REPORT: The Principles of Effective School-to-School Peer Review
In September 2019, school leaders’ union NAHT published its ‘Principles of Effective School-to-School Peer Review’ report, which argues that peer review between schools should be the norm, not an exception, and should be at the core of the school improvement system.
During 2018, the NAHT published their report on Improving School Accountability. The report included the Accountability Commission’s review of the current school accountability system as well as identifying key recommendations.
Peer review was identified as a potentially positive way in which schools could help one another to improve.
Following this, in early 2019 the NAHT convened a small group of peer review programme providers, to establish what evidence exists on what makes school-to-school peer review successful.
As part of this group, we were able to share what we have learned from working with schools on the Schools Partnership Programme for the last five years, using this knowledge to help identify key principles for good school-to-school peer review.
On our commitment to peer review, Matt Davies, UK Director of Education Development Trust, commented:
"Collaborative school improvement through peer review is a core area of work at Education Development Trust.
Through our work with more than 1,300 schools on our Schools Partnership Programme, we have seen that well-managed, rigorous peer review that builds capacity and capability within and between schools and has a relentless focus on changing practice leads to improvement.
We believe these principles offer useful guidance to schools who are engaging in peer review and that effective peer review could secure continuous improvement in the majority of schools in England."
The key principles identified for good school-to-school peer review are as follows:
1. Committed to better outcomes for all
There is a shared responsibility to establish improvement across all schools and not just one’s own, including the sharing of good practice identified in reviews. The desire for mutual gain is imperative for success.
Peer review is set up with the intention of acting as a result of the review, whether to address a deficit or to get even better. Peer review provides evidence of strengths and areas for improvement but is not a standalone activity. Reviews must be part of wider processes that provide sustained support for evidence-based improvement.
3. Rigorous and objective
The team should always consist of peer leaders with the professional distance to give a truly honest appraisal of where the school is in its journey and the experience to insightfully present evidence.
4. Structured and robust
The approach used in the review should have a clear structure so that the evidence collected is impartial, defensible and is action-focused, with all actions owned by the reviewed school.
5. Expert and evidence-led
The reviewers should be given the training and support to be(come) experts in peer review; their diagnosis of school performance should be rooted in evidence, as should any suggestions about potential actions.
6. Done with, not to, the school
Peer review drives more transparent and honest self-review, should engage as much of the school workforce as possible and always be reciprocated.
7. Open and trusted
The reviewed school is able and willing to expose its vulnerabilities, in order to elicit new perspectives on the challenges it faces.
8. Builds deeper relationships
Peer reviews lead to abiding collaborative partnerships, which can evolve over time to enable stronger, closer working in local clusters. There is also an opportunity to share more widely as part of a national drive for improvement.
9. Committed to continuous improvement
Peer review itself should always be kept under review and providers of peer review programmes must have embedded structures and processes to evaluate the effectiveness of the process and commit to continuous improvement.