Partnerships between teaching schools and universities: research report - Professor Toby Greany and Dr Chris Brown London Centre for Leadership in ...

Partnerships between teaching schools and universities: research report - Professor Toby Greany and Dr Chris Brown London Centre for Leadership in ...
Partnerships between teaching schools
and universities: research report

Professor Toby Greany and Dr Chris Brown
London Centre for Leadership in Learning
UCL Institute of Education
March 2015
Partnerships between teaching schools and universities: research report - Professor Toby Greany and Dr Chris Brown London Centre for Leadership in ...
Partnerships between teaching schools and universities: research report - Professor Toby Greany and Dr Chris Brown London Centre for Leadership in ...
Executive Summary ................................................................................................................................ 1
1. About this study.................................................................................................................................. 6
2. The context for school-university partnerships in England ................................................................ 7
     2.1 A self-improving system?: the policy context ............................................................................. 7
     2.2 Teaching schools .......................................................................................................................... 8
     2.3 How the Teaching Schools are developing provision on Initial and Continuing Professional
         Development and Research and Development ......................................................................... 10
     2.4 The changing nature of school-university partnerships ............................................................ 12
3: What we know about school university partnerships from the literature ...................................... 13
     3.1 Overview .................................................................................................................................... 13
     3.2 School-university partnerships for Initial Teacher Education ................................................... 14
     3.3 School-university partnerships in relation to Continuing Professional Development .............. 18
     3.4 School-university partnerships in relation to Research and Development ............................... 19
4: Findings ............................................................................................................................................ 20
     4.1 Background and development of the alliances ......................................................................... 20
           The context of the participating schools ................................................................................... 20
           Reasons for joining or establishing a Teaching School Alliance ................................................ 21
           Teaching School structures and governance ............................................................................. 22
           Progress and initial impact as a current or prospective Teaching School Alliance ................... 22
           Issues with the Teaching School model ..................................................................................... 23
     4.2 How the Teaching Schools are developing provision on Initial and Continuing Professional
         Development and Research and Development ......................................................................... 25
           Initial Teacher Education and School Direct .............................................................................. 25
          Continuing Professional Development ...................................................................................... 26
           Research and Development ....................................................................................................... 28
     4.3 Teaching School partnerships with universities: motivations, progress and issues .................. 29
5.        Conclusion ................................................................................................................................... 33

Recommendations:............................................................................................................................... 34
Executive Summary
Partnerships between Teaching Schools/lead schools and universities in England are in a state of flux,
with historical relationships being reshaped to respond to the needs of a self-improving school-led
system. This process is being accelerated by the rapid expansion of School Direct, a policy-driven
model which aims to give schools a stronger role in Initial Teacher Education (ITE).

The literature on school-university partnerships highlights the challenges involved in making such
partnerships successful. Differences in language, culture and organisational priorities can be
compounded by logistical difficulties, meaning that it can be hard to demonstrate impact.
The learning from successful partnerships suggests that key features include: school and university
staff having an equal voice, with practitioner priorities and knowledge explicitly valued; the creation
of a ‘third space’ which is separate from the culture of either institution and allows for more creative
ways of working; strategic leaders who recognise and prioritise external working of this nature as
well as distributed and shared leadership across the boundaries between the partners; and shared
aims and approaches, for example through a focus on solving locally defined problems utilising an
enquiry approach.

The four existing and emerging alliances in this study were at different stages of development, but
were characterised by high levels of commitment to the notion of school to school support and a
self-improving school system. They were facing similar challenges in their development to those
identified in other studies of Teaching Schools (Gu et al, 2014; Glover et al, 2014). These included:
the intense pressures that development places on the lead school and the concern that this could
lead to a drop in standards and even the loss of Teaching School status; and the challenge of how to
build capacity and engagement across an alliance of schools, so that the lead and strategic partner
schools are not carrying so much of the load.

The existing and emerging alliances in this study were undertaking a range of innovative work in
relation to ITE, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and Research and Development (R&D).
The work on ITE was significant, although most energy appeared to have gone into dealing with the
bureaucracy and teething problems associated with the initiative, with less time spent as yet on
developing genuinely innovative learning experiences for trainee teachers. The shifts associated
with CPD were often more significant at this stage, with schools balancing a mix of more traditional
income-generating programmes with new approaches to Joint Practice Development (JPD) for staff.
These JPD models aimed to provide time and structured approaches to peer learning with explicit
opportunities to learn from research. The picture on R&D was mixed: it was increasingly highly
valued by the schools, with some innovative approaches in place, but the lack of capacity and
funding for this presented genuine challenges.

The diagram below shows the key factors that the leading schools in this study are looking for in a
university partner. The quality and credibility of the university staff are key considerations, along
with the reputation and prestige of the institution itself. Whether the university is committed to
partnership working and its ability to offer expertise, wider networks and a critical friend role are
also important.

These factors are balanced against the inertia that comes from having historical links and
relationships. On the plus side these relationships can reflect high levels of trust and collaboration,
but in some cases there was a sense of dissatisfaction with the quality of the historical university
partner tempered by a view that the logistical challenges and emotional effort required to sever the
link would be too much to take on. In several cases historical relationships were giving ‘first mover’
advantage to universities as schools developed their thinking on School Direct: ie lead schools
tended to initiate discussions and work on new School Direct provision with institutions they already

All this is balanced by the need to secure value for money. School leaders must balance the hard
financial aspect of this with an assessment of the quality of provision on offer.

