Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Soft federations

Recently I have been researching Soft Federations, what it actually means to a school governing body and what models exist.

Teachernet describes a soft federation as a formal arrangement under section 26 of the Education Act 2002 by which two or more governing bodies share elements of governance or establish a joint strategic committee with delegated powers. Under these arrangements each school retains its individual governing body.

Soft federation can involve a mix of primary and secondary schools and is based on the principle of allowing governing bodies and joint committees freedom to determine their own arrangements within an agreed framework. It can cover a range of operational models from an over-arching committee delegated to take strategic decisions on behalf of two or more governing bodies, to setting up single-issue committees such as premises or curriculum committees

I also read an interesting report and model of Soft Federations from NCSL entitled 'United we stand'

It says:

The boundaries are changing for patterns of school organisation and there are many examples of innovative new models and structures of leadership. In particular, much has recently been written on the challenges and successes of federation and how it meets the needs of pupil learning and leadership recruitment. A Price Waterhouse Coopers report on leadership, has commented on the perceived benefits of a federated model: Federation “can be shown to have a number of key benefits which, ultimately, impact positively on pupil performance,for example: greater capacity through more distributed leadership; economies of scale achieved through pooling resources; smoother transitions of pupils between phases; and improved progression opportunities for all members of the school workforce. The benefits of this can be manifested
in the primary school sector where groups of schools are able to share resources and access services that would not be viable for individual schools.”

The federation model provides an established framework of shared leadership and joint governance where one or more schools share a single headteacher under one governing body, with a formal legal framework in place. Networks and clustering are at the other end of the spectrum, where
schools work together informally for mutual benefit, for example in Primary Strategy Learning Networks.

Some schools have however sought out different solutions for different reasons. These are not always as formal as federation or as casual as informal clustering activities. Soft
federation falls somewhere in between these two extremes and is the focus of this present study, which sets out to discover the benefits of less formal but still structured partnerships. For instance, the soft federation model could apply where two or more schools want to share key staff including the perceived benefits of a non-teaching headteacher, but to keep everything else separate, especially governance, whilst still joining together for mutually beneficial activities when appropriate. Their report explores four examples where schools have adopted a
similar model of cross-school, soft-federated leadership, and decisions have been made to circumvent current federation styles, by ‘daring to be different’.

The full report can be found on the NCSL website


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