Latest Ofsted report proves co-operation, not competition, improves schools

21 December 2010
Local Schools Network
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Ofsted’s new report on the London Challenge needs to be taken seriously by the Coalition government because it conclusively shows that when schools co-operate with each other, everyone is a winner. The London Challenge enabled schools to work with other and share best practice and pool resources. It appears that everyone benefitted from this: good schools got better and under-performing schools significantly raised their game.

Since the introduction of London Challenge, secondary schools in London have performed better and improved at a faster rate than schools in the rest of England in terms of their examination results. This report inadvertently shows what many experts have been saying for a long time: having a free-market in education not only doesn’t work, it significantly erodes standards because best practice is not shared.

For me, a key finding in this report was this comment:

“The leaders of London Challenge have motivated London teachers to think beyond their intrinsic sense of duty to serve pupils well within their own school and to extend that commitment to serving all London’s pupils well. This has encouraged successful collaboration between London school leaders and teachers across schools. This is a key driver for improvement.”

It’s saying something of crucial importance here: it’s only when teachers start looking beyond their own school that standards are raised across the board. If schools are competing against each other, this won’t happen at all; schools will remain locked within in their own narrow walls. If systems are put in place that really motivate and incentivise co-operation then best practice will be shared and teachers will be able to reflect upon what they are doing well and not so well. A radical re-think is needed of The White Paper in the light of this report; competition between schools needs to be down-played and co-operation enhanced.

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