Research and Development

Southwark Teaching School Alliance and Southwark Council have been working with Mime Consulting to understand how Southwark primary pupils go on to perform in secondary and tertiary education. In this guest blog, Mime Consulting explain what their analysis has shown and how schools, multi-academy trusts and local authorities elsewhere in the country can benefit from similar analysis:

Our work tracking a cohort of primary pupils through to A-levels or equivalent found that a primary school’s performance at Key Stage 2 (KS2) often does not equate to success of those pupils in their secondary school. To improve the life chances of their pupils, primary and secondary schools need to understand the combined impact of their education.

Background to the review

We have undertaken a review of longitudinal data from the National Pupil Database (NPD)[1] in partnership with Southwark Council and the Southwark Teaching Schools Alliance (STSA).

A number of Southwark primary schools wanted to understand their impact on the outcomes of pupils after they left.  The STSA wanted to know if there were any lessons to support the sharing of best practice, particularly in pupils’ transition between primary and secondary.

Liz Robinson, Head at Surrey Square Primary School, explains:

“As a school, we understand that a huge part of our purpose is to prepare our pupils both personally and academically for success at secondary school and beyond. We HOPE that we do a good job of that, but don’t really know. That’s why we are really excited about, and committed to, deepening our understanding about how our pupils do at the next stages of their lives. We hope to be able to use this additional data to enhance our understanding of our pupils and their needs, and hopefully to begin a more focused dialogue with our secondary colleagues about what else we can be doing to give our pupils the very best chance of success beyond our doors.”

We have tracked individual pupil attainment through their school career. We looked at 3 cohorts completing year 6 in 2007/08 to 2009/10 across all Southwark primary schools. We tracked them from KS2 through to KS4 in 2012/13 to 2014/15. We tracked the first cohort year (ie Year 6 in 2007/08) through to Key Stage 5 (KS5) in 2014/15. We tracked pupils wherever they went, as long as they stayed in England.

Performance at KS2 often does not equate to success at KS4

We found that there was only a weak correlation between a primary school’s performance at KS2 and the performance of their pupils at KS4. We compared the percentage of pupils in each primary school achieving the expected standard at KS2[2] against the percentage of pupils from that primary school achieving the expected standard at KS4[3].  In statistical terms, at the school to school level, about 20% of the variation in the cohorts’ outcomes at KS4 can be explained by their feeder schools KS2 outcomes.

You can see this in the diagram below.

Mime blog diagram 1Each dot represents a primary school in Southwark. The solid line across the middle shows the best line of fit with the data.  It shows two important results:

  • It was harder to achieve the expected standard at KS4 than at KS2. This will have changed along with the revision in expected standards defined by the DfE since these cohorts
  • Many of the dots are quite far away from the line of best fit. We explore this further below.

Huge variation in outcomes between feeder schools and secondary schools attended

From a secondary school perspective, there is a huge variation in outcomes between feeder primary schools. This diagram shows attainment of the expected standard at KS4 of the primary schools pupils for one secondary school in Southwark:

Mime blog diagram 2

The same is true for primary schools. There is a wide range of outcomes depending on the secondary school attended.

These differences cannot always be explained by the prior attainment of the primary school. We found that many of the highest performing schools at KS2 had lower KS4 achievement than the lowest performing primaries.

Mime blog diagram 3

It is important to note that these results won’t be true of every primary and secondary school. Nevertheless, there are some interesting messages here and it provides a useful starting point for discussion between primary and secondary school heads.

Understanding the reasons

We are in the early stages of exploring with schools what is behind these findings. We believe that the reasons might include the following:

  • Embedding of learning – Some primary schools are good at getting their pupils over the threshold for the test at KS2 but the learning is not embedded. So as the child progresses through secondary school, they are unable to keep up with the increasing expectations. We found clear trends for this in school cohorts in both English and maths
  • Transition support – There is better transition support between some primary and secondary schools, particularly where there is an established route between the schools. We found that outcomes improved from 55% to 69% achieving the expected standard at KS4 when the cohort of pupils moving together increased from 1 to 11 or more
  • Compatibility of teaching methods – There may be issues of compatibility of curriculum or teaching methods between some primary and secondary schools
  • Disadvantaged pupils – the challenging circumstances of many disadvantaged families in the schools we looked at makes it hard to sustain good outcomes through secondary. Our initial investigation found that for disadvantaged pupils, primary outcomes were a less good indicator of secondary outcomes than they were for other pupils.

