CS 009 LA and SIP programme alignment in the NW
This primary pilot LA situated in the North West rolled out SIPs in September 2006. It implemented a ‘mixed model’ of deployment which used 12 internal School Improvement Partners (SIPs) including link advisers, principal advisers and lead officers covering over 75% of schools, and only two serving headteacher SIPs and two independent (retired headteachers) SIPs covering the remaining schools.
From September through to March, increasing concerns around significant under achievement of schools across the LA and poor pupil outcomes brought about a higher level strategic commitment to increase capacity in both challenge and support of schools by ensuring that there is clear separation of roles between support and evaluation. It was agreed that existing LA adviser SIPs, with their extensive background knowledge of the LA’s schools, would focus on providing varying levels of support to schools and a new SIP model would be put in place which would be largely external – indeed 100% external SIPs for primary schools by 2010. This was a clear step change for the LA and involved risks, but was a decision recognising the need for a more rigorous, fit for purpose service. This strategic decision is impacting on both primary and secondary phases.
During the summer term 2007, the LA employed a further seven external SIPs (three serving headteacher SIPs and four independent SIPs) who were subsequently deployed to schools, changing the balance significantly and resulting in 45 schools receiving a new external SIP to replace a link adviser SIP from the beginning of the new year. The LA also ensured that new SIPs either made initial familiarisation visits or made direct contact with their schools prior to or immediately following the summer holidays.
The LA also provided a comprehensive Induction programme for all SIPs in July and a high quality Continuing Professional Development (CPD) session on performance review and target setting. This CPD focused on national messages, the DCSF Target Setting Guidance and the role of the SIP in challenging schools to set ambitious targets by asking the right questions. This latter was for primary and secondary SIPs and supported by SIP coordinators (SIPCos).
There is emerging evidence of improved challenge on schools including:
- Reported increased rigour at the autumn term meetings (LA quality assurance through monitoring of SIP reports and shadow visits being carried out this term). The SIP Manager reports “a new edge which allows no hiding place”.
- As a result of professional dialogue with SIPs, of the 2009 Combined English & mathematics targets returned so far, over 80% meet DCSF guidelines, build on prior attainment, and are at or above the top quartile performance for contextual value added (CVA). Where two level progress is not predicted, the LA considers the evidence brought by the SIP and, in the light of the knowledge of the school, the SIP manager decides whether to challenge the school further. This process has been successful in a number of cases.
- Evidence from a SIP shadow-visit carried out by SIPCo included:
- excellent preparation for the meeting with clear focus on issues emerging from the data;
- good discussions around under-performing groups including Black and Minority Ethnic (BME), special educational needs (SEN) and Children in Care (CiC);
- use of headteacher skills and experience to distinguish between genuine additional context factors and low expectations;
- discussions around individual pupils and how to accelerate progress;
- good support being provided to the school by an LA link adviser who has more time with a greatly reduced SIP role this year.
- Headteacher feedback demonstrating the increased challenge which is “more objective, data focussed and not as comfortable”.
- Reports from the LA that headteachers are “complaining” about the greater challenge and non-acceptance of unambitious targets.