Outcome agreements between a local authority and schools


Continuing on the theme of outcome agreements I’ve been working with colleagues over the last few weeks to try to put some meat on the bones of what this might look like.

It was interesting to read what the OECD examiners recommended in relation to this:

Greater school autonomy in a local government framework

Some of the recommendations include:

Each local authority develops a policy framework which defines the priority targets it seeks to make including improvements in student opportunities and outcomes; where a local authority provides additional resources for equity purposes it should do so within a the framework on the national innovation plan; local authorities should negotiate agreements with schools under which greater management autonomy in staffing and curriculum is established in return for an agreed platform of improvement in learning opportunities and outcomes

The challenges facing us all here is what might these outcomes look like; how would we know if they were achieved; and what happens if a school fails to achieve an outcome?

Outcomes need to be specific – a challenge to educators who are used to flowery and high falutin’ aims and objectives – they  need to relate to how evidence will be gathered and they need to leave enough freedom for schools to work out how to achieve them depending upon their own context.

As regards methods of gathering evidence we have identified three key aspects:

1. PIPS and MIDYIS testing which will take place at P1, P3, P7, and S2, together with SQA data.

2. A series of pupil questionnaires (using SELS) which will take into account the developmental stage of children,  These questionnaires will focus on student perceptions of the education process and their own development.

3. School self-evaluation – validated by the authority

It will be of vital importance that each of the three aspects is given an equal weighting. For example – if pupil attainment were to become the sole focus it could skew the education process to the exclusion of many of the other desirable outcomes we seek to achieve.

So what might some of these outcomes look like?

I’ll share some of the ideas we have been working on recently:

Curriculum for Excellence

  1. I can share my opinion with my class (SELS)
  2. I can work well as part of a team and a group (SELS)
  3. Each child makes progress in line with or better than their PIPS or MIDYIS prediction

Promoting Wider Achievement

  1. Each pupil takes part in extra-curricular or community activities (SELS)
  2. Each child has a cumulative record of their achievements throughout their school career (SELS)

Additional Support for Learning

  1. Each child makes progress in line with or better than their PIPS or MIDYIS prediction
  2. All Looked after and accommodated children have postive school leaing destinations
  3. At least one teacher knows me well in this school (SELS)

From these three examples we can begin to see the matrix effect how one outcome can relate to more than one area.

What we hope to build up a series of outcomes (perhaps 30) which will form the basis of an agreement with schools.

Throughout the year these outcomes will be collected and reviewed. At the end of a year each school’s collective outcomes will be considered. Where a school has made good progress towards achieving these outcomes it is likely that a proportionate response will be made by the authority with a very light touch being taken the following year and the school being given even more autonomy in terms of the processes it uses to achieve outcomes.

Where a school does not achieve some of the outcomes the reasons will be explored and more specific actions planned between the school and the authority would have to feature in the following year.

Where a school failed to achieve a wide range of outcomes it might be necessary for the authority to take much more interventionist approach the following year and take more “hands-on” approach in terms of specifying processes which have perhaps worked well in other schools.

The key to the success of this approach is that schools are rewarded for achieving outcomes with even greater autonomy – whilst the authority manages to achieve it’s outcomes which have been negotiated with the government.

I cannot stress enough the need to come up with a comprehensive basket of outcomes which represent the education process.

Just to remind people that this is work in progress but we are currently “reverse engineering” our Service Improvement Plan by linking each area to specific outcomes as outlined above – at first glance it seems to be a much more focused and user-friendly document