13.1. This chapter explores the extent to which the Attainment Scotland Fund encouraged collaboration amongst those in the Challenge Authority or Schools Programme. Specifically, two key questions are considered:
- To what extent did the fund encourage collaboration?
- What factors helped and hindered collaboration, and what did and did not work well?
Chapter Highlights – Collaboration
- The Attainment Scotland Fund had made a positive contribution to the level and nature of collaboration.
- Collaboration within schools and with external partners were the most commonly reported types of collaboration.
- Collaboration between schools was challenging due to difficulties in staff shortages and related capacity of teachers to be released from teaching.
- There remained a need for improved collaboration at a local authority level.
- Factors that fostered collaboration included: a shared commitment to achieve the aims of the Attainment Scotland Fund; the opportunity to engage in professional learning; and the additional resources made available.
- The most frequently reported factors which hindered increased collaboration were lack of staff cover and time.
To what extent did the fund encourage collaboration?
13.2. There was widespread agreement amongst teachers and local authorities that the fund had made a positive impact on the amount of collaborative activity.
13.3. Collaboration within schools and with external partners was common whilst there were challenges which impacted on the level of collaboration between schools and local authorities.
13.4. Evidence has been gathered from four different sources: the local authority mini survey; the annual headteachers' survey; the qualitative research; and Challenge Authority progress reports.
13.5. Overall, there were many examples of collaborative activity supported by evidence that suggested this had increased as a result of the fund. The increase in collaboration was evident in local authorities, schools, teachers and external partners.
13.6. Headteachers responding to the online survey in Years 1 and 2 felt that there had been increased collaboration as a result of the fund. In Year 1, 71% reported an increase, of which 32% felt this had been a large increase. In Year 2, 77% reported an increase, with 39% reporting a large increase.
13.7. Similarly, as discussed in Chapter 14, local authorities responding to the mini survey at the end of Year 1, reported that increased collaboration – with other professionals, between schools and authorities – had been an unintended positive consequence of the fund. Challenge Authority progress reports revealed that collaboration was a key part of their programmes.
13.8. The qualitative research showed that almost all stakeholders felt that the fund had had a positive impact on collaboration.
13.9. Nevertheless, a small number of stakeholders did not think the fund had any impact on collaboration. Mainly because it was argued that there was a high level of collaboration prior to the fund.
- For a small number of teachers in the qualitative research, there was already a high level of collaboration within their school prior to the fund.
- Similarly, 18% of headteachers in both Year 1 and Year 2 reported that although there had been an increase in collaborative activity, this was not as a result of the fund.
13.10. Whilst there were lots of examples across the data sources of collaborative activity, some types of partnerships were more common than others and this is discussed in the next section.
Collaboration within schools
13.11. Local authorities and teachers taking part in the qualitative research were asked to comment on collaboration within schools, between schools and with other partners.
13.12. Stakeholders in the qualitative research positively reported on the type of collaboration occurring within schools. Examples of within school collaboration reported to be occurring as a result of the fund included:
- Staff talking and thinking together about new approaches
- Joint planning and more formal approaches to collaboration
- Peer observation, team teaching and collegiate working
- Joint training and joint learning
13.13. A few teachers and local authorities in the qualitative research also reported that there was increased collaboration between teachers working with the same pupils at different stages.
Collaboration between schools
13.14. Teachers in the qualitative research also spoke positively about the opportunity to collaborate with other schools.
13.15. Most collaboration occurred within the local authority but some teachers, particularly those in the Schools Programme, described collaboration between schools in different local authorities.
13.16. Examples of collaborative activity between schools reported by teachers and local authorities included:
- Clusters or family groups of schools working together to close the poverty related attainment gap
- Learning communities
- Joint training or joint in-service days
- Joint planning
- Visits to other schools to share ideas, do peer-to-peer observation and showcase work to colleagues
- Joint initiatives between schools, for example shared family engagement days
13.17. Whilst Challenge Authorities reported that collaboration between schools and across clusters was common, there was less evidence of collaboration between the primary and secondary programme within each authority.
13.18. Reports from Attainment Advisors stated that the focus for collaborations involving schools was mainly across learning and teaching, including moderation activities. For example, between September 2016 and January 2017, 8 out of 10 collaboration activities focused on learning, teaching and assessment involving primary schools or secondary schools. This included a few examples of primary and secondary school collaboration.
13.19. Teachers and local authorities also reported that there remained some challenges around the level of joint working between schools. Specifically, a few respondents to the headteacher survey (in Year 2) mentioned that they would like to gain improved access to collaborative opportunities reaching beyond their local area. This is discussed in more detail in the next section.
Collaboration between local authorities
13.20. Cross local authority working seemed less well developed. Whilst there were some small examples of collaboration between Challenge Authorities and challenge schools, local authorities and Attainment Advisors taking part in the qualitative research felt that greater collaboration between local authorities was needed.
13.21. Strategic stakeholders had mixed views on the extent to which they felt the fund had impacted positively on collaboration between local authorities.
13.22. Reports from Attainment Advisors detailed the focus for collaborations within local authorities and between local authorities. This was more frequently reported by Attainment Advisors supporting Challenge Authorities. The focus of these collaborations was largely families and communities, use of data and leadership. For example, sharing practice in the use of data to target support to specific schools.
