Schools: Co-operation Works Better than Competition

Henry Stewart's picture
There is an excellent piece from Estelle Morris in tomorrow's Guardian headed "Competition will do very little to improve schools", including this:

"As competition takes hold there is every incentive for schools to use this greater autonomy to ensure their own survival. That is understandable, but it is the antithesis of the government's objective of schools supporting one another to become a self-improving system. So, the temptation will be to keep your own good ideas to yourself; hold back from offering the loan of a good teacher to a nearby struggling school; join partnerships that are safe, not challenging; and do your best to make sure parental choice doesn't affect your intake."

This surely goes to the heart of the difference between the government's approach and that of those working in education. And the evidence is not on the government's side. While doing research this afternoon I reread the Ofsted report on the success of the London Challenge. This was one of their key points:

"The leaders of London Challenge have motivated London teachers to think beyond their intrinsic sense of duty to serve pupils well within their own school and to extend that commitment to serving all London’s pupils well. This has encouraged successful collaboration between London school leaders and teachers across schools. This is a key driver for improvement."

The Ofsted report describes an approach that is the opposite of what the government pursues, as it sets up free schools and academies as independent of each other and of the local authority. In contrast, Ofsted describes how schools worked together to help those that were struggling and how "support is implemented with them and not imposed on them."

The London Challenge was a huge success. Any government that was genuinely evidence-based would learn the lessons from it. They would be increasing co-operation between schools not competition. And they would be working with schools not imposing their own solutions on them.
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