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For a long time many chief education officers have believed the best way to bring about continuous improvement in e...
For a long time many chief education officers have believed the best way to bring about continuous improvement in education departments is through self help and the sharing of good practice.

For this to happen, resources have to be invested to enable education departments to develop the internal capacity to help each other. With rigorous quality control in place, this is both cheaper and more efficient than the contracts with the private sector that the government has promoted as the preferred way of bringing about improvement in education departments. However, there are now hopeful signs that an improvement-from-within model is becoming more acceptable.

The Department for Education & Skills made pump priming money available through its New Models scheme. Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, and Tower Hamlets LBCs, all of whom received good Ofsted reports, got together with PricewaterhouseCoopers and set up The London Partnership. The aim was to work with each other and other education departments in London on continuous improvement.

The partnership is trying to bottle the ethos of a successful education department and share it across London. Rather than turning to a list of consultants of sometimes doubtful expertise, we wanted to ensure it was our own staff - with their relevant skills and experience - who went out and worked with colleagues.

In addition to coaching, placements, secondments and consultancy, we have worked through 24-hour away days involving personnel from all the authorities - both education officers and secondary head teachers. We have done desktop reviews of documentation. We have enabled head teachers and inspectors from one council to work alongside their inspectorate colleagues and head teachers in another on a review of a school that needed challenging. We have exchanged school improvement officers across councils to cover particular subjects. Officers have come together to share practice in particular problem areas including special educational needs and attendance.

We aim to kite mark the quality of

the work we are doing by offering our advice and support only in those areas that have been graded one or two by Ofsted. On that basis, Camden and Wandsworth LBCs have joined the original three education departments. We have worked in depth with one outer London education department after its Ofsted inspection, and are about to begin work with another inner London education department preparing for its Ofsted re-inspection.

Our ultimate aim would be for all London education departments to become members of the London Partnership; we believe everyone has strengths and that we can all learn from each other. Education departments are now lean organisations. Sharing best practice is the obvious way to deliver improvement across all functions and to allow councils to provide an effective and valued service to schools.

Anyone wanting to find out more about The London Partnership should contact co-ordinator, Nick Brenton, on 020 8753 3722.

Christine Whatford

Director of education, Hammersmith & Fulham LBC

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