carers, governors and schools about the performance of a school, its strengths and areas for improvement. Schools judged to be in the statutory categories of special measures or significant improvement, however, will continue to be clearly identified.

Based on their learning and feedback from pilot inspections with schools and PRUs, Estyn will make improvements and revisions to the framework ahead of the introduction of the Curriculum for Wales in September 2022. At this point, Estyn will resume their normal inspection programme.

It is likely that the Estyn school inspection framework will continue to evolve over time as schools’ implementation of curriculum reform develops and in line with the Welsh Government focus on tackling the impact of poverty on attainment. From 2024, we anticipate that more frequent inspection intelligence will be available in the education system to inform improvement and support plans, to give regular assurances, and to ensure robust accountability to parents and carers, as well as other stakeholders, including schools themselves, about the standards being achieved and priorities for further improvement.

The intention is that Estyn will inspect schools more frequently within a 6-year inspection period from 2024, on average twice within a cycle, at times determined by Estyn. Inspections will have a stronger focus on schools’ capacity to self-evaluate effectively and self-improve, and on how they are implementing curriculum reform.

Similarly, Estyn will inspect local authority education services regularly. The work of regional consortia in supporting schools will be considered through individual local authority inspections in their region. The focus of inspections should be on the quality and impact of governance and accountability arrangements with regard to schools and the effectiveness of local authority and consortia services to support schools and learners. This will include evaluating the effectiveness of democratic accountability arrangements in supporting school improvement.

Estyn will continue to produce annual reports and thematic reports. Where required, Welsh Ministers will commission Estyn to undertake reviews on specific aspects of local authority and regional consortia support for, and work with, schools. Estyn will also produce a state of the nation report every 3 years which will provide national overviews of various parts of the education system. These will be available publicly.

Estyn have a key role to play in supporting and monitoring progress towards our aim of achieving high standards and aspirations for all, by tackling the impact of poverty on learner attainment. They will report annually on progress being made by schools, colleges and other providers in this area, as well as providing further system-level feedback through thematic reviews. Support for schools in achieving this aim will also be a strengthened focus of Estyn’s inspections of local authorities and their wider engagement work with regional consortia.

Section 50 inspections of schools with a religious character

The Education Act 2005 states that the governing body of any voluntary aided, voluntary controlled or foundation school in Wales, which has been designated as having a religious character, must arrange for the inspection of the content of the school’s act of collective worship and any denominational religious education provided for learners.

The inspection must report on the content of the school’s act of collective worship and any denominational religious education provided for learners. It may also report on the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of learners at the school.

As for inspections by Estyn, section 50 inspections fulfil an accountability function for voluntary and foundation schools in Wales, although their scope is considerably narrower. The inspection reports will also be used by schools as a source of evidence for their self-evaluation and improvement planning.

Within a self-improving school system, it is important that the different bodies, (principally schools and governing bodies, local authorities, and regional consortia), understand their own roles and responsibilities, those of others, and the relationship between them. Without such an understanding, the system is unlikely to function efficiently or effectively. There is also a greater likelihood of conflict between the different bodies, drawing energy and focus from the underlying goal of continuous improvement for the benefit of learners.

Governing bodies and schools

Schools have the central role in driving improvements in the quality of learning and the progress and well-being achieved by young people. They also have a responsibility to drive their own improvement through self-evaluation, performance management and improvement planning, and for making the best use of the support available to them.

School governing bodies are responsible for the conduct of their school; and the ‘Education Act 2002’ states that ‘the governing body shall conduct the school with a view to promoting high standards of educational achievement at the school’. Their role therefore includes ensuring that the school has an effective process for reviewing performance in relation to their aims and objectives, identifying improvement priorities, taking action and monitoring process with a view to raising standards and improving well-being. The relationship between the local authority and the governing body should support this role.

In general, the governing body should carry out its functions with the aim of taking a broadly strategic role in the running of the school.

A strategic role means the governing body decides what they want the school to achieve and set the strategic framework for getting there. It should establish the strategic framework by:

  • setting aims and objectives for the school
  • adopting policies for achieving those aims and objectives
  • setting targets for achieving those aims and objectives
  • reviewing progress towards achieving the aims and objectives

The headteacher, along with other senior members of staff, has responsibility for leadership, direction and management of the school within the strategic framework established by the governing body. The headteacher is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school; and for advising on and implementing the governing body’s strategic framework. In particular, headteachers formulate aims and objectives, policies and targets with the governing body, for them to consider adopting; and report to the governing body on progress each term.