Foundations for
                                                           Key requirements
                       partnership… but
                                                            for effective HE
                          can create

                                                           Quality and credibility
                                                                 of HE staff

                                                           Reputation of university
                                                              Commitment to
                           Historical links
                                                            partnership working

                                                          Expertise, wider networks
                        Personal relationships
                                                              & critical friend

                           Value for Money

Figure 1: Key factors for lead schools in assessing school-university partnerships and possible future
scenarios for such partnerships in England.

It appears that lead schools might go in either of two directions as this picture unfolds.

  i.    One option is that they decide to go it alone, deciding that there is very little that universities can
        offer that they cannot do themselves, particularly given the tight financial settlement. For example,
        they might become an accredited provider (SCITT) in their own right. This ambition was expressed by
        some of the interviewees, although others were highly critical of School Direct and a model of ITE that
        does not involve universities.
  ii.   The other is they look to form much deeper partnerships with universities characterised by long-term
        shared working and mutual learning in order to support the career development of all staff across an

Partnerships that adopt the latter option would appear to reflect the principles of the ‘third space’
(Moje et al, 2004) and ‘design-led’ working (Bryk, Gomez, and Grunow, 2011; Coburn, Penuel and
Geil, 2013) identified in previous research on effective school-university partnerships. The potential
ITE provision that could be developed through such partnerships could reflect the ‘collaboration’
models identified by Menter et al (2010) from international practice, for example the ‘clinical
practice’ model being pioneered by the University of Melbourne.

How schools respond to this dilemma will depend significantly on how universities choose to work in
the coming months and years. This study did not include an assessment of different university
perspectives on these issues or how they are responding, although it is clear that differential
responses are emerging nationally, ranging from withdrawal from the market through to significant
investment in school-led models. The internal IOE workshop held as part of the study did indicate an
intense awareness of the issues discussed and also highlighted some of the practical ways that the
IOE is responding, for example through its dedicated School Partnerships team (which provides a
single point of contact for schools) and its Specialist and Principal Partner Awards structure and IOE
R&D network (both of which aim to foster more sustained forms of partnership working).

The future policy agenda will also play an important role in how things develop. The Carter Review
of ITE (2015) has advocated clearer structures for the ITE curriculum, but the larger issue is whether
and how quickly the School Direct model is expanded. On CPD and R&D, both political parties
appear to recognise the need for a strengthened professional development framework for teachers,
but the proposed Royal College of Teaching will need time and support to become established and
achieve impact.

A number of recommendations for policy makers arguably emerge from this study, not least the
need to provide a more coherent and consistent framework for school-university partnerships.

Recommendations for schools and universities that want to foster successful school-university
partnerships in a self-improving system are as follows:

   -   Be clear on what you need and what you can offer
       School leaders must be clear about where external expertise and capacity can add value to their work
       and about what they value most in a university partner. The temptation may be for schools to ‘go it
       alone’ in a school-led system, but the research on effective professional development for teachers is
       clear that effective programmes draw on external expertise (Coe, Cordingley, Greany and Higgins,
       2015). Teaching Schools should expect their university partner to be able to demonstrate how they
       can align their support for ITE, CPD and R&D so that the different elements complement each other
       and meet the needs of all staff across an alliance over the course of their career. Equally, universities
       must recognise the benefits of work with practitioners and the skills and capacities required to do this
       well: consider creating dedicated partnership teams that can help align the expertise on offer across
       the institution.

-   Empower leaders to create a ‘third space’:
    Once a partnership is established, create time and space for staff from each institution to work
    together to achieve agreed objectives. Senior leaders must devote time to ensure that overarching
    partnership goals are clear and that the necessary resources are in place: leaving leaders on the
    ground to find creative ways to realise this vision.

-   Accept that effective partnership will take time to develop, but avoid inertia:
    Successful partnerships might start small and build over time as trust and a shared vision develop.
    Prioritise finding the right partner and invest time and effort in making the partnership work. Use
    contracts and key performance indicators when necessary, but try to find opportunities for more
    open-ended collaboration as well, for example through broader Partnership Agreements. The
    challenge here is to recognise when trust has slipped into cosy inertia: be prepared to review
    partnership impact on a regular basis and to renegotiate where existing partnerships aren’t

-   Focus on impact, but be prepared for unexpected outcomes:
    Review progress regularly and focus on impact whilst acknowledging that some benefits might be
    hard to measure. Assume that the work you do together could always be better. Focus on learning
    from effective innovations elsewhere.

About this study
Schools and universities have worked in partnership across education systems around the world for
many decades. Consequently there is a wealth of evidence describing the nature and impact of such
partnerships and there can be “a sense of déjà vu, of paths being previously trod, of ground being
made and then lost again” when reviewing that literature (Greany, Gu, Handscomb and Varley,
2014). Nevertheless, the relationships between schools and universities in England are changing so
rapidly and so fundamentally that it seems timely to review them and to understand how such
partnerships are developing, what the barriers and enablers to progress might be and how such
practice might develop in future to achieve a positive impact.

This study has explored the ways in which four existing and applicant Teaching Schools in London
and the south-east of England are working with universities across three areas of their remit: Initial
Teacher Education (ITE) and School Direct, Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and
Research and Development (R&D). The remit of Teaching Schools is wider than the three areas
focussed on here, for example encompassing school to school support and succession planning, but
universities are not generally involved in these areas so they were not included within the scope of
the study. Equally, the study does not encompass wider school-university partnerships relating to
initiatives such as Widening Participation or STEM.

Teaching Schools and their alliances are a significant new phenomenon in the English school
landscape and this report sheds light on some of the wider issues related to their development.

