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The principles of effective school-to-school peer review

Peer review between schools should be the norm, not an exception, and should be at the core of school improvement.

Our newly published report outlines the nine key principles for effective school-to-school peer review. The report is the result of convening peer review programme providers, including Ambition Institute, Challenge Partners and Education Development Trust. The report has been produced alongside the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) who checked the references and sourced some additional evidence that the group drew on in their development of the key principles.

NAHT deputy general secretary Nick Brook, who led the review, said: “Peer review could be the driving force of the school improvement system. Emerging evidence shows that schools can improve faster and more sustainably by working together. Today's report outlines nine key principles that would return teachers and school leaders to their rightful place in the system, putting them in the driving seat when improving the life chances of all young people. Peer review and collaborative working must become the norm in all schools, not an exception.”

The report proposes nine principles for effective school-to-school peer review:

  1. Committed to better outcomes for all – There is a shared responsibility to establish improvement across all schools and not just one’s own, including the sharing of good practice identified in reviews. The desire for mutual gain is imperative for success.
  2. Action focused – Peer review is set up with the intention of acting as a result of the review, whether to address a deficit or to get even better. Peer review provides evidence of strengths and areas for improvement but is not a standalone activity.  Reviews must be part of wider processes that provide sustained support for evidence-based improvement.
  3. Rigorous and objective – The team should always consist of peer leaders with the professional distance to give a truly honest appraisal of where the school is in its journey and the experience to insightfully present evidence.
  4. Structured and robust – The approach used in the review should have a clear structure so that the evidence collected is impartial, defensible and is action-focused, with all actions owned by the reviewed school.
  5. Expert and evidence led – The reviewers should be given the training and support to be(come) experts in peer review; their diagnosis of school performance should be rooted in evidence, as should any suggestions about potential actions.
  6. Done with, not to, the school – Peer review drives more transparent and honest self-review, should engage as much of the school workforce as possible and always be reciprocated.
  7. Open and trusted – The reviewed school is able and willing to expose its vulnerabilities, in order to elicit new perspectives on the challenges it faces.
  8. Builds deeper relationships – Peer reviews lead to abiding collaborative partnerships which can evolve over time to enable stronger, closer working in local clusters. There is also an opportunity to share more widely as part of a national drive for improvement.
  9. Commitment to continuous improvement – Peer review itself should always be kept under review and providers of peer review programmes must have embedded structures and processes to evaluate the effectiveness of the process and commit to continuous improvement.

NAHT’s new School Improvement Commission met for the first time at the end of October, with at least an interim report due to be published at the end of this academic year. 

You can read the report in full below. 


First published 21 September 2019