'Schools Learning Together' was a programme in York funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation when the new authority started in the mid nineties. It flipped the approach to school improvement and curriculum and professional development and laid the foundations for the cooperative and collaborative learning that is still a characteristic of this small and successful local authority.
We face huge challenges as authority teams disappear and the DfE and our friends at OFSTED have increased expectations of all of us and continue to raise the bar. They have set us all more challenges and asks us to account for everything we are doing from providing for the brightest young people, tackling 'failing schools' and improving outcomes for disadvantaged groups. OfSTED have also raised the bar with Sir Michael Wilshaw's constant and relentless criticism of systems and approaches and many would argue rightly establishing good as the new baseline for everything we do. The role of local authorities has become confused as cuts bite and Academies flourish. they often lack the capacity to be the champion and advocate for the child and their parents and carers and struggle as the commissioner of services. Outstanding schools now hold centre stage as the heart of school improvement, system leadership and innovation and change. Authorities are struggling to secure enough school places while Academies and Free Schools find themselves at the heart of a new and exciting learning landscape. Increasing numbers of schools are finding themselves below the new floor targets and in a category... more notices to improve, more schools in special measures, more takeovers and more Academies. We face a series of challenges in a rapidly changing world we all inhabit and we need to focus on building cooperative and collaborative networks to create a critical mass of understanding and teamwork which can draw on what works and the aspects of brilliant practice that exist in almost every school. We must above all always remember to hold hands and stick together in difficult times and, together, to look after those who need us most. There are signs that some organisations like Entrust in Staffordshie and Eos in Lincoln are stepping up to the challenge and starting to provide the support schools need. Perhaps, we need to relaunch Schools Learning Together and everyone should join!