The project addressed the following questions:
   -   How are four teaching schools and their alliances working in partnership with universities?
   -   What are the anticipated benefits and what is the evidence of impact so far?
   -   What are the conditions required to enable these partnerships to develop? What are we
       learning about the enablers and challenges for collaboration?
   -   How might the R&D work of these alliances move forward and what should schools and universities
       contribute to ensure success?
   -   What are the implications for the partners involved in the study as well as school-university
       partnerships more widely?

The key elements of the methodology were as follows:
      a literature review
      an analysis of key documentation from each alliance/prospective alliance
      semi-structured interviews with 4-6 senior leaders, governors and wider staff from each of the lead
       schools and their strategic partner schools
      a workshop with 15 staff involved in school partnerships from across the IOE
      a workshop with senior leaders from the four alliances to review the emerging findings.

The research was commissioned by the IOE School Partnerships team and has been co-funded by the
IOE (through the Higher Education Innovation Fund) and the four lead schools involved: NELTA
(North East London Teaching Alliance)/Beal High School, Redbridge; Tendring Technology College,
Essex; Rosendale Primary School, Lambeth; WANDLE Teaching School Alliance/Chesterton Primary
School, Wandsworth. Two of the four lead schools were already designated as Teaching Schools at
the time of the research, while the other two had undertaken significant ground work and had
submitted applications (one of which was subsequently successful).

2. The context for school-university partnerships in England
2.1. A self-improving system?: the policy context

The pace of change in the English education system since 2010 has been rapid and the implications
are only beginning to become clear. While many of the changes were underway before the Coalition
government came to power, the pace and scale of change has increased significantly since then
(Hadfield and Chapman, 2009; Earley and Higham, 2012; Greany 2014, 2015a and 2015b). The
education system in England is now increasingly: autonomous, in particular with the increase in
academies (Gilbert et al., 2013; House of Commons Education Select Committee, 2015); diverse, for
example with the introduction of free schools, Studio Schools and University Technical Colleges
(Dunford et al., 2013); and, arguably, fragmented (Earley and Higham, 2012). Simultaneously, there
is an expectation for the system to become ‘self-improving’ (DfE, 2010; Hargreaves, 2010, 2012;
Greany, 2014), with autonomous schools supporting each others’ progress and development and,
through such collaboration, ‘unleashing greatness’ (Gilbert et al., 2013).

Most of the infrastructure that had been put in place by the Labour government to support schools
and school improvement (for example, several national agencies/quangos and much of the school
improvement and support role of Local Authorities) has been dismantled. In a similar vein, many
regulations and mechanisms for securing minimum standards have been reduced or repealed (for
example the requirements for teachers to have Qualified Teacher Status in academies and for Head
teachers to have the National Professional Qualification for Headship). A new slimmed down National
Curriculum came into force for maintained schools from September 2014. Ministers have made clear
that they do not see it as the role of government to intervene and ‘tell teachers how to teach’ (Gove,
2013a), so it is schools and school leaders that must determine what they think is most appropriate in
the key areas of professional practice.

However, a recent Department for Education consultation on the teaching profession (DfE, 2014)
appears to recognise that the Coalition’s laissez faire approach to professional development in the
self-improving system has not yet had the desired effect. It states that “Feedback from the
profession has consistently indicated that too many of the development opportunities on offer are
of variable quality” (p4). “Too often ‘CPD’ is viewed narrowly as attending courses or listening to
stale talks accompanied by endless slides… Teacher development is not always adequately focussed
on the specific needs of pupils, nor is it always sustained and practice-based.” (p10).

These comments on the quality of CPD in England broadly chime with the findings from the OECD
TALIS 2013 survey (Micklewright et al, 2014), which states that teachers here report higher than
average participation in courses and workshops (75%) and in-service training in outside organisations
(22%), but lower than average participation in more in-depth activities, such as research or formal
qualifications – and less time spent overall.

The DfE consultation signals the government’s intention to support the creation of an independent
College of Teaching as well as to offer a new fund for professional development offered by the
Teaching Schools network. It also proposes a new ‘What works clearing house’ style online platform
for knowledge sharing and new non-mandatory standards for teachers’ professional development.

Where the Government clearly does see itself having a continuing role in the self-improving system is
in setting the accountability standards and mechanisms that hold schools to account. Changes to the
assessment regime have focussed on raising the bar and meeting the standards expected by the
highest performing school systems, with new GCSEs, more stringent requirements for vocational
qualifications, reduced teacher assessment, and Ofqual’s approach to comparable outcomes in
assessment to prevent grade inflation. Similarly, the bar has been raised for schools, through a new
Ofsted framework, rising expectations on floor standards, and new accountability mechanisms such
as ‘Progress 8’ for secondary schools.

2.2    Teaching schools

Teaching Schools were initially pioneered through the London Challenge (Berwick and Matthews,
2013) but it was the Coalition’s 2010 white paper The Importance of Teaching (DfE, 2010) that gave
them national impetus:

       We will develop a national network of new Teaching Schools to lead and develop sustainable
       approaches to teacher development across the country… These will be outstanding schools (with a
       track record of supporting other schools), which will take a leading responsibility for providing and
       quality assuring initial teacher training in their area. We will also fund them to offer professional
       development for teachers and leaders. Other schools will choose whether or not to take advantage of
       these programmes, so teaching schools will primarily be accountable to their peers. We intend there to
       be a national network of such schools and our priority is that they should be of the highest quality –
       truly amongst the best schools in the country.

