Delivery, efficiency and innovation

Supporting Norfolk County Council to develop effective support for school improvement

“Suitably experienced and skilful individuals quickly provided thought-provoking analysis and evaluation. This prompted further development that was followed by a deeper evaluation by Isos, a process that we plan to repeat over the year ahead.”
— Gordon Boyd, Assistant Director, Education, Norfolk County Council


The brief

In June 2013, Ofsted inspected Norfolk County Council’s arrangements for supporting school improvement. They judged that these were not yet effective. Isos was commissioned by Norfolk to carry out a review of their school improvement strategy, A good school for every Norfolk learner, and key improvement programmes in order to identify how these could rapidly lead to improvements in outcomes. This review took place in the autumn of 2013, and we continued to work with Norfolk to support them in evaluating progress ahead of their re-inspection by Ofsted in June 2014.

What we did

Isos formed a core team to carry out a fast-paced review, which included Ofsted HMI, central and local government, and school improvement expertise. Our review focused on analysis of quantitative data, key documents, and operating routines, as well as focused interviews with school and local authority leaders. We recognised that delivering at pace was key to this project, in order that Norfolk could maximise the impact of their strategies during the current academic year. We completed the review and presented a comprehensive report to the council within four weeks. The report identified:

  • a trajectory of improvement required to meet Norfolk’s ambitious aim of a good school for every Norfolk learner;

  • the five key steps that made up the strategy;

  • the key strengths of the approach, and recommendations of how to capitalise on these; and

  • the steps in the strategy that were critical to successful and rapid implementation, and recommendations as to how these could be strengthened to deliver rapid improvements.

We then worked with Norfolk again in the spring of 2014 to support their self-evaluation ahead of Ofsted’s re-inspection of their support for school improvement, and to help Norfolk refine their approach to monitoring and evaluating impact in order to drive further improvement. Again, we drew on our Ofsted and school improvement expertise, and worked closely with Norfolk’s senior team to develop a set of tools and routines for articulating their progress to date, their plans for further improvement, and the way in which their senior team needed to operate to maximise impact.

What difference did we make?

We delivered a comprehensive, robust and credible review at pace that set out clear recommendations for maximising the impact of Norfolk’s strategy for supporting school improvement strategy. Norfolk felt that this combined rigorous analysis, hard-hitting assessment, and constructive recommendations that injected impetus and confidence into the local education system. Norfolk used the findings of our review to make immediate adjustments to their strategy, the way this was communicated to school and local leaders, and to begin implementation swiftly. Our support for Norfolk’s self-evaluation helped local authority leaders to present a summary of the progress made and their plans for further improvement to Ofsted, and to put in place robust arrangements for evaluating and sustaining impact in the future. In June 2014, Ofsted judged that Norfolk’s support for school improvement was now effective.

What did the client say about the work?

“Having secured local support, we wanted to establish the credibility of our renewed approach to supporting school improvement through a thorough process of external evaluation. We needed our new approach to be tested robustly so that it measured up to the best local authorities in the country in terms of supporting school improvement, understanding the distinct role of the LA and working with Ofsted. With a background in policy work, improvement and inspection, ISOS was well placed to provide this challenge. Suitably experienced and skilful individuals quickly provided thought-provoking analysis and evaluation. This prompted further development that was followed by a deeper evaluation by Isos, a process that we plan to repeat over the year ahead.” 
— Gordon Boyd, Assistant Director, Education, Norfolk County Council