Oldham Education and Skills Commission: Schools stronger when we work together

Plans for a new and revolutionary school led system to raise education standards for all local children were launched today (June 25).

The recommendation is the first to be revealed by the Oldham Education and Skills Commission (OESC), which is chaired by former Education Secretary, Estelle Morris. 

Launched last summer, the independent commission was tasked with developing a shared, ambitious vision for our children that will result in a step change in their education.

Its final report will be published in September but this first recommendation - to be outlined in a keynote speech today by Estelle Morris to headteachers at the Oldham Schools Alliance (OSA) summer conference - will lay down clear foundations for the future.

The schools led system would be a new type of partnership based upon sharing responsibility equally between the council, schools and the community. We would take on collective responsibility for driving up aspirations and achieving better outcomes for young people by setting and achieving ambitious targets for improvements.

Oldham has a number of excellent schools, but there is also too much underperformance. The Commission believes that headteachers are best placed to understand how to drive up standards and that this can be best achieved if schools work together. But they cannot do this alone so the Commission is recommending the commissioning of a new independent body to make the collaboration a success.

Estelle Morris believes all local schools and staff – from head, teacher, practitioner and governor – can each make a vital contribution to wider and sustainable education success. 

“This would see a fundamental change for the responsibility for education across Oldham – and it’s the start of a crucial journey,” she said.

“This plan is about all schools coming together regardless of age-group, governance, sponsorship or denomination, or whether you are an academy, local authority-maintained or free school.

“We’re saying that what really matters here is that shared vision for every child to reach their full potential. What also really matters is that if you’re an educator in Oldham you’re now saying that you have a responsibility for the education of every local child – not just those you are directly responsible for day to day.

“How we all fulfil that challenge is by working together on genuinely equal merit and in a new culture of collaboration where each school shares data, accepts and offers best practice, where targets and progress are shared, where all learn and improve together – and where children reap the benefits. 

“It’s about agreeing what our ambitions for all young people are and then saying: ‘What are WE all going to do to improve this?’”.

The new body would agree shared values and collaborative working arrangements – including a new borough-wide approach to data management and information – and would also agree new guarantees of education standards for students, parents, teachers and leaders.

Anne Redmond, headteacher at Kingfisher Community Special School and one of five local OESC commissioners, said: “This is a compelling road map for how we can create a new ‘school-led’ approach which puts schools right at the forefront of change, with support from the council and other partners.

“The independent new body would be based on the principle of collaboration where all schools make a collective commitment to Oldham, our shared responsibilities and ambitions.

“We look forward to having discussions next with all our headteachers and partners about how we can realise this vision.”

Councillor Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, sponsored the launch of the OESC. He said: “Our ambition is for Oldham’s children to get the best possible start in life and I welcome this proposal as a launch pad for getting on with that job.

“I am looking forward to receiving the Commission’s final report and the council has already committed significant funding to pay for the changes that will be needed to establish this school led system. The Council welcomes the proposal for this new three way partnership with the schools and the proposed independent body and we will play our role as an equal partner to ensure the achievement of these shared goals.”

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