Case studies

organisational capacity

The future of education leadership in Norfolk

Isos Partnership worked very effectively with a wide range and a good percentage of the stakeholders in the Norfolk education system. … The project provides us with both a structure and sense of direction to achieve our vision.
Mark Adams, Senior Adviser – Leadership Development

The brief

Norfolk, like many local areas, is exploring the way in which educational excellence and school improvement will be supported in the local education system in the future. Like other local areas, Norfolk is contending with changes around assessment, the curriculum and funding, as well as the end of the Education Services Grant and changes to the education role of the local authority. Colleagues in Norfolk recognised this would place a greater premium on leadership and governance across the local education system. For this reason, in the spring term of 2017, Norfolk County Council commissioned Isos Partnership to lead a rapid, independent and solutions-focused project to explore what was needed to support great education leadership, both within the local system and of the local system, in Norfolk in the future.

What did we do?

We formed a small team with expertise in developing effective strategies for supporting school improvement and education leadership, a track-record of carrying out successful fast-paced reviews, and knowledge of the context of Norfolk’s education system.

The project sought to focus on ‘leadership’ in the broadest sense – as well as those in headship or similar roles leading individual schools, we also sought to engage:

  • those in leadership roles across several schools – executive leaders, multi-academy trust chief executives, teaching school directors;
  • those with non-executive leadership roles – governors, board members and trust directors;
  • current and aspiring leaders – those in senior and middle leadership roles, those leading specific areas of practice within their schools or organisations, and those aspiring to leadership roles in the future;
  • partners in the leadership of the local system – including local authority senior leaders, members of key strategic groups such as the Norfolk Education Challenge Board and the Educate Norfolk Strategic Partnership, and colleagues from the office of the Regional Schools Commissioner and Ofsted; and
  • pupils and parents – to gather their views on what makes a good leader of education.

Through a series of workshops, visits to individual schools, telephone interviews and online surveys, we engaged a wide range of partners, ensuring that all constituencies of interest and areas of the county had the opportunity to contribute to the project. Through a series of formative engagements, we worked with groups of education leaders to build up a picture of the strength of the current leadership pipeline and offer of leadership support across Norfolk, and we facilitated iterative discussions to identify key themes and specific practical actions that could be undertaken to support great education leadership in Norfolk in the future.

What difference did we make?

We facilitated a process through which current and aspiring education leaders, governors, partners, pupils and parents could share their perspectives on the current strength of education leadership in Norfolk and contribute their ideas for how the local education system, and the role of leadership within and of that system, should move forward. During the project, we found that there was a strong view that the continued development of the Norfolk education system would need to be guided by an overarching strategy for sustaining great education leadership of and within the county. Through the project, therefore, we supported Norfolk’s education leaders to co-develop a shared vision for the local education system, and a set of core pillars and specific actions that will inform a shared education leadership strategy to be taken forward in partnership. Education leaders and partners across the county considered that this had been a valuable, energising and engaging exercise, that provided an objective and evidence-based reflection of the current strengths and priorities across the county, and a clear direction of travel for the future.

What did the client say about the work?

'Isos Partnership worked very effectively with a wide range and a good percentage of the stakeholders in the Norfolk education system. The team had excellent knowledge, the appropriate manner and skills to draw out thoughts and information, and used a variety of means to allow different people across Norfolk to engage in this process. The structure of the sessions they facilitated was excellent, and ensured time could be used effectively. The findings of their work were both surprising and positive in that the vast majority of leaders wanted to work together for the benefit of the whole education system and every child and young person in Norfolk. We now have an accessible report, clear in its findings, which provides us with both a structure and sense of direction to achieve our vision where we are ‘seen as a hotbed of educational excellence and innovation and consequently a great place to aspire to be an education leader.' Mark Adams, Senior Adviser – Leadership Development