The NAHT Aspire Pilot Programme started in May 2013 when thirty schools, each judged as Satisfactory or Requires Improvement by Ofsted, working in four regional networks, met in London to be introduced to each other as partners in this innovative venture, and to the Aspire Partner Schools approach.

The pilot programme was supported by the Department for Education, and guided by an Advisory Board comprising senior officials from the NAHT, EdisonLearning, the National College for Teaching and Leadership, Ofsted, the National Governors Association, and the UCL Institute for Education.

The pilot has been independently evaluated by The University of Derby who published their report in May 2016

Key Findings

  • 95% of survey respondents believed that the NAHT Aspire school improvement programme was either very appropriate or appropriate for the whole school.
  • 88% of survey respondents found that the five strand design covered all or most areas of school improvement.
  • 63% of pilot schools have been inspected by Ofsted and rated as Good over the course of the NAHT Aspire programme with more forecast by the end of the third year
  • Pilot schools have made twice the improvement of schools nationally for both progress and attainment with strong gains in Mathematics at level 5
  • Gains shown over the two years are comparable to those found in sponsored academies
  • Both case studies and survey respondents (90%) were overwhelmingly positive about their experiences and the impact on the whole school
  • 78% of survey respondents believed that NAHT Aspire has provided good value for money,
  • Scope for improvements moving forward focus on the transitioning of schools into the programme, bringing forward aspects that target pupil progress and tailoring the model for small schools.

What participating schools have said

About the model

Teachers and headteachers wrote:

“It has been excellent in pulling everyone together as a team in improving the school rather than it all being led by SLT – everyone feels part of the process”
“It is an effective way to distribute leadership whilst retaining a collective goal.”
“I am excited about the opportunities and impact that this model will have on our school improvement. I feel that this is a focused model which is appropriate to meet the needs of our school.”

About the Network Days

Every respondent felt that these events were professionally run and their positive responses to the questions below demonstrate the value placed on them. (62 respondents)


Have you been able to share what you learned or any new insights with any of your colleagues in school?


Did this process make you think about new approaches to school improvement?


Have you been able to apply any of what was covered to your current practice?


Did you gain any new insights from your peers working in other schools in the network?


Did you learn new things relevant for your professional role?

How the schools felt about the future


As a result of their participation schools are generally more positive and confident about the future, as shown below by their survey responses:

90% Believe the NAHT Aspire programme has been successful or very successful in their xanax online school.
95% Believe their school will change for the better in the next year.
91% Believe that the NAHT Aspire model of school improvement will be sustainable in their school for the long-term
  (64 respondents)

Case studies

A subset of six schools, two of which have had particularly turbulent times, have been followed up more intensely by the researchers.

Perceptions of headteachers

“There is a real buzz about the place. The middle leaders are fired up. There are lots of things in place which are having a profound impact on areas of education that seemed intractable. The development of some fine your teachers has been inspiring to everyone and just shows that talent can be hidden unless uncovered”
“Having the support from Aspire has given teachers and leaders the confidence to put something new in place”
“Other programmes are very much a ‘one size fits all. Aspire isn’t, it can be adapted. It is a completely different approach and really refreshing”

Perceptions of governors

Governors have played a key role in the implementation of NAHT Aspire.  Most respondents suggest that the NAHT Aspire programme allowed governors to become more engaged in school improvement.  One governor sums up the impact of NAHT Aspire on governance.

“It has informed me as Chair of Governors about many aspects of government policy, Ofsted and educational research. In addition being included as a leader in the Leadership days has meant I know first hand about what and why things are being implemented in school. I have found our Edison advisors willing to give time to me and our governors. I feel much more confident in my role and even if I haven’t got the governing body quite as active as I’d like I know what to aim at.”

Perceptions of Local Authorities

Though there are varying degrees of knowledge and engagement with NAHT Aspire across LAs, one senior adviser noted about their local school:

“Initially they wanted to keep out of category and be above the floor standards and be able to recruit and keep staff – but now they are looking at the journey to Outstanding and aim for attainment above national level and want all of their teaching to be Good and not just 65%. Their aspirations have raised.”


Value for money

The evaluators noted that schools feel they are getting all the support that the school needs, diminishing the need to invest in other forms of school improvement or professional support.

“I don’t think that there is any doubt that it was a very good investment; I’ll put it that way…. Without Aspire we would not have achieved the improvements that we have.”


What Ofsted have said in inspection reports

“The school has improved rapidly since the last inspection under the inspirational leadership of the headteacher and her senior team. They put pupils at the heart of everything they do and have a mission to raise the aspirations of all the children who pass through the school.” Springbank Primary, June 2014

“The headteacher and senior leaders work as a cohesive, determined team and have been effective in improving the quality of teaching and raising pupils’ achievement. the desire to ensure all pupils realise their potential is central to their shared vision and sustains their capacity to drive the school’s development.” Hangleton Junior, Feb 2014

“Leaders and managers make the most of partnerships to bring about improvement.” Eastwood Primary, Feb 2014

“Leadership and management at all levels are outstanding. Actions taken have improved the school since the last inspection when it required improvement. Achievement and teaching are now good. This demonstrates that the school has the capacity to improve further.” Somerhill Junior, December 2014

“Work with the school’s partners has made a highly positive impact on teaching and on pupils’ achievements.” Lovers’ Lane Primary, November 2014

“Leaders have worked effectively with external partners to improve teaching. Standards are rising and pupils are making faster progress.” Temple Sutton Primary, May 2015

“Leaders and governors have established a firm and determined drive to improve the school since the previous inspection.” Bournemouth Park Primary, March 2016