By June 2014, 587 Teaching Schools had been designated by the National College for Teaching and
Leadership against a demanding set of criteria that include a requirement for the lead school to be
Ofsted Outstanding and to be able to demonstrate a track record of school to school provision and
support. Each Teaching School is expected to identify and work with a set of strategic partners and
to build a wider alliance of schools that can both contribute to, and benefit from, their work. At least
one of these strategic partners must be a university partner; partly reflecting the origins of the
model which was loosely inspired by the example of university teaching hospitals (Matthews and
Berwick, 2013). Teaching School alliances are required to address six core roles (the ‘Big 6’):

   Playing a greater role in recruiting and training new entrants to the profession
                 (Initial Teacher Education - ITE);
                Leading peer-to-peer professional and leadership development (Continuing Professional
                Identifying and developing leadership potential (succession planning and talent
                Providing support for other schools;
                Designating and brokering support from Specialist Leaders of Education; and Engaging in
                 research and development activity (R&D).

Building alliances and capacity to address the Big 6 areas has required tremendous energy and
altruistic leadership from the participating schools: or ‘sheer hard work’ (Gu et al, 2014) in the words
of one leader. The interim evaluation by Gu et al for the DfE (Gu et al 2014), which is based on case
study visits to 18 alliances in the summer of 2013, reflects considerable progress overall. It also
indicates the sheer diversity of organisational forms and approaches emerging as Teaching Schools
take advantage of what is a relatively loose policy framework to respond to their local contexts and
needs. Gu et al note the strong moral purpose that drives the alliance leaders to make a difference
for all children, as well as the strongly inter-personal and network-based nature of development:

       The building of person-to-person and school-to-school relationships permeates the everyday
       leadership work of teaching schools and their alliances. The benefit of such relationships is that they
       provide both the conditions and the necessary social basis for communities of learning, and through
       these, for joint practice development to take root within the alliance. Hargreaves (2012) calls this kind
       of inter-organisational property ‘collaborative capital’ which in turn ‘enhances the collective capacity
       on which a self-improving system depends’ (2012: 23).

In relation to school-university partnerships, Gu et al note that almost all alliances have
partnerships with more than one university. These relationships hinge on ITE, where the
evaluation team signals a need for further research to understand the respective contributions
of schools and universities. They also note that the negotiation of funding and respective roles
between schools and universities in relation to School Direct can be challenging. Beyond ITE, the
evaluators cite a number of ways in which universities are contributing, for example through
Masters programmes and supporting R&D.

Despite the broadly positive developments observed by Gu et al, the evaluation also flags a series of
challenges in relation to each area studied. These range from the unreasonable and unsustainable
workload required to establish the alliances, in particular from senior leaders, to a lack of robust
peer challenge between partner schools:

       Teaching schools appear to have been doing the softer working around support and development, but
       not been able to hold each other to account (or other schools in the alliance) if performance and
       progress starts to slip in a school.

2.3 The work of Teaching Schools in relation to Initial and Continuing Professional
Development and Research and Development

The role of Teaching Schools in relation to ITE has evolved significantly since the 2010 white paper,
most significantly through the introduction and expansion of the School Direct model. School Direct
gives successful schools responsibility for working with an accredited provider of teacher training to
recruit trainees and shape their training experience. Although funding and accreditation in the
School Direct model still sit with the accredited provider (either a university or School Centred
provider – SCITT), the locus of decision making over teacher training shifts significantly towards the
schools involved, thereby changing the nature of the school-university partnership.

The ITE Implementation Plan (DfE, 2011) stated that “From a minimum of 500 places in 2012/13 we
will aim to increase the number of “school direct” places quickly in future years, in line with demand
from schools”. By 2014-15 15,400 School Direct places were allocated to schools, with universities
involved in the delivery of 7 out of 10 of these places (DfE, 2014). Teaching Schools are required to
play a proactive role in School Direct, helping to aggregate what would otherwise be very
fragmentary provision by working on behalf of all the schools in their alliances. Whilst policy makers
have undoubtedly pressurised Teaching Schools to engage with School Direct (Initial Teacher
Education has been made the only mandatory aspect of their designation), there is also arguably an
element of self-interest for the schools themselves since it enables them to recruit and train the
teachers they want. As Michael Gove MP, the former Secretary of State, put it:

       The School Direct programme…enables our best schools to hand-pick the most exceptional candidates.
       (Michael Gove MP, speech to the London Academy of Excellence, 3rd February 2014)

Certainly, School Direct has faced a number of logistical challenges in its first two years, mainly due
to the rapid pace of its expansion (Morris, 2013). Nevertheless, the interim evaluation report by Gu
et al for the DfE, published in March 2014, states that:

       School Direct is a major motivator for almost all the Teaching School alliances in this evaluation.
       Feedback from our initial visits suggested that alliances had few difficulties filling primary places,
       although there were challenges recruiting in priority subjects for secondary places.

Gu et al (2014) hint that most Teaching Schools have so far opted for a fairly traditional PGCE-type
model for their School Direct provision as a result of the tight timescales involved and their lack of
capacity and expertise to develop more innovative models. The question is whether they will stick
with this approach over time. Interestingly, 4 of the 18 Teaching Schools visited by Gu et al had
established themselves as a SCITT, possibly indicating a desire to move away from university-linked
provision, although the following quotation from the report equally signals a desire from many to
retain strong university links:

Concern was expressed by several alliances that the School Direct model may become too narrow in its
approach to ITT... (one Vice-principal states that) “My fear is that when school people no longer have
knowledge of university PGCE course content, there will be a master/apprentice model of training”... (while
another Teaching School Head sees) School Direct as a joint venture between the TSA and their HEI partners.

