ASPIRE-THE NAHTS SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
Private operator, EdisonLearning, has secured a major contract with The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) to help improve student achievement in schools across the country as part of the NAHTs Aspire School Improvement Project. The project was briefly referenced in Michael Goves 25 April speech.
Working closely with the Department for Education and the Strategic Programme Board at the NAHT, EdisonLearning has been working with 30 primary schools, organized into three clusters of schools across three geographical areas in the UK.
Schools involved in the project in the western region are located around Bristol and Reading, in the southern region around West Sussex and Kent and in the northern region around Derby, Nottingham and Sheffield. The schools are very different in their size, diversity and urban and rural locations. To illustrate this, one school in a rural location near Bristol has less than 100 students and a large urban school in Sheffield has more than 500 students.
The NAHTs President, Steve Iredale flagged this idea up in a speech in 2012, when he said that NAHT “is taking the radical step of looking at the possibility of offering a school improvement service to support schools which find themselves in challenging circumstances.
“It’s a big challenge, but it’s something we’re interested in exploring. We can see massive benefit but there’s a long way to go. Trade unions tend to operate as trade unions and offering that level of support is a form of CPD linked to improving teaching and learning. There’s a massive challenge in there as well. There’s no question of schools escaping: there would be the same challenges from us. School improvement would be the driving force as opposed to the current Ofsted regime.”
At the launch of Aspire, on 1 May, the NAHT said the project aims to fill the gap between higher expectations and declining levels of support, offering schools access to advice, resources and support as they continue to improve the outcomes they provide for their pupils.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, who has experience in senior management in the private sector, said: “Every school wants to be good but many lack the support and networks to achieve their vision. The Aspire project is designed to fill the gap with a collaborative, sustainable model of school improvement. Schools joining the project will work in small clusters to help and inspire each other, assisted by NAHT officials, their local authority and external project management.
“What is dramatic about this is who is doing it. NAHT is a trade union dedicated to the protection and representation of our members. But we know that our members want to do the best for their pupils – that is part of their ‘reward’. The NAHT Aspire project shows that no-one is more ambitious for the young people of our country than those who work in our schools. The profession holds the answers and has the resources; it is trust, collaboration and inspiration that will trigger the innovation we need.
“This phase, now going public, is a pilot project to prove the concept can work. Ultimately, we plan to expand the reach of NAHT Aspire more broadly. The scale is already significant however: if this was an academy chain, it would be the seventh largest in the country.
The Edisonlearning team has already begun the initial Collaborative Quality Analysis process with many of the schools.
The project has been part funded for three years by the Department for Education .It will be independently evaluated by the Open University.
Michael Gove, Education Secretary, said: “I am pleased to commit my department’s support for it. I wish the project and those schools taking part in it every success as they seek to raise their performance to ‘good’ or better. I will be following this initiative with particular interest over the next two years.”