Below are a set of frequently asked questions. Please feel free to read and comment..

1) Is BEP taking over all the city’s current work with schools?

The short answer is no. There will be a range of statutory duties the local authority still need to fulfil, and some services, such as School and Governor Support and HR, will stay with the local authority. The key word here is partnership, with the city happy to recognise that just as BEP is about schools working in partnership, so BCC is finding new ways of partnership working.

 2) What changed in September 2015 for BEP?

BEP, through its new structures, is responsible for school improvement. We are working to a set of performance indicators drawn up by the city.

The School Improvement and Commissioning Group meets weekly to scan what’s going on across the city’s schools and then commission support as required. This group is made up of a core group of recently serving Headteachers with regular input from the LA, Academy chains etc. It is responsibile to make sure all school improvement work is commissioned in a fair and open manner and that we broaden the number and type of schools used to offer support.

The Director of Continuous School Improvement Tracy Ruddle monitors the effectiveness of any commissioned support and makes sure all schools eventually become part of a supportive ‘school family.’ This role includes line managing the work of the ‘District Leads.’

 3) Ah, yes, the ’District Leads’ – who are they  leading and how?

The ’lead’ in their title is because they are expected to lead on ensuring the information about the schools in their District is accurate , that potential problems are raised early, and that there is good communication to and from schools. They are not ‘leaders of education’ in the way NLEs or SLEs are. In other words, it’s about making sure everyone knows what is going on and, where there may be gaps in the present system, who is going to respond and how.

 4) So, does that mean only concentrating on schools in category?

No, the BEP approach has always assumed peer review should be at the heart, and that all schools have something good to share. That’s why we talk about ‘growing the green’ –i.e. sharing good practice and encouraging all schools to embed some form of whole school peer review in their regular practice. And anyway, as we all know, a school can have a good or even outstanding Ofsted grading but still may need support in a particular area.

 5) And how will all this affect consortia, teaching schools, Academy chains etc?

There has been no intention to detract in anyway whatsoever from all the existing effective consortia, alliances etc. On the contrary, a key success criterion is about ensuring no school is on its own.

6) So again, remind me, why Districts?

Districts provide the most useful way of collating and comparing a wide range of data as well as making more manageable the number of schools to work with. Since September 2015 we have created District Teams including; District Leads, District Representatives (elected members fir Primary, Secondary, Special and Nursery schools) and District Engagement Coordinators. The work currently going on as a pathfinder in Ladywood is also about how schools might be able to use this wider data to shape a more local offer for a range of services that will help improve young peoples ’ life chances.

7) How much money will all this cost and where is it coming from? Will schools lose out on money they were due to receive?

£1.8 million was set aside in the BCC Education plan to develop this new school based system with BEP. It is a separate pot to the schools’ budget available to the Schools Forum. So schools are not losing out. For its wider work with all schools, BEP continues to levy a membership fee. Member schools receive a range of benefits and have voting rights to the BEP structures, though the SLIC (see below).

 8) You keep talking about a school led system, but how do you avoid it being always the same schools doing the leading?

As the School Improvement and Commissioning Committee (SLIC) has identified work to be done/ is a fair and transparent system for commissioning this work has been developed. We are also looking at ways of recognising and sharing all those informal support systems that exist. We monitor the range and number of schools that have been involved in school improvement and peer to peer support to ensure it is an ever increasing circle.

 9) How will Heads’ and Governors’ voices be heard?

The whole system is built on Headteachers’ involvement and Governors’ support. We need your feedback to ensure the system is working and to see where it can be improved. We have set up District Strategy Groups where Heads and Chairs of Governors’ voices and ideas can be heard. The District teams engagement tracking to show that they have talked and listened to a wide range of Headteachers and Governors.  And a core part of the democratic process is that member schools will be able to elect representatives to the key group that will advise on BEP direction and practice, the System Leadership and Innovation Committee (SLIC), and this group will feed thoughts to the BEP Board.

10) How is all this being delivered?

There continues to be an intensive planning process involving Headteachers and BCC staff to ensure a smooth delivery. A core group meets weekly with smaller groups looking at areas such as data and processes. BEP capacity has been built with the appointment of finance and admin staff to provide the necessary infrastructure. To ensure continuity, Tim Boyes has taken a secondment for a year to take on the BEP CEO role full time, with the intention of BEP appointing a permanent CEO from September 2016. Our current CEO, Alastair Falk moved to a new role to developing the partnership and investment side of our work from September 2016.

11) How will Academies and free schools be affected?

A large number of Academies and free schools already to BEP and work with the BEP peer review model and other areas. They will continue to be valued members, emphasising the shared commitment to all the city’s children and young people that is part of BEP’s core purpose and beliefs. As the number of Academies and free schools grows, it will be even more important that we all stay connected in the most useful and positive ways and that all parts of the system continue to learn and share good and innovative practice. We work very closely with the Regional Schools Commissioner and the Academy Chains and free schools are regularly invited to meetings of the School Improvement and Commissioning Group and to ensure all types of schools are invited to apply for any commissioned work.

12) What about jobs with BEP?

BEP’s work is constantly growing as membership numbers increase, the educational landscape changes and schools continue to offer and provide support to each other. For this reason BEP’s team is expanding, see here for current vacancies.

Please feel free to submit your own questions so we can continue to respond.

Questions can be submitted to office@bep.education with FAQ in the subject line.