School improvement in the Shared Education Signature Project: the views of teachers and principals

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This paper examines the views of teachers and principals involved in the Shared Education Signature Programme (SESP) on its contribution to school improvement. The study had two stages: stage one involved interviews and focus groups with teachers and principals from six SESP partnerships. Stage two involved an online survey of 134 principals and teachers to check whether the themes emerging from the qualitative work had a more general resonance. Sampling of schools and partnerships was carried out in collaboration with the Education Authority, which also facilitated the online survey. Overall the pattern of results from the interviews and survey are consistent and clear. Teachers and principals identify a wide range of positive outcomes arising from collaboration through school partnerships supported by SESP. More important, there is virtually no evidence that participation in SESP partnerships has created any blockage or constraint on the ability or capacity of schools to advance their core educational missions. Indeed, the evidence lies in the reverse direction in that teachers and principals say that collaboration has enhanced opportunities and outcomes for pupils, improved pupil learning and broadened curriculum choice. Furthermore, teachers and principals report that collaboration has improved their capacity in many significant ways as well, whether this is through the formal or informal sharing of experience, access to resources and expertise, or opportunities for professional development and learning. There is also evidence that the experience of collaboration, after an average of less than five years, is already leading to the re-engineering of some school systems and processes in ways which is enhancing the learning environment. A deeper analysis of the data points to areas of work where greater levels of enhancement may be possible. It is also true that the institutionalisation of new practice as a consequence of collaboration lags behind improved practice and engagement, but this is unsurprising: indeed, it may be that the level of institutionalisation of new practice after such a short period of time is, in fact, an unexpected bonus. The balance of evidence emerging from this study of the perceptions and views of principals and teachers involved in school partnerships in SESP points to a high level of consensus. That consensus is that collaboration is having a very positive impact: it is leading to enhanced opportunities, outcomes and practices, for pupils and teachers, and that it is helping schools not only meet their core educational goals, but to promote positive innovations. Perhaps most striking of all is the almost unanimous view that pupil and teacher confidence has been enhanced by participation in shared education, thereby confirming that old adage that none of us is more effective than all of us.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBelfast
PublisherQUB SSESW
Number of pages42
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2020


  • Shared Education
  • school improvement
  • collaboration
  • northern ireland
  • education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Education


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