Understanding the self-improving school-led system

Researchers: Professor Toby Greany | Dr Rob Higham

Project overview


The concept of a ‘self-improving school-led system’ is at the heart of the Coalition Government’s education policy. As such, its success or failure has clear ramifications for millions of children.

As set out in the 2010 white paper The Importance of Teaching, in this system schools would be autonomous and accountable for their own improvement. Meanwhile, Teaching Schools, Academy sponsors and National and Local Leaders of Education would take a systemic lead in school-to-school support.

To date, however, there has been no independent research aimed at analysing local or national responses to this policy agenda or considering the implications for quality and equity.

This project has two strands.

Qualitative strand

This strand of the project, co-funded by the Nuffield Foundation and the Education Development Trust, aims to:

  • Update and synthesise existing literature and evidence on self-improving systems and develop a robust theoretical framework
  • Undertake detailed case studies of four sub-regional areas. This will explore leadership responses and the conditions required for school to school support and collaboration to emerge
  • Engage key stakeholders and practitioners in an evidence-informed dialogue about what we mean by a self-improving school-led system, how it is developing in practice and how it might be enhanced.
Quantitative strand

This strand of the project is being carried out in partnership with the National Foundation for Educational Research. It aims to:

  • Provide a national perspective on how school leaders are responding to the self-improving system agenda
  • Analyse the impact of the most widespread structural models of school collaboration on pupil outcomes. These are seen as critical to the success of the self-improving system.

The researchers will survey headteachers and senior leaders from 1,000 secondary, primary and special schools. They will also assess the impact of multi-academy trusts, umbrella trusts and teaching school alliances on pupil outcomes by comparing the performance of schools in these arrangements with a matched sample over a three-year period

The outcomes of the research have the potential to make a significant contribution to the evidence-base on school-led systems and inform both national and local policy and practice.

Latest on this project


Team


  • Professor Toby Greany
    University College London
  • Dr Rob Higham
    University College London

  • Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.

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Nuffield-funded social scientists are conducting COVID-19 research in real-time, to capture people’s experiences of the social, cultural and economic impacts of the pandemic.