Turning to their CPD remit, Teaching Schools appear to be very active in developing this. A report on
Teaching School business models for the National College for Teaching and Leadership noted that
this was their main mechanism for generating income and thereby making themselves sustainable as
core funding reduces (Glover et al, 2014). Many Teaching Schools are licensed to offer commercial
programmes such as the Improving Teacher Programme and Outstanding Teacher Programme, but
most also offer programmes they have developed themselves and many are also commissioned to
offer provision by their local authority or though national schemes funded by the Department for
Education. Some Teaching Schools are also involved in offering the National College licensed
leadership development programmes, although these licenses will cease from 2016.

The alliances visited by Gu et al (2014) see the opportunity to create more seamless and effective
pathways from ITE through into teachers’ ongoing professional careers as a huge opportunity for
improving the quality of teaching and learning. The schools leading this effort also see real benefits
for their own staff in designing and leading CPD and leadership development provision, since this
encourages them to reflect on and improve their own practice. As the findings from this research
indicate, there is strong interest in how to move from traditional models of CPD characterised by
one-off courses and events, to more sustained and impactful development from and with peers and
embedded in real work contexts; widely referred to as Joint Practice Development (Sebba et al,
2012). Finally, in relation to Research and Development and evidence-informed practice, it is clear
that some interesting practice is beginning to emerge across the Teaching Schools network (Bubb,
2013). Examples include:
       The Mead Teaching School Alliance in Wiltshire, which uses a knowledge mobilisation framework
        (Spiral) and has trained up Specialist Leaders of Education from across the Alliance to support R&D in
        Innovation Hubs, and
       Swiss Cottage Teaching School, which gives teachers one hour a week for R&D, runs a Research
        Journal Club and has appointed a Director of R&D.

The interim evaluation of Teaching Schools (Gu et al 2014) states that some alliances see the R&D
role as underpinning everything they do and have developed rich relationships with their university
partners, but that others have not prioritised R&D, finding it daunting and/or feeling that it is under-
funded. The National College has supported some alliances to build capacity in this area, for
example through funding almost one hundred to undertake projects under three overarching
themes that were agreed with the first cohort of Teaching Schools and with support from
universities and experts (Stoll, 2015; Nelson, Taylor and Spence Thomas, 2015; and Maxwell and
Greany, 2015). Another 180 alliances are participating in the Test and Learn Close the Gap research
and a further 20 have been funded to develop their research skills with support from a university.
Meanwhile, a number of universities, such as UCL IOE, Sheffield Hallam and Canterbury Christ
Church, are developing networks and support for teaching schools in this area. Several Teaching
Schools are also involved in Education Endowment Foundation-funded projects.
2.4 The changing nature of school-
university partnerships

The desired role of universities in this policy
picture is unclear. On the one hand,
ministers have been clear that they want to
shift the balance of power from universities
to schools in the area of ITE through the
expansion of School Direct. In doing this they
have been clear that they see universities as
ideologically-driven and overly theoretical in
their approach, which links to the former
Secretary of State’s (Michael Gove MP) views       ahead. Equally, School Direct income levels will
on what he calls ‘bad academia’: an                vary depending on negotiations between
ideologically driven conspiracy by the             providers and schools, again impacting on the
educational establishment to resist change         ability of HEIs to plan ahead with confidence.
and improvement (‘the blob’ – Gove, 2013b).        Inevitably, different institutions are responding in
On the other hand, ministers do sometimes          different ways: some institutions might choose to
turn to ‘good academia’ for solutions: for         focus on their international research profile and
example in the abortive attempt to engage          consider withdrawing from ITE, while others might
universities in determining the shape and          be more likely to focus on retaining and increasing
assessment model for reformed A’levels.            their student numbers through School Direct.

This policy context and lack of clear              The impact of these changes is by no means
commitment to the long-term role of                always negative. There are many examples of
universities contributes to a sense of fragility   universities becoming more active in their work
around school-university partnership working       with schools in recent years. These include
in England today. It is compounded by the          prestigious universities such as Birmingham,
wider challenges facing Higher Education as        Cambridge, Nottingham and UCL that are
universities adapt to the introduction of          supporting mainstream academies, University
tuition fees, the removal of the student           Technical Colleges or University Training Schools.
number cap, the concentration of research          Meanwhile, Sheffield Hallam University is opening
funding and the rapid globalisation of higher      a new, enlarged Institute of Education reflecting a
education enabled by new technologies and          long-term commitment to working with schools.
the grow of private sector provision.              On the less positive side, Anglia Ruskin, Bath, and
                                                   the Open University have decided to withdraw
All these factors mean that most Higher            from offering Initial Teacher Education altogether
Education Institutions (HEIs) are reassessing      (million+, 2013).
their role in Initial Teacher Education.
As School Direct numbers have increased,
traditional allocations to universities have
reduced, making it hard for HEIs to plan

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3: What we know about school university partnerships from the
3.1 Overview

There is a wealth of research and literature from around the world which explores the nature of
school-university partnerships and the conditions required for their success. Much of this literature
is summarised in a recent review undertaken for the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public
Engagement (NCCPE) and Research Councils UK (RCUK) by Greany, Gu, Handscomb and Varley
(2014) as part of a project exploring the wider state of school-university partnerships across the UK.

That review highlights the high hopes held for school-university partnerships at different points in
time and in different parts of the world, but also the fact that successive evaluations have found
those hopes remain unfulfilled in many cases due to a ‘litany of barriers’ (Smedley, 2001).
The root of the challenge seems to lie in the deep cultural differences between the two sectors,
although these differences are compounded by other factors, not least the sheer logistical
challenges of partnering one university with multiple schools. Perhaps as a result of these barriers
there is, as yet, relatively little hard evidence of improved outcomes from school-university
partnerships, although wider benefits are frequently cited.

