What does a self-improving system look like?

11 June 2014

A consultation on the way forward

The direction of travel in education policy over the last three decades has been towards greater school autonomy. This has accelerated under the coalition with its explicit statement and intent to devolve as much responsibility to schools as possible. In November 2010, the Coalition government’s White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, said: “The primary responsibility for improvement rests with our schools… Our aim should be to create a school system that is self-improving.” Most of the current government’s initiatives can be interpreted in that light, though the policy direction is not without controversy. 

Government recognises that it while it can create the conditions for a school-led system, only the profession can deliver it. School leaders must be key agents in leading, informing and enabling a self-improving system. 

This is why ASCL is undertaking a project to develop a blueprint for the future. We think it is right that the profession takes the lead in determining what a self-improving system looks like and how it works in practice. We see this as the next phase in system leadership.

The blueprint will consist of an overview of successes so far, learning points from less successful initiatives, recommendations for government to do more of some things, less of others, and recommendations directed specifically at school leaders. ASCL plans to publish a final document outlining the blueprint, with recommendations and next steps, ahead of the general election in May.

The project will be supported by a reference group made up of a range of education experts and includes a public consultation to gather as wide a range of views as possible.

We would like to invite you to respond to some or all of the consultation questions below. Your responses will help to inform the development of the blueprint.

Part 1: Getting the vision right

  1. If we had a self-improving system in place, what would it look like? What would its key components be?

  2. What are the specific roles of government and the specific responsibilities of schools in a self-improving system?

  3. What do regulation and accountability look like in a self-improving system, where regulation implies management of processes and accountability implies responsibility for outcomes?

  4. What are the system capacity and/or capability challenges in taking a self-improving system forward?

  5. How do we further build collective momentum and unlock capacity? In particular, how do we ensure that the self-improving system ensures improvement across all schools? 

Part 2: Putting it into practice

  1. What is needed for schools in your context to develop further as a self-improving system? What is hindering progress and what could be done to address these barriers? 

  2. How does the system organise itself to co-ordinate local system leadership roles e.g. teaching schools, national leaders of education, local leaders of education, collaboration, school-to-school support and headteacher boards ?

  3. What does the pathway from initial teacher education through to leadership look like in a self-improving system

  4. How are curriculum and qualifications determined in a self-improving system – what is the role for government and what is the role for the profession in determining curriculum and qualifications? Note that while we believe curriculum and qualifications are related, they are not the same. A view for example is that qualifications have a dual purpose – if well designed, they structure good learning opportunities for young people and they also provide an accountability mechanism. Curriculum however should be shaped by schools.

  5. What structural forms are needed in a self-improving system?

If you would like to respond, please write to us at blue.print@ascl.org.uk no later than 25 July. We look forward to hearing from you.

Letter from Secretary of State Michael Gove

ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman and President Ian Bauckham together with other senior officers will today (30 June) be holding a round table discussion with the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove and senior DfE officials about ASCL’s inquiry in to a school-led self-improving system. Last month Brian wrote a letter to Michael Gove stating our intention to lead this inquiry and in response, the Secretary of State wrote a letter to Brian. In the letter, Mr Gove said he was “pleased that ASCL is taking the lead and engaging its members and the wider education sector on these vital matters” and he was “very much” looking forward to discussing this further. We will keep you informed of any outcomes from the meeting.