Collaboration with external partners
13.23. Teachers and local authorities in the qualitative research reported that due to the fund, they were now more aware of the need to strengthen partnerships with those outside the school setting.
13.24. Most teachers felt that the fund had increased collaboration with external partners, including:
- Health Professionals including speech and language therapists, health visitors, dieticians etc
- Educational Psychologists
- Community Leaning and Development workers
- Universities and Colleges
- Third sector organisations
13.25. Collaboration with external partners featured as one of the factors increasing the sustainability of the fund, as stated by respondents to the headteacher survey (Year 2). External partners appeared necessary to access expertise.
What factors helped and hindered increased collaboration?
13.26. Whilst shared aims, professional learning opportunities and additional resources all helped to foster collaboration, some types of collaboration were hindered by a lack of available staff or time.
13.27. Evidence has been collected from Challenge Authority progress reports, the annual headteacher survey and the qualitative research with key stakeholders.
Benefits of collaboration
13.28. Stakeholders saw a wide range of benefits around collaboration. The key benefits reported revolved around:
Figure 13.1: Benefits of collaboration
13.29. Analysis from the Challenge Authority progress reports and headteacher survey in both years revealed that collaboration helped to maintain a collective focus on the aims of the fund and in planning and implementing initiatives. Specifically, a collective focus was mentioned by 35% of respondents to the headteacher survey in Year 2, as one of the factors which helps the fund to succeed. Chapter 14 will again reinforce collaboration as a positive consequence of the fund.
13.30. From the progress reports, it was clear that Challenge Authorities saw the benefit of collaboration as it allowed:
- Sharing learning around what works, for example, in the implementation of interventions and data collection
- Connecting with third sector organisations
- Supporting teacher's professional development
13.31. Teachers in the qualitative research saw collaboration within schools as a positive impact of the fund. They reported that:
- the fund had built a culture of sharing
- teachers were more willing to seek out new approaches
- increased confidence in relation to peer observation and self-evaluation; and
- increased expectations around attainment within their school
13.32. Equally, teachers valued the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues outside their school. Those interviewed in the qualitative research felt that joint working between schools had helped to increase trust and build stronger relationships between staff at different schools.
13.33. In the qualitative research, stakeholders reported that collaboration with external partners had helped to strengthen referral processes and overall support; provide expertise and ensure better links between schools and wider services.
Fostering greater collaboration
13.34. Headteachers in the online survey were asked to comment on why they felt there had been an increase in collaboration as a result of the fund. Their responses revealed that the following factors helped to foster collaboration:
- A shared motivation or commitment of teachers to achieve the aims of the fund and work collaboratively to make an impact
- Additional resources made available as a result of the fund, including additional staff and more time
- Increased enthusiasm, motivation and confidence of staff
- Specific initiatives, including those introduced through the fund
- Professional learning opportunities
Figure 13.2: Factors fostering collaboration
13.35. This was supported by the qualitative research which found that training and professional development was a key catalyst for greater collaboration; it provided the opportunity for teachers to share their learning.
13.36. Teachers in the qualitative research felt that within school collaboration worked well because teachers were excited and eager to learn. Feeling empowered and confident and having the time to reflect on their practice also supported collaboration.
13.37. Strategic stakeholders taking part in the qualitative research felt that national events and the Attainment Advisors role provided more opportunities for networking between local authorities.
13.38. The role played by Attainment Advisors in fostering collaboration was already emphasised in Chapter 3. Local authorities and schools reported that positive aspects of the Attainment Advisors role involved their ability to link in with national and local networks, fostering collaboration and information sharing
Challenges of Collaboration
13.39. Although there existed collaboration, some felt this was not solely due to the Attainment Scotland Fund. Stakeholders identified barriers which impacted on the extent to which the Attainment Scotland Fund encouraged collaboration. Namely, this related to staffing issues and lack of time or resources.
Figure 13.3: Factors hindering collaboration
13.40. Responses to the headteacher survey in both Year 1 and 2 showed that lack of staff available was the key challenge to lack of collaborative activity.
13.41. Relatedly, headteachers also reported that lack of time and lack of funding because of the way funding had been distributed in their authority impacted on the ability to collaborate. Insufficient funding or the withdrawal of the additional investments at end of the fund might have led to insufficient access to external support from third sector partners. This type of support was referred to as costly and difficult to obtain outside of the framework of the fund but also necessary especially when it offers mental health or disability support. This posed a threat to the sustainability of collaborations.
13.42. A few local authority officers taking part in the qualitative research felt that within school collaboration was more difficult in the secondary school context where the Attainment Scotland Fund was less well developed.
13.43. A key challenge reported by teachers and local authorities in the qualitative research in relation to collaboration between schools was the difficulty in finding staff cover. Both teachers and local authorities reported that staff shortages and associated administrative challenges impacted on the opportunity to collaborate with other schools.
13.44. Less frequently mentioned challenges to collaboration between schools included:
- For Schools Programme, being the only school receiving Attainment Scotland Funding in the local authority
- Distance between schools in rural authorities
- Distance or resentment from those not receiving Attainment Scotland Funding
13.45. The most common reported challenges to working with external partners included:
- staff time
- clarity of outcomes and expectations
- the different ethos of external partners
- tight timescales to spend funding
13.46. A few strategic stakeholders in the qualitative research felt that there existed a lack of willingness to collaborate and share lessons which impacted on the level of collaboration between local authorities.