Despite this somewhat depressing finding there are many positive examples of schools and
universities working successfully together, both in the literature and in current UK practice (a
number of these are identified through the wider NCCPE/RCUK project). Equally, successful school-
university partnerships are seen as one of the prime factors underpinning the success of Finland’s
education system.

Where partnerships are more successful, the review identifies the following factors from the
          Power and control: all voices to be heard. Successful partnerships reject a hierarchical approach
           in which the university dominates and practitioner knowledge is devalued. Instead, the recent
           work on design-led partnerships in US (Byrke et al, 2011) builds on previous examples to
           exemplify ways in which school and university staff can have an equal voice, with practitioner
           priorities and knowledge explicitly valued.

          Mind the gap – cultural differences. Successful partnerships often appear to succeed by creating
           a ‘third space’ which is separate from the culture of either institution and allows for more creative
           ways of working. This cultural dialogue is powered by trust (which relates to the points above and
           below regarding power, control and leadership), but trust can easily be fractured if key personnel
           move on or priorities change.

          The importance of leadership. Partnerships and networks are not naturally self-organising. They
           require strategic leaders who recognise and prioritise external working of this nature as well as
           distributed and shared leadership across the boundaries between the partners. Opinion leaders –
           who may or may not be in formal roles – play a pivotal role in shaping and galvanising successful

partnerships that overcome the cultural and practical barriers faced. Also important are the
           ‘blended professionals’ who work across institutional boundaries.

          Strategic relevance and fit. Partnerships work well when there is joined-up coherence and
           strategic fit. Successful partnerships are often design led and focussed on solving locally defined
           problems through an enquiry approach: bringing together academic research, practitioner
           knowledge and priorities, and commercial expertise in a sustained programme of activity. Many
           partnerships – particularly those focussed on widening participation - also have an extended
           membership from the wider community, including parents. Even where not focussed on solving
           local problems, positive outcomes are more likely when they are conceived and achieved as part
           of the partnering process itself.

          Material resources: making it happen. Partnerships pose a challenge and have transaction costs -
           the time, energy and resources necessary to keep the partnership alive and well. Therefore
           funding is a crucial contributor to partnership success, but partnerships also need to develop
           strategies to persist in austere times.

3.2 School-university partnerships for Initial Teacher Education

Turning to evidence on school-university partnerships focussed on Initial Teacher Education (ITE),
the recent RSA/BERA review highlighted the importance of teachers engaging in and with research,
including through the content and design of their initial teacher training experience. The challenge is
how to achieve the right balance between school and university contributions so that new teachers
have the best possible chances to develop and mature into expert and research-informed

The shift towards more school-driven models in England reflects a dissatisfaction with existing
university-led models. A recent review by the University Of Glasgow (Menter et al, 2010) found that
“despite the high value attached to collaboration, most school-university teacher education
partnerships remain HEI-led” and that “a strong policy emphasis on partnership working does not of
itself establish parity of involvement in the development of practice across institutional boundaries”.

Part of the issue with such models is that they can disempower schools, making it too easy for them
to pass responsibility for teacher training to the universities if that is where the funding and
accountability rests. Menter et al cite a number of studies in England which indicate that most
schools have seen teacher education as marginal, for example rarely referencing it in their
development plans.

Where research has focussed on the role and attitudes of partnership schools in ITE:

       The findings indicate little support from teacher mentors for relinquishing links with higher
       education institutions or extending the training role of schools. Teacher mentors valued the
       contribution made by universities to administrative arrangements, quality and standards, and
       the availability of expertise in relation to research (Menter et al, 2010).
Chris Husbands (2012) highlights the differing cultures and priorities between schools and
universities and from this identifies three key issues which in turn inform three overarching priorities
and ways forward, as shown in Table 2.

 Issues          Issues in more depth              Priorities       Ways forward

 ITE: marginal      1. Not seen as core            Make student           A coherent clear vision
 to schools            function                    development             shared by academics
                    2. Student/novice teachers     important for           and teachers
                       relatively few in number    schools                A clear progression
                       so needs not prioritised                            model and common
                    3. Not resourced or                                    language
                       funded for a role in
                       teacher education

 ITE largely        1. Principals think in terms   Design a core          Students in schools in
 seen as a             of ‘supply’ not quality     curriculum for          such numbers and for
 source of          2. ‘Supply’ is the             partnership             such time that they are
 teacher               responsibility of others                            not marginal
 supply             3. Concern arises where                               Common framework
                       supply fails                                        across school and

 ITE seen as        1. Relevance’ of types of      Build common           Engage key people in
 ‘divorced’            knowledge                   assessment              schools (probably not
 from the           2. The divorce of the          frameworks              principals)
 ‘real world’          ‘practicum’ from other                             Formal roles for
 of teaching           elements of the teacher                             identified excellent
                       education curriculum                                teachers in teacher

Table 1: Husbands’ (2012) overview of issues and priorities for teacher education and school-
university partnerships

Menter et al’s review helpfully maps international examples of school-university ITE partnerships, as
shown in Table 2.

