Strategic Planning

Rapid strategic review of the future of school improvement in Derbyshire

“Isos carried out this review with great pace and skill, working with us in a flexible and iterative way to shape a clear set of recommendations and practical steps … it has taken us forward significantly.”
— Kathryn Boulton, Service Director, Schools & Learning


The brief

We know from our national research and work in individual local areas that the role of local authorities in supporting school improvement, and the role of school and system leaders in shaping school improvement in the local education systems, is undergoing rapid and significant change. In this context, Isos Partnership was commissioned by Derbyshire County Council to carry out a fast-paced, action-focused review of future arrangements for supporting school improvement in Derbyshire. The rapid review took place in the first half of the autumn term 2016. The review sought to inform how school improvement support in Derbyshire would be arranged in the future and how this would fit within the overall local education system in Derbyshire.

What did we do?

Drawing on our national research into the evolution of local education systems, school improvement and school and system leadership, as well as our ongoing work with other local education systems exploring the future of local school improvement, we approached our work in Derbyshire in three phases.

  1. Scoping and analysis – in order to understand the Derbyshire context and shape the themes of the review should explore, we engaged local authority councillors and senior officers, and carried out a detailed analysis of the Derbyshire context, including published benchmarking data and feedback the local authority had gathered from schools previously.

  2. In-depth evidence-gathering and consultation – we engaged a broad range of school and system leaders, including headteachers and governors, across Derbyshire through a combination of in-depth 1-to-1 engagements and workshops, through which we gathered evidence about the forms of school improvement support they valued and wanted to continue to access in the future, and what else needed to be in place within the local education system to support and accelerate school improvement.

  3. Shaping the review’s recommendations – through workshops with school, system and local authority leaders and partners, and drawing on our knowledge of the models being developed in other local education systems, we developed, tested and refined a set of concrete recommendations about the future of school improvement in Derbyshire and worked with colleagues to plan the actions required to implement those recommendations swiftly and effectively.

What difference did we make?

We sought to carry out the review in an open, transparent and consultative manner, engaging local authority, system and school leaders throughout the process to shape the review’s findings and recommendations. We developed and shared key messages iteratively throughout the process, so as to enable local authority leaders and partners to take rapid action and to start to plan and implement changes swiftly. We developed a concise report and worked with local authority councillors and senior officers to explore the findings in detail and plan how the review’s recommendations should be implemented, including sharing the report with school and system leaders. This has enabled the local authority and key school partners to shape a new offer of local school improvement support, to strengthen schools-led strategic leadership of the local education system, and to plan actions for sustaining and accelerating school improvement in Derbyshire.

What did the client say about the work?

“We are very grateful to Isos for their support on this piece of work. Recognising our requirements and timescales, Isos carried out this review with great pace and skill, working with us in a flexible and iterative way to shape a clear set of recommendations and practical steps that we can take to shape future support for school improvement in Derbyshire. We have valued not only the pace of the work and substance of Isos’ advice, but also the way they have engaged elected members, local authority and school leaders – these engagements have been really constructive, and the facilitation has been excellent. Isos’ work has taken us forward significantly.” 
— Kathryn Boulton, Service Director, Schools & Learning