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Revamp having “stunning” impact on school results

13 Jan 2011

A radical reorganisation of Greater Manchester’s education system has resulted in unprecedented improvements in test and exam results, especially among children and young people previously regarded as unreachable.

Professor Ainscow

The scheme brings together schools and colleges, local authorities, community organisations, businesses and national government within a new approach to educational improvement.
 
It has given the opportunity for its Director, Professor Mel Ainscow from The University of Manchester, to put into practice the findings of ten years of his research into the improvement of urban schools.
 
Following an initial phase of three years, new structures now exist that are helping to improve the performance of all schools, across the ten local authorities.

The structures - Families of Schools, school to school partnerships and National Teaching Schools - are coordinated by 18 outstanding head teachers from across the city region.

In this week’s GCSE results, the Greater Manchester average score shows a 6% pt improvement on 2009, and a huge 11% pts since 2007, exceeding the national picture by far. In addition, the number of schools securing results above 70% in Key Stage 4 - the official benchmark for ‘outstanding’ - more than doubled.

And in December’s Key Stage 2 results, Greater Manchester was one of the nation’s best improvers in English and maths, thanks mainly to big gains in 73 primary schools that serve the most disadvantaged communities.
 
Professor Ainscow said: “Children in our poorest neighbourhoods have been failed for decades by successive policies – now, for the first time, we see a way of turning things around.

“We have strong evidence that the most important factor is carefully brokered school to school support, usually involving relationships which cut across local authority borders.
 
“This fits well with the approaches laid out in the Government’s recent education White Paper – so we are optimistic the new model will thrive.
 
“Our experience also suggests local authority staff have a crucial role to play by making sure that all children and young people are getting a fair deal within an increasingly diverse system of education.
 
“But local authorities must move away from a ‘command and control’ perspective, solely focused within their own boundaries, towards one of ‘enabling and facilitating’ collaborative action across the region.
 
“The impact of this scheme been stunning: there is a new sense of energy, creativity and pace within our schools.
 
“But these gains have been hard won, and often they remain fragile and could easily be lost - so we still have to maintain the momentum.”
 
In one partnership, a successful Jewish Orthodox school in Bury has helped to boost the quality of teaching and learning, and improve Key Stage 2 results, in a primarily Muslim inner city primary.
 
Head teacher of Yesoiday HaTorah school in Bury, Jonathan Yodaiken, said: “This has been a totally positive experience, built on mutual respect.
 
“Birchfields Primary is a great school and the learning is definitely a two-way process.”
 
A grammar school judged by Ofsted as ‘outstanding’ has partnered a previously low performing inner city comprehensive in another authority, resulting in major improvements in attendance, behaviour and exam results. Last year its GCSE results went up from 17 to 42%.

The partnership concluded when the school became an academy in September 2010.

Head teacher of Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, Dana Ross-Wywrzynski, said: “I spent about three days a week at Plant Hill High  and one of my assistant heads worked 50% of the time with the senior leadership team to build capacity.
 
“It was apparent from the outset that the team had the skills to move the school forward but its members were not forged into a team and were not made accountable.
 
“We worked together to improve attendance by emulating other  work I have done as a National Leader of Education with another school in my own authority, including bringing children into school in a minibus and even issuing penalty notices to parents.
 
“In the sixth months from September 2009 attendance improved by 50%.

“The excellent results were down to improved teaching and learning and making staff more accountable.”
 
Professor Ainscow added: “The evidence is that such partnerships have had a positive impact on the learning of students in both schools.

“This is a highly significant finding in that it draws attention to a way of strengthening relatively low performing schools that can, at the same time, help to foster system wide improvements.
 
“It also offers a convincing argument about why a relatively strong school should support other schools.  Put simply, by helping others you help yourself!”