Specialist schools, extended schools, a resource guide for synergy

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What the resource is:
The resource is a microsite accessed from the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) website. The resource is intended to assist secondary schools in planning, implementing and evaluating actions to increase their effectiveness as extended schools, particularly in relation to their specialism. These actions should focus on developing more ‘outward looking' approaches as a means of bringing about change within and beyond the school.


The aims of the resource:
The resource aims to show how the agendas of  the specialist schools programme, extended schools and Every Child Matters are connected with each other, and to provide information and guidance on each of these areas to encourage ‘synergy' between them.


A significant majority of secondary schools now have specialist designation, and the website provides information and links to further resources to encourage the development of extended specialist schools, where the curriculum focus of the school is more explicitly utilised.


Key findings or focus:
The website is arranged in five sections, with an introduction, which outlines the key features of current initiatives, including the specialist schools programme and the extended schools programme. In each case, links are provided to sources of further information.


Part 1 outlines some possible features of the ‘extended specialist school' within the context of Every Child Matters (ECM) and the structures put in place to support the Children's Plan. The elements of the ‘core offer' are outlined, with examples of how these are provided within secondary contexts. A set of downloadable checklists are provided to support schools in exploring the potential offer of ‘specialist extended schools'.


Parts 2, 3 and 4 provide guidance for schools on auditing and consulting on existing provision, planning future actions and relating these to the school development plan and monitoring and evaluating outcomes.


Part 5 provides an extensive set of links to other organisations and a series of 22 case studies of activities carried out by ‘extended specialist schools'. However, links to the Quality in Study Support (QiSS) and Quality in Extended Services (QES) recognition schemes are missing, which would seem to be a significant omission, given the function of the resource


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:
The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) is an organisation supporting networking between schools to share information and examples of practice, based on the principle ‘by schools for schools'.


The resource was designed by the community team at SSAT, whose remit is to enhance the capability of secondary schools to work with a wide range of individuals and organisations in their communities, and to develop ‘outward facing schools sitting at the heart of world-class learning networks'.


The SSAT represents a large number of primary, secondary and special schools, and academies, and can thus draw on a range of case study material. This adds to the credibility of the resource as representative of good practice.


The resource presents useful, basic information, but lacks reference to any systematic research evidence to support the implied claim that extended specialist schools are more effective in raising achievement or engaging with local communities, although some evidence is offered by the case studies.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
The resource provides brief, but helpful, information about specialist schools and extended schools, which could be useful for introducing these national programmes to ITE students and developing an appreciation of the range of possible approaches which could be adopted by schools. The case studies provided in Part 5 could be used as exemplification.


The emphasis on consultation with pupils and community partners, outlined in Part 2, reflects current policy in relation to the responsibilities of schools to promote community cohesion, and to support the ECM agenda. ITE students might consider how far this list of key partners reflects the needs of local communities, and identify other possible organisations that might be consulted.


Part 4 outlines the distinctions between monitoring, evaluating and reporting on progress against school development plan objectives and provides a list of possible evidence sources. These might be useful in supporting discussion with ITE students about evidence-informed practice in schools.


The relevance to ITE students:

ITE students need to be aware of current policy initiatives, and to understand the range of partners with whom schools might be collaborating in order to provide the core offer of the Children's Plan.

The lists of websites and case studies provided in Part 5 also form a useful reference resource for further study.


Reviewed by:

Viv Wilson


Related Resources

The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:

Community cohesion resource pack



Every Child Matters:




Developing your school's strategy for community engagement


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Specialist Schools and Academies Trust

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