Blog: Reflecting on what we've achieved together this year

19 July 2019

As the academic year finishes and school leaders look forward to a well-earned break, Dr. Kate Chhatwal, CEO of Challenge Partners, reflects on the power of the national network and what we've achieved together this year.

Emotions in schools often run high as we approach the end of the summer term. I’ve felt this more keenly than usual this July, as my eldest finishes primary school today. I’ve so far cried at the violin graduation, the year 6 production and the football awards (not to mention every parent consultation, every class assembly and Christmas production since he started in nursery - I’m one of those parents). I know more tears will come when I pick up from school at the end of the day.

Looking back on the difference 8 years of nursery and primary education has made to my son, I am more appreciative than ever of the incredible work you do - every day - to ensure the children and young people in your care are well-prepared for the next stage of their life. This means equipping them not just academically, but also emotionally, socially, creatively, culturally and in so many other ways for the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead.

Our job in the Challenge Partners central team is to ensure you receive challenge, support and professional development from across the network and beyond so that you can continue to do this really well. Over the last year, we have enabled:

  • More schools than ever before to benefit from a Quality Assurance Review and the transfer of effective practice across our national network. We’re currently reviewing the QA Review to ensure that from the first reviews in the autumn it continues to support our mission and the welcome Ofsted focus on quality of education
  • Hubs to reflect on what they need to do next to reach the “Gold Standard” for hub collaboration. We have also developed tools and programmes they can use to identify and tackle hub priorities, like Excellence for Everyone and the Leadership Residency Programme
  • Senior Partners and Hub Managers to hear from some of the leading thinkers on curriculum with the expectation that they share key insights with their hubs
  • Leaders of SEND in special and mainstream schools to collaborate on the challenges and opportunities of supporting learners with additional needs
  • 21 of our highest-performing secondary schools to consider what they can do to improve further as part of our independently-evaluated Growing the Top pilot programme, which will be extended to more secondary, primary and special schools next year
  • MAT development, through our independently-evaluated MAT Peer Review pilot programme, and two national events bringing together MAT leaders with some of the leading thinkers, research and expertise on MAT development
  • Growth of the next generation of London headteachers, through our Greater London Authority-funded Getting Ahead London programme - with further funding secured to support more aspirant heads and, for the first time, middle leaders, next year 

In all of these endeavours, the voice and expertise of the practitioners in our network has been loud and clear. We couldn’t do it with you; our job is to facilitate, enable and make happen. You are Challenge Partners and the ones who bring the knowledge and expertise which makes the real difference.

We are delighted that what you have gained from Challenge Partners has led to almost 80% of schools renewing their Network of Excellence subscription for 2019/20. They will be joined by more than 100 schools engaging for the first time and at least 15 former partners who have re-joined.

The growth of our network makes me incredibly optimistic for the year ahead. With more schools, there will be more knowledge and expertise to share, more opportunities for collaboration and co-creation, and the chance to play an even greater role in leading the system through informed influencing of the national debate.

But first...the beach! (Followed by kitting out the eldest for secondary school and coming to terms with his growing independence.) I do hope you also have some time to relax, recharge and rejuvenate over the summer. I look forward to continuing our work together to reduce educational inequality and improve life chances for all children in September.