The power of school-to-school collaboration is shown powerfully through our local hubs, and understanding what works well there will help us support schools’ drive for excellence, writes Laura Lewis-WIlliams
A central belief of all Challenge Partners schools is that through effective school-to-school collaboration all children can receive an excellent education. It was this belief that motivated me to apply for the role of Director of Partnership and Programmes at Challenge Partners last year. And I am now incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to work with our network of schools, who are unequivocal in their belief that the best possible education for all pupils can be achieved when we harness the skills and knowledge that already exist within our schools.
Since joining, I have been particularly interested in the role our hubs play in supporting school improvement. The hub is a vehicle by which constructive collaboration and challenge between schools can take place at a local level and also provides a platform for activities which would not be possible for a school to undertake on their own.
The power of school-to-school collaboration and professional dialogue is demonstrated powerfully through these hubs. An exciting project that Challenge Partners has recently launched with our Senior Partners and Hubs Managers is defining a Gold Standard for hub collaboration. This project has the ambitious objective of exploring how schools within our network currently collaborate, what the ideal conditions for hub collaboration are, and how knowledge, information and expertise is shared within and across hubs. With Senior Partners and Hub Managers, we are exploring how can we capture best practice and spread this wider across all hubs for the benefit of all schools.
We see the Gold Standard for hub collaboration as aspirational and are exploring what’s possible when schools collaborate at their most effective. We already know the importance of social capital when it comes to collaborative school engagement - building trust and developing relationships. We also know that schools and hubs that are outward-looking, linking to the national landscape, to research, and to what other sectors are doing, reap the benefits in terms of fresh thinking and a greater understanding of what works well.
Professor Sir George Berwick, who was central to founding Challenge Partners, issued a provocative challenge when the charity was formed in 2011: “collaborate or die in a sea of mediocrity”. Our hubs, and the schools in them, have already risen to this challenge, and we hope that this project will build on their endeavours, provide a framework for them to self-evaluate and support their ongoing drive for excellence across the system.