SSIF Bid 1

BEP Strategic School Improvement Bid 1: Birmingham Leadership Challenge Partnership

Our programme focuses on rapid and sustained improvement which fully engages school leadership at all levels including governance, because we recognise that poor school performance often emanates from poor leadership.  We will support these schools directly and intensively so that their performance increases rapidly. We will also focus on building capacity in each school and in the city system as a whole, so that we generate new opportunities for leaders with potential and ensure that the wealth of talent already in the city is used effectively, whether or not they are designated system leaders.  The title of our programme encompasses these two themes: challenge for schools and their leaders and those supporting them and partnership which commits us to team working and joint accountability.

Much of our programme is based on the processes of London Challenge but adapted to our city’s context, ensuring that we build upon current robust structures for collaboration and review.  Each of the schools is known well and keen to take part in the programme with the written agreement of Head and Chair.

We are addressing our city’s long and poor legacy of school improvement by building on the work undertaken by Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP) over the past 18 months which has seen a much greater individual knowledge of the schools’ performance and their strengths and weaknesses.  Our Association of Teaching Schools (ACTS) has committed to working with BEP because it has the city-wide knowledge, data and infrastructure to assist a coordinated effort and because its networks and relationships with our schools, teaching schools and other system leaders are very good.  This is the base for our system-led response to Birmingham’s challenges. Over the longer term and following close evaluation, we aim to use this as a model for the next tranche of schools requiring school-to-school support including those currently judged good but who may be vulnerable.


Programme of Work


Our programme targets 20 eligible schools in Birmingham – identified via pupil performance data (2016 and 2017), local soft intelligence and discussion with the RSC’s office – as those which are either RI or at serious risk of RI if inspected. We recognise that many Birmingham schools are underperforming compared to national figures and those of core cities. Our focus is the impact of leadership at all levels including governance, on outcomes for pupils. We aim to see rates of increase at key assessment points more quickly than the rates nationally and our programme is focused on developing leadership capacity to enable this to happen. 

Basing our programme on lessons learned from London Challenge, we recognise that, to be sustainable, school-to-school support must build internal capacity for improvement. As skills, confidence and expertise are grown, we will develop leadership talent to assist not only the individual’s school but as a contribution to the city system as a whole. 

The programme therefore, will: 

  • Improve pupils’ achievement and reduce gaps against national figures at key assessment points 
  • Identify and grow leadership talent
  • Build sustainability within the school
  • Increase the city’s capacity for system leadership 
  • Provide the base for rolling the programme out across more schools 

The schools will benefit from external support to help them build capacity as their pupils’ achievement rises and their staff are supported to step up to leadership opportunities. Birmingham will benefit from a greater cadre of personnel ready for system leadership and thus able to impact on other schools in the future. 


Based on firm evidence from London Challenge and work already undertaken by BEP and TSAs:

  • BEP data analysis for each targeted school related to national standards and families of schools. 
  • BEP to deploy an external Challenge Team (CT) to each school in Term 1 (T1) – HMI working with 2 NLEs/system leaders to provide baseline audit of each school and report recommendations.
  • TSA to be designated by BEP – initial 10 days of support including production of a detailed SLA and action plan, with KPIs for both the school and the support – based on the quality of T/L and assessment and of the effectiveness of the support and development of the school capacity for improvement. TSA may use its own personnel or those of its Alliance schools but also have access to a range of other people in MATs or maintained schools who have the skills and capacity to support delivery. 
  • Action plans with specific milestones and deadlines over 4 terms, focusing on required leadership interventions bespoke to each school; also relating to the quality of leadership and T/L in terms of pupils’ performance in RWM and accuracy of assessment. 
  • CT to conduct mid-term review in T2, to judge rate of progress and impact of support. It will identify whether the support should continue as planned, be adjusted or, if necessary, switched to another TSA if there has not been enough impact. KPIs will be reviewed to ensure that they are still appropriate. 
  • Further 10 days of support to follow in T3/4. Outcomes for leadership capacity and pupils’ progress will be cleared now and more measurable. The school will demonstrate not only its improvement but its increasing ability to develop independently, beyond the timescale of the programme. 2018 assessments to provide one of the markers but there may be others relating to leadership actions for longer-term impact. 
  • Final review by the CT to take place in T3/4/5 for final evaluation of progress and impact. 
  • In T2/3/4 joint practice development sessions led by an external partner for current SLT and potential leaders to be identified from the supported schools. 
  • Sustainability conference in T5 to share best practice and focus on moving forward to create on-going capacity and improvement. 
  • Throughout the 5 terms, the process will be monitored fortnightly by the Independent Scrutiny Group (ISG) with school improvement expertise to advise the schools, TSAs and BEP, and most importantly, hold them to account. 
  • Expectations over a 5 term timescale: all schools will fully engage; all support will provide demonstrable impact; leadership capacity will increase and school performance will improve. 2019 assessments will provide the hard summative data. 
  • At any stage during the programme, schools failing to act on the advice given will be reviewed for the next stage of intervention which can include warning notices. Similarly, TSAs failing to provide the right level of support or impact will be reviewed to ascertain if they will be commissioned in future.