Local authorities

Local authorities have broad duties in respect of education. They have a general duty to maintain relevant maintained schools under section 22 of the ‘School Standards and Framework Act 1998’. They also have a variety of oversight functions, which include:

  • a ‘general responsibility for education’ in their area by contributing ‘towards the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of the community by securing that efficient primary education, and secondary education… are available to meet the needs of the population of their area’. [Section 13, the Education Act 1996]
  • A duty to promote high standards, and the fulfilment of learning potential, in the exercise of their education functions. [Section 13A, the Education Act 1996]

While governing bodies are responsible for the leadership of schools, local authorities ‘maintain’ schools, which means they have an interest in them being managed well and that, as a whole, schools in the authority area deliver effective and efficient provision. Local authorities should therefore support governing bodies’ leadership of schools through advice and resources.

The relationship between an authority and school is captured in a partnership agreement, which sets how a local authority and the governing body of a school will act to discharge their functions in relation to the school. Local authorities are required, by The Maintained Schools (Partnership Agreements) (Wales) Regulations 2007, to enter into an individual partnership agreement with each governing body.

Regional consortia

Regional consortia were established by local authorities, with the encouragement of the Welsh Government. Their fundamental role is to provide services on behalf of local authorities to support schools, helping to create a self-improving school system, with collaboration between all elements of the system at its heart.

The ‘National model for regional working’ (the national model), first established in 2013, was intended as a document to guide developments in the school improvement system by articulating the activities that regional consortia would deliver on behalf of local authorities, as well as the necessary governance and accountability arrangements. It acknowledged that there would be ‘both structural and operational variations between the 4 regions, and that this flexibility is necessary to ensure that consortia are able to meet the distinct needs of their own regions’.

Because regional consortia are non-statutory bodies, no statutory education functions or duties have been passed to them from local authorities. For example, local authorities retain the duty ‘to promote high standards’ referred to above. This has created some tensions in the system, although not necessarily in all regions, exacerbated by a culture of high stakes accountability that we want to leave behind. This is not helpful to schools and, more importantly, to children and young people.

This guidance intends to move beyond the national model to provide clarity to local authorities and regions about their role in supporting improvement in our schools, as well as the operation of accountability within the system.

All local authorities continue to have a duty, under the ‘Education (Wales) Measure 2011’, to determine from time to time whether the exercise of their powers in collaboration would further the ‘collaboration objective’. This objective is defined as ‘the effective and efficient use of public resources by an education body in respect of the provision of education and training suitable to the requirements of persons who have not attained the age of 19’. Where a local authority concludes that this objective would be furthered by collaboration, it must seek to collaborate. Clearly, collaborating with other local authorities through a regional consortia, or other formal partnership arrangements, is a means of fulfilling this duty. It is particularly important, therefore, for local authorities that choose to operate outside of a regional consortium or partnership to be able to demonstrate that they are continuing to meet this duty.

Our national mission was clear that, to be successful, we need a commitment to effective collaboration and honest engagement by all parts of the education system. While this does not require uniformity of approaches in every local authority in Wales, it does require openness and clarity with schools about who will do what, in accordance with the principles in this guidance.

We know that regional consortia, local authorities, governing bodies and headteachers working in partnership can have a powerful impact on improving schools. To succeed, such partnership must be based on a mutual recognition of the functions and contributions of each party, as well as trust.

Diocesan authorities

Diocesan authorities oversee and support schools with a religious character to ensure they are acting in conformity with the teachings and regulations of their Church. They support their schools’ professional learning, for example in areas relating to well-being, spirituality and curriculum development. In addition, diocesan authorities appoint foundation school governors if they are named in the school governing body’s instrument of government, giving them a good understanding of the effectiveness of leadership and governance in their schools.

Given the range of their involvement with schools with a religious character, diocesan authorities should play a role in supporting their evaluation and improvement, working in partnership with schools, local authorities and regional consortia.

Estyn

Estyn is a crown body, independent of the Welsh Government, led by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales (HMCI).

Estyn has 3 main objectives:

  1. Providing public accountability to service users on the quality and standards of education and training in Wales through inspection activity. It inspects a number of different sectors, including schools and local authorities.
  2. Informing the development of national policy by providing advice and guidance to the Welsh Government on quality and standards in education and training in Wales through a variety of ways. These include commissioned thematic reports; the HMCI’s Annual Report; and, involvement in education reforms and policy development.
  3. Building capacity in the improvement and delivery of education and training in Wales through inspection evidence; promoting the spread of best practice through case studies; information sharing; and celebrating excellent practice.