Separate roles       Focus on pedagogic relationships                       Collaboration

Distinct roles,      Reflection on           Inquiry-oriented Local collaboration      Large -scale
centralised          practice                                                          collaboration
                                             Practical school   Professional
Teacher              The University of       experience         Development            School-university
education in         Utrecht,                forms a            Schools (PDS) in the   partnerships in
Singapore            Netherlands, offers     significant        US promote strong      Australia have a
involves a           a model of teacher      component of       collaborative          long trajectory,
partnership          education that          initial teacher    partnerships at a      influenced by the
between the          emphasises the          education in       local level but are    work of Carr and
Ministry of          integration of          Finland.           limited as a model     Kemmis (1988), and
Education, the       theory and              Universities       for system-wide        in the 1990s the
National Institute   practice                operate            change.                Innovative Links and
of Education (the    (Korthagen, 2001).      teaching schools                          National
sole provider of                             (Normal           PDS have three          Professional
ITE) and schools.    Three principles        schools), which   core purposes:          Development
The NIE and          underpin the            enable a close    supporting pupil        Program, involving
schools have         model of Realistic      alignment of      achievement;            14 Australian
clearly defined      Teacher Education       university and    improvement of          universities working
roles in a move      i.e. professional       school            pre-service teacher     with over 100
towards school-      learning is more        experience.       education and           schools (Grundy et
based provision      effective when: (a)                       professional            al, 2003). The
from 1999.           directed by the         Ostinelli (2009) development for all      notion of the
                     needs of the            reports that      educators; and the      'scholarly teacher'
Schools liaise with learner; (b) rooted      attainment by     promotion of            informs research
one Supervision in their                     Finnish students practice-based           pathways within
Coordinator, who experiences; and,           is related to the enquiry.                pre-service teacher
has responsibly      (c) involves critical   centrality of                             education
for all trainees     reflection on           education         PDS can involve the     programmes
across several       experience.             studies and a     co-design of            (Diezmann, 2005),
schools in a                                 research-based teacher education          the formation of
particular locality. Whilst                  approach in       curricula and           teacher research
NIE supervision      emphasising the         Finnish teacher increase the direct       networks aimed at
focuses on quality role of reflection in     education.        involvement of          improving teacher
assurance across integrating theory                            HEIs in school          competencies and
schools and does and practice, the           Research by       reform efforts          enhancing pupil
not provide          work of the             Maaranen and (Mitchell and                outcomes (Peters,
subject specific     Utrecht group has       Krokfors (2008) Castenelli, 2000;         2002; Deppeler,
mentoring.           been criticised by      maintains that Molseed, 2000;             2006) and the
                     Hagger and              formal            Morris et al, 2003).    development of
The grading of       McIntyre                positioning of                            inquiry-oriented ITE
candidates is        (2006:153) for          teaching as a
jointly decided.     under-emphasising      research-           A distinctive           programmes (Ponte
The school           the professional       informed            feature is the          et al, 2004).
principal chairs a   knowledge and          profession helps    formation of
Practicum            expertise of           to integrate        'instructional          Mentoring newly
Assessment           teacher mentors.       theoretical and     teams' of mentees,      qualified, returning
Panel. Trainees      In this respect,       practical           school-based            and pre-service
are allocated to     expertise in the       components of       mentors and             teachers and those
schools by the       initial teacher        teacher             university tutors.      needing
Ministry of          education              education.          Some PDS models -       professional
Education.           partnership is seen                        such as that            support is a feature
                     to rest with the                           established by the      of the draft
School               universities.                              University of           Standards for
placements are                                                  Colorado - have         accomplished and
not coordinated                                                 created 'master         lead teachers in
by the NIE.                                                     teacher' roles with     Australia.
Increased                                                       no class teaching,
responsibility for                                              to take a lead role
ITE among                                                       in school-based
schools has raised                                              teacher education
some issues                                                     (Utley et al, 2003).
regarding the
training and
support for
(Wong and
Chuan, 2002).

Table 2. Partnership in Teacher Education: international examples (Menter et al, 2010)

Husbands’ framework (Table 1) and the international examples drawn on by Menter et al (Table 2)
point towards some of the most exciting developments in school-university partnerships for ITE
where the focus is increasingly on ‘research informed clinical practice’ (Burn and Mutton, 2014).
These models ‘seek to integrate practical engagement in schools with research-based knowledge in
carefully planned and sequenced ways’ (Cordingley, 2014). The University of Melbourne has been
one of the pioneers for this model since 2008, with the following features (University of Melbourne,
      partnership schools share a commitment to clinical teaching
      expert clinical teachers in partnership schools are employed to link clinical thinking and clinical
       practice with the university program
      candidates undertake regular, frequent placements which facilitate a developmental continuum
      the design and review of the program is undertaken collaboratively with partnership schools

   assessment integrates university and school experience, and assessors are drawn from both
        university and school sites

Clearly, School Direct offers the potential for such clinical practice models to be developed, although
this is by no means a given. Success will require strong and equal partnerships between Teaching
Schools and universities - the subject of this research.

3.3: School-university partnerships in relation to Continuing Professional Development

A recent review of evidence on effective professional development for teachers by Coe, Cordingley,
Greany and Higgins (2015) finds that the existing evidence is consistent in showing that carefully
designed Continuing Professional Development and Learning (CDPL) with a strong focus on pupil
outcomes, has a significant positive impact on student achievement. The features of effective CPDL
differ to some extent by subject and according to the nature of what is being learned. One clear
finding is that how professional learning is structured and facilitated matters at least as much as the
content of that learning.

