Rolling out the programme – NAHT should promote the programme to ‘coasting’ and good schools
Funding opportunities – The Department for Education has invested considerable resource in this project. The evaluation has demonstrated that the programme is value for money when compared with the costs of academisation and offers an economic alternative. The policy makers in the DfE should consider how the investment to date can be maximized by promoting the programme to schools that would benefit.
Intervention funding – Consideration should be given to the ways that supplementary / intervention funding is made more coherent. It should foster school improvement that is research based, holistic, school-to-school and sustainable, such as NAHT Aspire.
Commenting on the report, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, says: “we created Aspire to offer a credible, school to school system to help boost standards. The government is keen to talk about the structures in education, evidenced by its fixation with schools becoming academies, but is less keen to talk about school improvement as well.
“This independent report shows that NAHT Aspire is a credible pathway for school improvement. Aspire is value for money, it’s an example of the profession taking responsibility for school standards, and above all it works.”
“NAHT believes Aspire should be recognised as a sustainable, successful and realistic response to the question of raising standards. The ambition now is to roll out the programme to a wider audience, including primaries, secondaries and special schools. It’s not just about helping a particular type of school, but will be about school improvement across the board, including helping good schools to become outstanding.”
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says: “The Aspire project demonstrates the potential of what can be achieved when schools work together to share expertise and drive up standards.”
“As we move towards a more school-led system then collaboration will soon be commonplace across the country, ensuring every child has access to the excellent education they deserve.”
Tim Nash at EdisonLearning, NAHT’s partner in the Aspire programme, says: “It has been a privilege to work with the schools involved in the pilot, and we thank them for the energy, enthusiasm and commitment they have shown over the past three years. It is impossible to overstate the vital part they have played in helping Aspire develop into the ‘blueprint for the future of school improvement’.
“With more than 100 schools and 13 networks now engaged in the programme, involving schools of every character and context, Aspire is now well on its way to becoming established as a national school improvement movement, reflecting the power of research and evidence to guide in-school practice, building collaboration and trust between schools, and investing in the development of the current and prospective leaders that are so critical to the future health of our education system.”
Commenting on the report, lead researcher Dr Siobhan Neary from the University of Derby’s College of Education says: “Our analysis shows that NAHT’s Aspire programme has successfully supported school improvement. Many schools reported that Aspire is a transformative programme, changing the way they see themselves. This has improved progress, attainment and pupil behaviour, whilst increasing the confidence levels of many staff.”
Commenting on the programme, Sarah Foster, head of Lovers’ Lane Primary School and Nursery in Newark, Nottinghamshire, says: “We have really gone from strength to strength. When we joined the pilot we were RI but in our last Ofsted, in December 2014, we got a ‘good’, and that’s in no small part down to Aspire. Aspire has helped us to build and develop our staff; it has also helped us to create a new coaching culture and model.”
Jan Herbert, head of East Borough Primary School in Maidstone, Kent, says: “It has really helped our middle leaders to develop their skills and move the school on. One of the really positive points of the programme is that it explores how to get your leaders, at all levels, to be working in more empowered ways.”
Harriet Phelps-Knight, head of Janet Duke Primary School in Basildon, Essex, says: “It has simply enabled us to refocus on children’s learning, and work more consistently as an organisation. We want to keep with it as it moves beyond the pilot stage.”