Dorset County Council proposes new relationship with schools

Dorset County Council has set out proposals in a paper going to cabinet on 17 October for a redefined relationship between the council and schools and academies across Dorset.

The aim of the proposals is to bring about school improvement through the creation of a new Dorset School Improvement Board (DSIB) together with a system of school clusters. The DSIB would be an independently chaired, school-led, voluntary body representing both academies and maintained schools. The local authority would act as a key advisor to the board, rather than leading it.

These proposals outline a school-led system where the council would operate as a partnership broker and facilitator. The council’s school improvement service would continue to monitor all schools, but do less to ‘fix’ schools directly. The vision is for the schools themselves to do this whilst the school improvement team concentrates on developing partnerships and evaluating and feeding back on the success of activity resulting from decisions made at the DSIB.

This approach has been proven to significantly improve school performance in other areas of the country and is supported by many local headteachers.

Below the DSIB would sit clusters of schools, grouped by geographical area. These clusters would encourage collaboration and the spread of good practice, helping to improve lower-performing schools.

The proposal also earmarks an initial grant of £100k for the Strategic School Improvement Fund to support the new arrangements.

Initial consultation with schools on these proposals took place in July and September, and, subject to Cabinet approval, further consultation will take place with headteachers and schools over coming months to add detail to the proposals. If approved, the new structure would come into effect from 1 April 2019.

Cllr Andrew Parry, Cabinet member for Economic Growth, Education, Learning and Skills, said: “This proposed approach recognises the excellent work that is already going on in schools and between schools. The aim is to strengthen the partnership working between schools, giving them greater autonomy to share ideas and methods across all schools. We anticipate that this will help improve school performance across the county. The council is keen to facilitate and support these arrangements.”