Skip to main content

This blog post was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Teaching schools and local authorities working together

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: School-led system, School-to-school support, Teaching schools

School-to-school support in Plymouth

We look at how teaching school alliances and local authorities are working together to provide school-to-school support.

The headteacher of High View School in Plymouth, Kim Dorian-Kemp, is involved, through the Plymouth Teaching School Alliance, in one of the most mature versions of a school-led system.

In Plymouth, council officers and members have placed their trust in teaching schools to deliver school improvement across the city. This is backed by a substantial £600,000 grant from the Plymouth Schools Forum. They have developed a process that is radically different from the traditional, top-down model in which the local authority controls and delivers all the school improvement work.

The Plymouth approach

The School-to-School Partnership Board, made up of headteachers and council officers, meets monthly to discuss school performance, which includes the sharing of data and any soft intelligence. They then decide what intervention should be offered to schools in difficulty, and which system leaders are best placed to take on the work.

The school and the system leader draw up a contract to ensure there is absolute clarity about both the aims of the work and how it will be assessed. All work is time-limited and very specific. The board then monitors progress and, if the provider of support feels that the work is not progressing well, or if other issues arise such as questions over the quality of leadership in the school, then further action can be taken.

There are a wide range of interventions, from light touch support with key stage one writing, to longer term work to improve the leadership of some of the schools in the city.

As standards in Plymouth improve, the aim of the board is increasingly to provide support at an early stage, before schools get into more serious difficulties with Ofsted or by missing floor standards. Ultimately this sort of early intervention can be lighter touch and will cost less.

There was a real determination amongst the headteachers I met to make this collaborative model work. Their aim is that all the schools in the city have the support they need to become at least good.

Across the country

This is a new way of doing business that other local authorities, such as Wigan, Manchester, Surrey and Torbay, are also adopting across the country. We recently spoke to Brian Crosby, Principal of Manor CE Academy in York, which is part of the Ebor Teaching School Alliance. He shared how the York local authority is commissioning his teaching school alliance to take on school improvement work:

Rather than running large central teams of consultants and advisers, local authorities are increasingly seeing their role being to commission school improvement from schools and ensure they have the right data and information to get on with the work. This makes for a responsive, dynamic school improvement model that puts the experts, heads and the best teachers, in control.

If you have any questions or feedback, please comment below. To keep up to date with this blog, you can sign up for email updates or follow NCTL on Twitter.

For more information or opportunities to get involved with our work, visit our pages on GOV.UK.

Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Lisa Pettifer posted on

    I would love the opportunity to work in this sort of system. It's so important for all sectors and bodies interested in locally-based education to work together. I'm in Cumbria, where we have some partnerships on a smaller scale that are aspiring to this sort of system, though because of our geography, we rarely get to share these ideas between groups. I'm going to Inst of Ed Festival at the end of the month to find out more about London successes....But this is just me. I'm paying to get myself there because it feels important to me to be well-informed about leading national initiatives, to be forward thinking and outward looking. As a profession, we need to learn from the best and share with the best.

  2. Comment by Andy Squires - Director of Teaching School posted on

    Sounds very much like the work that we pioneered here in Milton Keynes. The Denbigh Teaching School Alliance meet regularly with the LA through the MKSSEPB (Milton Keynes Strategic School Effectiveness Partnership Board) - I know a real mouthful. We discuss with the LA school to school support requests and whether we are able to support with our experienced team of SLEs, LLEs and NLEs.
    We work to an agreed deployment framework and pricing structure.
    You can read a little more about how we work in the NCTL evaluation published last year -

    You can also read more about our work here -

  3. Comment by Neil Fazackerley posted on

    I am the School Development Adviser for Wigan Council. We have developed a school improvement strategy in partnership with all of our schools, regardless of whether they are maintained schools or academies, that is rooted in school to school support but within a framework of strong accountability. We also believe that the best way to improve schools is to use the strengths that already exist within the system. The Local Authority is still accountable for ensuring the system works well and for providing the infrastructure and funding to make things happen. It is a really exciting model and we are seeing the impact of it on our standards and in the way schools can be much more rapidly turned round to become good.

  4. Comment by Rebecca Cox - Principal Hales Valley Teaching School posted on

    Hales Valley Teaching School work closely with Dudley LA in order that we are partners in helping schools to improve. We look at how leaders within our own, and in our Strategic partner schools, can offer support to all levels of schools across Dudley and the Black Country. As every school is individual they need bespoke levels of support and we deliver the best solution for each school on an individual basis. We strive for all children to receive a good education and we are working on ways in which to deliver this as widely as we can as a strong group of schools.

    Please look at the work we have been doing so far via our website

    Do not hesitate to contact us for any support . Although we are based in the Midlands we have supported schools in Essex and Manchester - I look forward to hearing from you!


Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.