A self-improving school system.

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The following is a summary of the key features of "A self-improving school system: towards maturity" by David H Hargreaves (October, 2012). The article and its associated publications are referenced widely in development programmes for senior leaders, and have influenced the direction of institutions such as the National College of Teaching and Leadership.

The opening premise is that size matters. I believe some of the greatest benefits of partnerships arise when a school seeks to make a deep partnership with a small number of schools (p4). Different partnerships demand different scales and depth of working; and Hargreaves acknowledges that deep partnerships are beneficial and yet much harder to establish and maintain than shallow ones, (p5).

Fundamental to growing and sustaining partnership at a deeper level is the role of professional development. Hargreaves refers to competence and professional development as the soil in which collaborative capital grows. (p6). He positions professional development over partnership competence because the latter is not an end in itself, whereas the former has a direct relationship to the improvement of outcomes for students.

In the article Hargreaves coined the term, Joint Professional Development (JPD),thereby distinguishing it from CPD as a more sustainable expression of improvement with coaching and mentoring at its heart. For JPD to be shared the identification of need and talent, and the matching of those two with each other is vital.

The two key features of partnership competence are identified in the article as "trust and reciprocity" (p13). These two aspects link well with further reading such as Steve Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. His emphasis on the value of trust is nicely summarised in a short You Tube clip. Importantly, Hargreaves stresses the need for a school to have established JPD within its own culture before reaching out to develop the practice across a partnership or alliance. This is because the framework relies on a collective moral purpose and shared language around learning. For that framework to be deep and sustainable that collective moral purpose is a value shared by all, including students, within the partnership (p18).

For those schools aspiring to found deep partnership Hargreaves provides a four point checklist in ascending order of difficulty (p20). The four points relate to JPD, social capital, collective moral purpose and the evaluation of practice. These four aspects are inter-related, rather than abstracted from each other making it vital that school leaders are sophisticated [in their] understanding of the complex dynamics of partnerships (p21). That nuanced and purposeful leadership results in the accumulation of reciprocities which bring an acknowledgement by individuals and institutions of the benefits coming from deeper partnership. Knowing the extent to which that is occurring and the success of it relies on a powerful diagnostic system (p25) as well as the capacity to acknowledge and celebrate successes. This concept links well with Anthony Robbins CANI approach.

In the article Hargreaves even counters an argument that collaboration is somehow a forced process that runs against the ruthless competition that we seem to observe in the natural world. He cites those who now argue that the most successful species in evolutionary terms are those who place a premium on cooperation over short-term self-interest.


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