The impact of inter- school collaboration on student outcomes and knowledge mobilisation

Comment by GUSTAF NORDBÄCK, Chief Operating Officer, DigiExam

When academisation was first rolled out across the UK, one of the chief benefits of the government’s plan was always intended to be increased and more effective cross-collaboration between schools. Statistics from the DfE indicate that 54% of academy schools in England are currently members of Multi- Academy Trust’s (MATs) comprising two or more schools and even those schools that have converted to academy status in isolation have been encouraged

to work closely with other local schools. Unfortunately for advocates of the academy scheme, the DfE report ‘The

impact of inter-school collaboration on student outcomes and knowledge mobilisation’1

proved inconclusive and highlighted the lack of empirical data

available to make effective value judgements. For many this indicated inter- school collaboration to be a failure of the academies plan. However is this conclusive proof that cross-school collaboration has been a dismal failure? Should we simply wait for the next agenda to be rolled out? The answer is no. The top MATs, in a report from Angel Solutions are

shining examples of sponsors who, through effective leadership, inter-school collaboration and sharing of best practice, have improved the quality of teaching in their schools. Griffin Schools Trust is one such MAT who through inter-school collaboration has taken a significant proportion of its schools from ‘special measures’ to ‘good’. Central to this success is the benchmarking of students. Teachers need to

quickly understand where students are in their learning journey in order to determine the most effective route forward. As Progress 8 is introduced - the new secondary accountability measure aimed at measuring the progress of pupils across a selected set of eight subjects - the need to benchmark students in Year 7 and at GCSE level will be even more essential. But measurement and assessment takes time. This is why it is so important

for MATs to automate this time-consuming process and review solutions that facilitate the speedy creation and grading of assessments, mid-stake and high-stake exams. The best solutions also allow teachers to share questions held within an online library, co-create and co-grade tests and automate the multiple choice element of them too. Sweden is a shining example of a country that has embraced this

technology. Here MATs are pooling knowledge to create assessments and exams on digital platforms that they can use across their entire schools’ network. Co-creation and sharing of great questions and exams and also co- grading can take collaboration and sharing of best practice to a new level. In addition, real-time automated marking means that all teachers gain a clear insight into pupil progress and their time is freed up to revisit topics or concepts that require further clarification, so helping to improve student outcomes. This method of taking assessment has been so effective in Sweden that 11% of the country’s national exams are now taken on the DigiExam platform, saving teachers over 40% of their marking time whilst simultaneously driving up standards. This kind of digital collaboration is long overdue in the UK where teachers

currently spend up to 11 hours a week marking. By helping teachers to work collaboratively and freeing up more time to spend planning and teaching, we can take a positive step forward toward saving teachers’ time, reducing stress and helping to ensure that more teachers remain in the profession.

1.Effective school partnerships and collaboration for school improvement: a review of the evidence /DFE-RR466_-_School_improvement_effective_school_partnerships.pdf

December 2016

Comment by DAVID CAMPBELL, Managing Director at Equity, Inspiring Learning

‘A healthy mind in a healthy body’, is a famous phrase because the health and fitness benefits of sport are well documented. Improved focus and stamina, learning to work in a team and

dealing with challenges are just some of the benefits of getting students out on the playing field. Sport also helps with character education, honing traits such as persistence, resilience and self- discipline – all key for students’ future employability. But if this can all be done during sports lessons in school what is

the value of a sports trip? Why take students away from school and onto a different sports field? The answer is that specialist sports trips are very different to run

of the mill lessons because they promote a level of engagement which is simply not possible within a school environment. Working in partnership with top clubs, national bodies and centres of excellence, schools can give their students and teachers an intensive and potentially life-changing experience, where they will benefit from high-quality coaching, techniques and experiences which will pay dividends long after everyone is back in the classroom. Firstly they provide a far more intensive focus than is possible

within the busy school environment. Sports lessons are particularly pressured because additional time is needed for changing into and out of kit and travelling to facilities. This means that all too often there is not even enough time for a proper game or discussion of strategies. So by taking children on organised developmental sports trips you

ensure that they are playing matches and training for three to four hours a day - that’s 12-16 hours of coaching and development during a four-day trip. This is equivalent to more than a whole term’s worth of extra-curricular sport and far more likely to engage students so that they continue to participate in sport back at home. Secondly, by throwing teachers and students together in

unfamiliar surroundings you provide very powerful opportunities for peer and teacher/student bonding. It’s also important to remember that these trips provide invaluable continuous professional learning (CPL) opportunities for teachers – vital in the current climate where teacher retention is a hot topic. In addition, well-designed trips allow teachers to refresh their working relationships with pupils, get new ideas, and benefit from seeing the tools and tactics used by the expert professional coaches delivering the training sessions at top class sporting destinations. Everything they learn can be taken back to school and used for the rest of the year. The self-discipline necessary to be a successful in sport is a skill

which transfers easily to academic focus. It will help students be the best that they can be and to fulfil their true potential both on the sports field and in the classroom. This must be the way forward – moving towards a real

development of life skills and characteristics which will have a profound impact on a student’s future. 15

How getting away from it all on a sports trip can boost academic attainment

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