Schools could turn to one another for support in time of budget constraints

Press Release

Wednesday 19 July 2017

The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) today publishes new analysis of schools in England that shows there is considerable potential within the current state schools system to improve the quality of underperforming schools ‘in need’ of support through school-to-school partnerships with high-performing schools within a set radius.

The report suggests that, in the context of an overall cut to school budgets, leveraging existing, established sources of support for underperforming schools represents an effective use of resources. This, however, is subject to there being a willingness to collaborate, and capacity within high performing schools who may already be supporting other schools.

The analysis identifies and matches underperforming schools with neighbouring high-performing schools. It is supported by an interactive map of England, which allows exploration of the data in greater depth by primary or secondary phase and by region, local authority or parliamentary constituency. The schools are anonymised in the report and interactive map.

After analysing EduBase and school performance data, researchers identified 5,677 high-performing schools and 2,511 underperforming schools ‘in need’ of support. The number of high-performing schools exceeds the number of schools ‘in need’ in all government office regions at primary level and most regions at secondary level.

Our analysis found that:

  • 27 per cent of primary schools are high-performing institutions with the potential to provide school-to-school support, and 12 per cent are underperforming
  • amongst secondary schools, 33 per cent were identified as high-performing schools and 17 per cent were identified as schools ‘in need’
  • Each primary school ‘in need’ has on average (median) nine high-performing primary schools close by. Each secondary school has an average number of two high-performing secondary schools within our set radiuses
  • There are considerable regional differences in the capacity to collaborate. Primary schools ‘in need’ in London have the most choice with, on average, 18 high-performing schools nearby whom they could potentially approach for collaboration. This is twice the national average and three times the amount of high performing schools that primary schools ‘in need’ in Yorkshire and the Humber have close by.

The Government’s consultation paperSchools that work for everyone(2016) highlighted the importance of “leveraging the expertise of high-performing institutions to set up new good places in the state sector.” This latest research from NFER shows that local schools, across the country and across both primary and secondary phases, are well positioned to support each other and to work collaboratively within a partnership of their choosing – be it a MAT, federation or other type of cluster.

NFER Chief Executive, Carole Willis, said“We hope that this evidence will be used to support heads and governing bodies, showing them that they have a range of local, potential partnership options available.

“Harnessing support from same-phase high-performing schools in close proximity will maximise the potential for successful collaboration.

“We suggest that the Government prioritises facilitating school-to-school support within primary and secondary school phases in order to demonstrate its commitment to the self-improving school system that is establishing itself in England.”