The Great School Framework© has been based on the learning from the London Leadership Strategy’s Going for Great (G4G) programme, national research and Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) findings. The research has been further built upon by HfL’s experienced practitioners in Business and Educational Services to produce a model of the universal features of a great school.
The introduction of The Great School Framework© coincides with the launch of a new book which has been co-authored by HfL’s Director of Education Services, Rachel Macfarlane. Called The Nine Pillars of Great Schools, the book explores the characteristics that define great schooling.
Having served as a headteacher at three contrasting schools over a 16-year period, Rachel recognised that there was still so much potential for improvement in outstanding schools and that being an outstanding school was not the end of the aspirational journey to become truly great.
Inspired by the 2009 Ofsted publication, Twelve outstanding secondary schools: excelling against the odds, which drew from the practice, experience and ambition of 12 consistently outstanding schools to identify how they achieved, sustained and shared excellence, Rachel set about finding out more about these schools.
“I was fascinated by what had led Ofsted to select these particular schools and hold them up as national exemplars,” said Rachel.
“I wanted to delve deeper and really understand the differences between a high performing school and a truly outstanding school.”
In 2009, as a National Leader of Education, Rachel was asked by the London Leadership Strategy (LLS), as part of the London Challenge, to start a support programme called Going for Great (G4G).
Designed to support outstanding secondary schools on their journey to becoming world class, the programme allowed schools to share and build on outstanding practice and enabled them to demonstrate sustained school-to-school leadership.
“During the first year of the G4G programme, I worked closely with Professor David Woods to support six outstanding secondary schools. At the end of the year we developed a framework, called The Eight Pillars of Great Schools which summarised our findings into eight constituent parts, to form the foundations of a great school” explained Rachel.
“We also jointly edited a book featuring a case study from each of the participating schools that focused on something they were really proud of, and also a case study on something that they still wanted to improve on, that wasn’t great yet.”
After the success of the first year pilot programme, all of the Ofsted rated outstanding secondary schools from across London were invited to join the second year of the G4G programme. Subsequently, 24 more schools signed up for the second year. Over the next five years, 117 outstanding secondary schools from across London participated in the G4G programme.
Following the huge success of the G4G programme, Rachel and David were often contacted by outstanding primary schools, requesting a similar programme.
“In the seventh year of the programme, we piloted a G4G project for outstanding primary schools and were intrigued to find out if the features of a great secondary school were the same for a primary school. We quickly concluded that they largely were, and that there were actually very few differences between the two phases.
Subsequently, in years eight and nine of the G4G programme we opened up entry to outstanding schools from across all phases and were also joined by outstanding schools from across the country.”
In 2014, David stepped down from the programme and Rachel was joined by Damian McBeath for the last three years of the project. After nine successful years, the G4G programme concluded, in August 2018.
“At the end of each year, we produced a practitioner collection of case studies and built up a rich resource of 168 case studies about great schooling, so as the programme came to an end we wanted to capture, record and share all of the fantastic work that had come out of the G4G programme.”
“Subsequently, David, Damian and myself set about co-authoring a book based on the findings of our nine years of research, resulting in the publication of The Nine Pillars of Great Schools added Rachel.
“We are very proud of this book, which encapsulates the key features and qualities of a great school. Each chapter focuses on one of the ‘nine pillars’, along with examples of great practice taken from the case studies, inspirational quotations and ideas for further research and reading.”
Containing 144 pages, the book has been designed as a practical and aspirational resource that readers can easily dip in and out of, reading a chapter at a time or revisiting case studies. The content is suitable for anyone who works in or with schools; from senior leaders to teaching staff, support staff to governors, and parents.
Rachel concluded: “I am really excited to have the opportunity to take the learning from my previous work, and develop this even further with my HfL colleagues into The Great School Framework©.”
The Nine Pillars of Great Schools is available to purchase from our online shop.