One clear finding from the review by Coe et al is the need for external input to CPDL, sometimes
complemented by internal specialists. These external experts introduce new knowledge and skills in
ways that probe existing orthodoxies. They make explicit links between professional learning and
pupil learning through discussion of pupil progression and analysis of assessment data. And they
balance support and challenge, often acting as coaches and mentors as well as models for effective
practice. They are generally ‘experts’ in more than one area: they have specialist content knowledge
and in-depth knowledge of effective professional learning processes and evaluation. They tend to
share common values and beliefs with participants, but can also challenge these. They encourage
teachers to take on a degree of leadership of their own CPDL and treat them as peers and co-
learners. The evidence does not suggest that these external experts must necessarily come from
universities, but it is an important challenge for school leaders in a self-improving system to consider
where and how they are drawing on external expertise as part of their CPDL provision.

In a similar vein, Stoll et al., (2012) argue that effective professional development connects work-
based learning to external expertise such as that held by HEIs. But, as Sebba et al., (2012b) argue,
traditional approaches to CPD are largely based on the ineffective transfer of knowledge or ‘best
practices’ from an expert to their audience. Therefore, the challenge is how to move to a model of
Joint Practice Development (JPD) – a term defined by Fielding et al (2005) as the process of learning
new ways of working through mutual engagement that opens up and shares practices with others.

According to Sebba et al, JPD is a process by which schools and other organisations can learn from
one another, with their research capturing the learning from early R&D projects by five Teaching
Schools in this area. They note that JPD has three key characteristics. It:

       involves interaction and mutual development related to practice
       recognises that each partner in the interaction has something to offer and, as such, is based on the
        assumption of mutually beneficial learning

      is research-informed, often involving collaborative enquiry

They also suggest that in addition to any mutual learning that takes place in JPD (which may involve
some transfer or exchange of knowledge) will be the development of practice.

Sebba et al., (2012b) argue that in the most successful JPD projects, the leaders of the group enabled
participants to engage with research evidence and discussions in order to identify priorities and
development. Correspondingly, as is also noted below, schools will need to seek support for
accessing research and for developing the skills to engage in action research in the classroom and
across schools. As Sebba et al., note, HEIs often have resources and skills for locating research
evidence and supporting research in schools and can therefore play a key role as strategic partners
in JPD in teaching school alliances.

3.4: School-university partnerships in relation to Research and Development

Despite the common critique that England invests far less in educational research than in health
research, considerable sums have been spent in this area over the past decades. In the face of
criticisms from Hargreaves and others (1996) that too much education research in England is low
quality with little impact, attempts have been made to develop a more strategic approach and to focus
on knowledge mobilisation (eg through the National Education Research Forum and the Teaching and
Learning Research Programme). Evidence of impact from this work has been limited (see Gough in
Levin et al, 2013; Greany, 2015c) and the most recent thrust has been towards more large scale trials
funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (Goldacre, 2013).

Meanwhile, schools have a long tradition of using action research and enquiry to address areas of
practice, sometimes with support and facilitation from HEIs.

In 2012 Campbell and Levin (2012: 3) noted that: “educators may lack time, resources, skills, and
individual and institutional supports for meaningfully engaging with research…” In addition, they
suggested that, if research is to be used to improve educational practice and pupil outcomes,
‘capacity’ will be required, specifically that:

       Work in England should focus on two areas: 1. Developing stronger networks among and
       between educators, researchers and intermediary organizations; 2. Developing capacity
       within schools to find, understand, share and act on research. This capacity may be improved
       through training to improve skills, or through institutional changes which create the time or
       resources for schools to undertake these activities. (ibid)

It should also be noted, however, that the existence of capacity in itself will not necessarily lead to
increased instances of research use. This is illustrated by Levin et al., (2011) who sought to
investigate how research is encountered and used to shape policy and practice in Canadian
secondary schools (employing a collaborative approach involving superintendents, principals and
others with designated leadership roles in eleven school districts across the country). Levin et al.’s
approach was to trial three interventions (implemented throughout the 2008/2009 school year in
nine districts). Specifically, the interventions were designed to: i) implement a system to share
research articles; ii) set up study groups around research issues and; iii) ensure districts were
conducting research. An evaluation of these interventions suggests that (Levin et al, 2011):

       even in districts with capacity, actual frequency of research use often remains modest, therefore
        research capacity is not necessarily synonymous with use;
       better ways are needed to increase daily use of research and embed that use in organizational
        systems and processes;
       knowledge mobilization activity still appears to depend heavily on volunteerism or on a few interested
        people rather than being embedded in daily practices;
       educators’ beliefs are shaped more by experience and colleagues than by empirical evidence; and
       interventions to increase research use had modest success. Interventions were most successful
        where: 1) designated intermediaries/ facilitators were involved; and 2) research used was connected
        to existing priority issues.

It would seem then that the Teaching School approach seeks to tackle the issues raised by Levin et
al. (2011) and Campbell and Levin (2012) by providing schools with both a mandate to engage in
research and support for doing so. Nevertheless, it is clear that Campbell and Levin (who were
writing about the English context), believe that partnership working between HEIs and schools in
relation to evidence use is underdeveloped and that further effort and initiatives are required in this

4: Findings

The findings from the research are set out in three sections:
       The first provides background on the lead schools, their motivation for forming an alliance and the
        development of those alliances
       The second briefly outlines the ways in which the four alliances are developing their provision on ITE,
        CPD and R&D
       The third focusses on the partnerships the alliances have with universities and the ways in which they
        are developing.

4.1 Background and development of the alliances
The context of the participating schools

The four participating schools and alliances faced a range of socio-economic contexts: two were in
inner London boroughs characterised by high levels of deprivation and high levels of ethnic diversity
(Wandsworth and Lambeth), one was in an outer London borough (Redbridge) with pockets of
deprivation and high levels of ethnic diversity and one in an area of Essex (Frinton on Sea) with
relatively high levels of deprivation and low levels of ethnic diversity.

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