Challenge the Gap is a school to school approach to narrowing the gap co-ordinated by Challenge Partners. Challenge Partners is a network of schools committed to taking forward and developing successful school improvement approaches.
The project will set up ‘Learning Threes’, whereby 15 outstanding Challenge Partners schools with expertise at narrowing the gap each work with two others seeking to improve the attainment of its disadvantaged children
Six members of staff (leaders, teachers and others, such as teaching assistants) from each of theschools will work together through a programme delivered initially by external expert facilitators and practitioners. The programme will focus on three elements crucial to narrowing the gap: Leadership, Teaching Quality and Pupil Interventions. Teachers in the schools will benefit from training, workshops and in-school work, supported by coaching from the other schools. As well as seeking to drive up attainment in the schools involved, the outstanding staff in these schools will develop the expertise to lead other schools through the programme. This cascading approach will be tested as part of the proposed project, as after the initial phase, schools would be expected to continue to part of further ‘Learning Threes’.
The approach is innovative way of improving schools’ ability to focus on raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The content of the training will focus on evidence-based approaches to raising the achievement of disadvantaged pupils. Harnessing the power of school-to-school work could prove to be a cost-effective and sustainable way of improving standards.
Challenge Partners approach is influenced by the London Challenge, which has been credited by many with raising the performance of London secondary schools. This study will provide a robust measure of the effectiveness of the approach as a model of school to school improvement.
Following the completion of the pilot and development phases are over, all the schools that took part in the pilot – either as leaders or participants – will deliver the programme in further ‘learning threes’. Participating schools will be matched based on school characteristics including attainment (through RAISE Online), numbers of FSM pupils, Ofsted rating, and a measure of motivation to engage such as Ofsted leadership ratings. Impact on attainment will be evaluated by testing a sample of students. In addition a qualitative evaluation will take place to understand how the project has been implemented on the ground.
The evaluation report will be published in Summer 2017