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CDSM’s Response to the Challenges of School Improvement in Wales

What’s being done to improve performance in Welsh schools?

Wales is currently experiencing significant educational reform. At the heart of this reform is an unequivocal acceptance that the performance of schools has to improve. Welsh Government has provided dedicated funding to support school improvement activities, which are planned at school and regional level. This collaborative approach acknowledges the support that regional education consortia can offer schools, driving their performance in the right direction. There are four regional education consortia in Wales, each of which is responsible for agreeing and monitoring their client-schools’ use of funding, in order to ensure there is a positive impact on school performance and learner outcomes.

In partnership with CDSM, the Education Achievement Service (one of the four regional education consortia, based in South East Wales) identified the need for a web-based system that enabled School Leaders to plan and support all funding, monitoring and accountability activities linked to their school’s improvement plan. Together, we developed the My School Improvement Dashboard (MySID) to meet these requirements. MySID is based on Estyn and Welsh Government guidance.

School Improvement in Wales
MySID users are guided through an easy, cyclical planning and improvement process online. We wanted to help all involved achieve success, so we developed the following features:

  1. Self-Evaluation

A feature, designed around the Estyn Framework, which helps schools identify their strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Development Plan

This feature enables schools to identify and prioritise short and long-term goals.

  1. Budget Profiler

This outlines the grants available to schools, and enables them to add additional custom budgets to help them to make decisions on how to achieve their goals.

  1. Activity Plan

This feature enables School Leaders to find events or initiatives that will lead to school improvement.

  1. Financial Monitoring

This feature is designed to help schools create accessible, transparent records of expenditure against budgeted allocation for all school improvement activities.

  1. Quality and Impact Reporting

This provides School Leadership Teams and Challenge Advisers with an understanding of the value of their school improvement activities, offering a measure of the impact each activity has had.

  1. Review Impact and Priorities

Enables schools to evaluate how successful they’ve been in meeting the goals set out in their Development Plan.

#MySID

Find out more about My School Improvement Dashboard by downloading the CDSM Case Study: The School Improvement Conversation in Wales.

mysid_casestudy

So, what are your thoughts on MySID? Is it being used at your school? How is it affecting your school’s improvement? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch via our contact page, or by using the hashtag #MySID on social media.

If you’re interested in hearing how we’re helping teachers directly in the classroom, check out CDSM’s work with Hwb.

 

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School to School Collaboration with Hwb in North Wales

This week, Gemma from Marketing & Communications at CDSM went up to North Wales to check out the GwE Consortium Conference on School to School Collaboration.

Gemma tells us how it went…                              

I’m happy to say that 6 hours on the train was worth it!

The conference was a great day – everyone there was on exactly the same page, wanting to develop school collaboration and improvement in North Wales. Alex Clewett, a Digital Leader from Welsh Government, and I were both at the event representing Hwb, and primarily showcasing Hwb Networks – a tool which specifically focuses on school-to-school collaboration in a simple and cost-effective way. So when the keynote speaker Professor Mel Ainscow CBE did a talk on ‘Moving Knowledge Around – A Strategy for Fostering Equity in Education’, this really resonated with us, as we were demonstrating the ideal tool.

HwbMel talked about the City Challenge Programme, an initiative which ran in London and Greater Manchester over a three year period between 2008 and 2011. The programme recognised that if schools are going to improve, they need to improve themselves. The Government appointed ‘Challenge Advisors’, who had been successful school leaders in challenging circumstances, and these Advisors would “bang the drum” for the programme. Quickly, the programme realised that the most disadvantaged schools were the keys to success, and rapid improvement of these schools would have a ripple effect across the system. Of course, each school is unique, so each had its own Challenge Advisor to help plan and support improvement. The programme’s real game changer was when schools started working together – in almost all cases, a partner school was carefully brokered from another local authority, matching the relevant strengths. Mel gave some fantastic examples of polar-opposite schools working together and thriving, with head teachers raving about the scheme’s benefits, which included improved attendance and higher exam results.

“Seeing what someone else does is a mirror on yourself”
                                                                             – Mel Ainscow

Mel also emphasised that collecting evidence and comparing data leads to successful collaboration. It creates an interruption in the school by making you stop and think, asking the question: “Are we missing something?” Using statistical data strategically will ultimately lead to improvements in results, attendance and behaviour. Therefore, there needs to be a shared responsibility!

Time is the currency we use in schools to find out if something’s important, and there is untapped potential in each school to improve themselves – this can be realised through school networking and collaboration, additional partnerships and the understanding of where best practices are being used. Leadership also has to come from schools, with the idea of engaging the wider community to bridge the disadvantaged gap. From the City Challenges Programme, relationships continued beyond the funding, with the sustainability element being the key to continued school improvement.
CaptureInspired by the North Wales school collaboration talks, and the plenary session given by Mel Ainscow at the end of the conference, teachers were asked what they would like to see in the area, as well as what they felt was needed, in order to improve collaboration. Apart from Alex and I just wanting to stand up and shout “Hwb Networks is free!”’ (Alex actually put it much more eloquently over the microphone), the main insights into what teachers felt was needed included:

  • Schools taking the lead
  • A plan to create enough time to achieve school goals
  • Being aware of other schools’ priorities
  • A leader to know where good practice is happening
  • The ability to see which schools in their authorities are using best practice
  • A regional database to clearly show where the schools are in improvement
  • Cut down on travelling time
  • Database of schools showing the best – a cross section of schools from green to red

I immediately had alarm bells ringing in my head – at CDSM, we’ve already made many of these things available in a digital platform: MySID (My School Improvement Dashboard). MySID was created with the intention of providing teachers with a collaborative and challenge-based environment, where school leaders are supported in making their improvement and planning decisions.

Mel then concluded by giving us the most important factor needed: the collective will to make it happen.

It was amazing to see that CDSM were ahead of the game in the school improvement narrative, and we can’t wait to start helping and developing collaboration and school improvement further across Wales and beyond.

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Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/184093/DFE-RR215.pdf

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