Corporate joint committees

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act provides for a consistent mechanism and governance structure to facilitate regional working amongst local authorities, through corporate joint committees. Unlike existing regional consortia, corporate joint committees have a legal personality, enabling them to have functions vested in them through legislation, to employ staff directly and to manage and hold budgets. The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act provides an opportunity for local authorities to place their existing regional arrangements for school improvement on a statutory footing should they wish to do so. It also allows them to bring wider education activities in scope of regional working where there are clear benefits to doing so. Any proposals by local authorities would need to be agreed by Welsh Ministers.

The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act t also gives Welsh Ministers a power to seek to establish corporate joint committees with responsibility for ‘improving education’. A corporate joint committee with the responsibility for ‘improving education’ would provide greater clarity of accountability for different functions at the regional and local level. Ministers might exercise this power in order to provide more consistency in the delivery of regional support for schools, particularly where this might help improve the effectiveness of the regional support itself.

(https://www.legislation.gov.uk/wsi/2014/2677/schedule/made)

Contents of a school development plan

School improvement priorities

1. — (1) The school improvement priorities for the current school year.

(2) The school improvement priorities for the 2 school years immediately proceeding the current school year.

(3) In setting the school improvement priorities the governing body must take account of the national priorities.

School improvement targets, expected outcomes and strategy

2. A brief statement setting out the school improvement targets and expected outcomes and the governing body’s strategy to meet those targets.                   

Professional development strategy

3. Details of the governing body’s strategy for the current school year as to how it will further the professional development of staff at the school in order to meet the school improvement targets.

Working with the community

4. Details of how the governing body will seek to meet the school improvement targets for the current school year by working with—

(a) pupils at the school and their families; and

(b) people who live and work in the locality in which the school is situated.

School staff and school resources

5. Details of how the governing body will make best use of the—

(a) current school staff and school resources (including its financial resources) to meet the school improvement targets for the current school year; and

(b) school staff and school resources (including financial resources) the governing body anticipates will be available to it to meet the school improvement targets for the next 2 school years immediately proceeding the current school year.

Previous targets

6.  A brief statement setting out the extent to which the school improvement targets for the previous school year beginning with school year 2015 to 2016 were met and where they were not met fully a brief explanation as to the reasons for that failure.

Peer-working is the partnership and active involvement of current practitioners in a school’s self-evaluation and improvement process supported by the school’s improvement adviser. It provides an additional perspective and engages partners in a constructive dialogue to support continuous improvement for learners.

The purpose of peer-working is to improve outcomes for all learners through:

  • improving the accuracy of the self-evaluation utilising the national resource
  • accurately identify strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement
  • contributing to the sharpening of support and actions, through effective identification of support requirements
  • aiding collaboration across the school system
  • improving the capacity and ability of leaders across the system to accurately self-evaluate

Peer-working is:

  • a collaborative process
  • evaluative, supportive and developmental
  • an external perspective from fellow practitioners
  • an opportunity for meaningful continual professional learning and enquiry
  • a process for all schools
  • an integral part of the evaluation and improvement cycle
  • a process focused on planning and delivering for improvement
  • responsive to the needs of the school

Peer-working is not:

  • a process done to the school
  • judgmental
  • an inspection
  • a directive model of improvement
  • for a selected number of schools
  • an isolated process
  • a time-consuming bureaucratic process
  • a one size fits all process

There are important key principles for effective peer-working:

  • Peer-working needs to be an on-going commitment to continuously improving practice and systems through cycles of collaborative enquiry (as the system matures).
  • Peer-working should be a robust process supported by constructive professional dialogue.
  • The peer-working process should go beyond school leaders, to include the whole school community.
  • Within the peer-working process, transparency, trust and honesty are a professional obligation.
  • All involved work together with each participant feeling valued, motivated, responsible and having the opportunity to contribute to the collective outcomes of the process.
  • A willingness and commitment to learn from a range of critical perspectives.

There are important key behaviours for effective peer-working:

  • The process will be conducted with integrity and trust and should support the school to identify its priorities for improvement.
  • All discussions will be confidential, and any documentation created will be owned by the school.
  • All partners should come to the process with a commitment to learn from the process.