A Self-Improving System: Direction And Progress

The term self-improving system has its origins in a very different time and place. Since being coined the idea has been used to justify various approaches to restructuring education systems across the world. One of the more startling I encountered was in Australia, when I was contacted by a group of primary headteachers who had been placed in networks, but been given little to no direction as to how these should be developed, and had had their existing support structures simply removed from around them. Obviously this so called organic approach to implementing a school-led system was not the most pain free or effective of options but even so I was just struck by the commitment of local headteachers to make it work, even if we were just not sure what it was at the beginning.

I learnt three things from working with colleagues in Australia about developing a self-improving system. Firstly, it requires you to ask a lot about your self from the grand sort of questions such as ‘Why did I come into this profession?' to the more prosaic ‘Why should I take on more work to co-ordinate that group?' Secondly, it asks 'Who are these selves?', 'Who is included, who is leading, and on what basis?' Finally, it made me recognise that moving to a self-improving system is not another initiative to be implemented, rather it will be made up of myriad small acts that will add up to a much larger change.

The Central South Consortium has been flying under the banner of the self-improving or school led system for some time, and of course the consortia themselves are an expression of the Welsh Government’s commitment to adopting a more collaborative and locally driven approach to service design and delivery. Once raised the school-led banner gathered under it a whole range of leaders and schools. Now on the march this group like all leaders has two key tasks, to set a direction and to assess progress in getting there. The Strategy Groups have been setting the direction for some time but we have now launched an Evaluation and Research Board to bring together in one place all the activities and data that will help us understand the progress being made. It is a challenging task to bring together all the data required to understand the changes, small and large, that are taking place. We are bound to be asking many of you in the coming months to help us understand more about our progress, before you reply just remember saying yes is just another small step in the right direction.

If you are interested in the work of the Evaluation and Research Board or would like to help with any of the upcoming activities including our survey of pupils and teachers then in the first instance please contact katherine.fielding@cscjes.org.uk.
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