I Am A Serial Collaborator

In a previous role I founded The Communication Trust – a coalition of over 40 not for profit organisations committed to supporting children to communicate that, in working together, improved policy, funding and ultimately outcomes. In every role my starting point is partnership towards shared goals rather than competition (although this should not be mistaken for a fear of competition or lack of desire to win – check out my stint in the parent’s race at school….)

Earlier this week I attended the Challenge Partners summer conference. Wonderful event and another celebration of the power of collaboration. Challenge Partners is one of the emerging communities of practice emerging in education. Like Whole EducationSSAT and, the successor to the London Challenge, London Leadership Strategy (LLS)  it is led by practitioners for practitioners and draws on the fundamental principle that the moral purpose that underpins education of our children outweighs the competition of an emerging marketplace in schools.

Does collaboration in education work? Certainly there is some evidence that it does – London Challenge has left England the only country in world where the capital’s education outperforms the region and the work of LLS over the last year has helped a number of secondary schools move their OFSTED status to ‘good’. Is the evidence as strong as it could be? Certainly not and Kevan Collins of Education Endowment Fund  made a strong case at the event about the need for more research and analysis of impact – something that the recent evidence to the Education Select Committee Inquiry on school collaboration showed a desperate need for and which, through our work with London Leadership and other partners, we are taking forward.

Does collaboration make a powerful contribution to professional CPD? Yes certainly – when done right and I was excited to attend yesterday’s launch of National Teacher Enquiry Network by Teacher Development Trust another emerging practitioner led community.

Could these communities do more? Yes undoubtedly and, with our partners, we are developing projects in the coming months to increase the reach, impact, resources and influence of key communities of practice in education. We will be focusing on:

  • Developing the evidence base – what works and how do we replicate it?
  • Encouraging collaboration between the collaborators – how can these powerful groups with their distinctive niches work together for even greater impact?
  • How can these groups start setting the agenda for a non politicised approach to education led by practitioners?

And we will be developing our work in another important area of education. Parent Voice. The importance of parent voice in systems change but its relative absence is well made by in this article by Fiona Millar


These are exciting times and, as parents, teachers, advocates, consultants and researchers, the Not Dead Fish team are delighted to be able to make a contribution. And, before those of you who know our youth work backgrounds shout out, yes we do believe wholeheartedly in the user voice – that is a whole other strand of work…..

So supporting teachers to lead the system through collaborative practice is right. Supporting parent voice and engagement in education is essential. Communities of practice led by teachers will change lives – but encouraging a collaboration of 400,000 teachers and 6 million parents that could change the game.