Blog Post

NEWS: How SPP peer review has adapted when you needed it most.

Anne Cameron

The SPP team is dedicated to supporting our schools in carrying on their peer review journey, despite the challenges they currently face. So how have we been helping our schools? And have there been any unexpected opportunities and positive results from addressing these pandemic-related challenges?

Our focus since March has been on working collaboratively with our network of school leaders to adapt SPP and the peer review cycle, to allow it to continue meaningfully and with impact, in either a fully or partially virtual environment. In what will no doubt be a challenging year ahead, we would like to help partnerships of schools who are committed to SPP peer review and its core principles, not only to sustain, develop and mature their practice but also to adapt and respond quickly, tapping into research, collective learning and the lived experiences of colleagues, both locally and nationally. 

Our SPP Associates conducted ‘keep it touch’ calls with over 50 of our Partnership Leads in June 2020, representing approximately 300 schools, to understand their challenges, priorities and the value they placed on continuing with peer review in the Autumn term. The calls were a litmus test of peer review and its usefulness in challenging times and the response was overwhelmingly positive. We found that 85% of the Partnership Leads we spoke to felt their experience of peer review, partnership working and the core skills developed as a result of SPP had helped in their response and planning around Covid-19, with some really sound examples.

"This has been a very helpful exercise and we were delighted to be part of it.  The whole process was less disruptive to school life than our usual peer review cycle and very easy to add to lessons already taking place. Gathering groups together was more adaptable as some parents zoomed in from home to join the group, so there were no restrictions caused by timing and location. We had wider access to professional support that meant we weren't restricted to Plymouth leaders. The Improvement Workshop was very productive and not inhibited at all by remote access. We felt that the reviewers were genuinely interested in helping us."

Heidi Price - Headteacher, Yealmpstone Farm Primary School

In an atmosphere of pressurised, high stakes decision-making and sustained challenges to mental health and wellbeing, peer coaching, support and validation rooted in an understanding of common challenges is highly valuable. It became very clear, however, that in order to help meet the emerging, pressing needs of schools in 2020/21, we needed a quicker, more responsive and flexible approach to peer review, which still retained our core principles. SPP, through it’s non-judgmental, non-competitive, supportive approach could be more valuable to both staff and pupils than ever this year in our collective recovery, particularly in retaining a collective sense of connection, community, agency and coherent purpose.

In response, the team has developed SPP Rapid Response: a faster, more responsive and flexible approach to peer review, with technical support and input from our sister organisation London CLC. We will continue to test and introduce our approaches to the SPP community via national webinars this term. We've also created two research-based sets of example "lines of enquiry" to support peer review with a focus on Covid-19 Response and Recovery Curriculum. All three of these resources are available to all schools who have engaged with SPP, past and present, and this in turn has kick-started our new SPP Alumni offer due to be launched in October, which will deepen and develop peer review further in the 1,700 schools and partnerships around the country that we have worked with.

Many of our Partnership Leads also told us that peer support for leaders has become more valuable than ever at the moment. Click here for a video and podcast interview with two headteachers.