In partnership with STSA we plan to do further sessions with schools to explore these findings in more detail. We hope to draw out any lessons of best practice that can be shared. The analysis continues to be a useful tool to encourage dialogue between primary and secondary schools with the aim of improving the combined outcomes.

Find out more

For more information, please visit the Mime Consulting website here  or to talk about how we can support your primary or secondary school, or schools in your local authority or area, please contact us at .

[1] The Data Controller of NPD is the Department for Education (DfE). The DfE does not accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the NPD Data by third parties

[2] For the cohorts studied, the DfE’s expected standard at KS2 was to achieve Level 4C or above. This was later changed to 4B and subsequently to scaled scores but in 2008 was as shown.

[3] For the cohorts studied, the DfE’s expected standard at KS4 was to achieve 5 or more A*-C grade at GCSE including English and maths. This was later changed to Progress 8 but in 2012/13 was as shown.

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With Christmas a mere five days away and the cold starting to bite, it’s hard to believe we were having a late summer heatwave on those first few days of term in September. A lot has happened since then – both in Southwark and the world outside – and, as is traditional at this time of year, I thought it worth a quick look back on the autumn term that was.


Since taking up post in September, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting primary, secondary and special schools across the borough and beyond (as indicated by the stars on the map). I am very grateful to the headteachers who have welcomed me and shared the many exciting things going on in their schools. An important task in the months ahead is to ensure we become more effective in identifying, signposting and spreading excellent practice wherever it is found, so that it impacts on as many learners as possible. If there’s something good going on in your school you’d like to share, please get in touch.

Other highlights of the term include:

Initial Teacher Training

  • Our Schools Direct partnership, led by John Donne, doing better than the national average (of 30,000 places awarded from 65,000 bid) to secure 18 of the 25 places they requested for trainees this year

Continuing Professional Development and Leadership Development

  • Launch of a new Middle Leaders’ Programme, being offered in partnership with UCL/IOE
  • Holding the first two of seven sessions in our second cycle of Leading Impact – NPQSL, run in partnership with Ambition School Leadership (formerly The Future Leaders Trust)
  • Securing money from the NCTL Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund to launch two programmes for female leaders; one for serving heads and executive heads exploring Headship Beyond One School, and the other for Senior Leaders contemplating their next steps towards headship
  • Shorter courses led by our Specialist Leaders of Education (SLE) on fabulous phonics, spelling in the new curriculum and pupil wellbeing, among others

School-to-school support

  • SLEs using their expertise to provide bespoke support to schools in Southwark, Smethwick and Uganda in topics ranging from phonics to SEND to school business management
  • Ongoing success of our pilot peer review cluster, with a second round of visits prompting detailed scrutiny, deep thinking and development of improvement plans in areas identified by hosting headteachers
  • Working with Mime and Southwark Council to give all Southwark primary schools access to data about how their pupils do at secondary school
  • Our first headteacher hot topic session, considering collective approaches to recruitment and retention, with key proposals being taken forward by Southwark Council

Research and development

  • Being one of only 11 schools/TSAs accepted (from 158 who bid) for funding as part of the workload challenge. The money will support a project involving 8 schools to examine the impact on pupil outcomes and teacher workload of dropping written marking in favour of verbal feedback
  • Continuation of the Connecting Knowledge Project with UCL/IOE and nine schools in Lambeth and Southwark – using Lesson Study to explore strategies to raise attainment in writing for disadvantaged children

Huge thanks to all the schools in our alliance who have contributed to such a successful autumn term. I look forward to working with you to widen and deepen our partnership and impact on pupil outcomes in 2017.

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After a whirlwind seven weeks as the new Director of Southwark Teaching School Alliance (STSA), half term offers a moment to pause and reflect. The questions at the forefront of my mind were posed recently by a new-to-Southwark headteacher who asked what STSA is and where it fits in the wider Southwark landscape. The answers are beginning to take shape.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) defines teaching schools as:

“outstanding schools that work with others to provide high-quality training and development to new and experienced school staff. They are part of the government’s plan to give schools a central role in raising standards by developing a self-improving and sustainable school-led system”.

There are two of these at the heart of Southwark Teaching School Alliance: Charles Dickens Primary School and Crampton Primary School.

NCTL goes on to explain how “teaching school alliances are led by a teaching school and include schools that are benefiting from support, as well as strategic partners [which may include other schools, universities, multi-academy trusts, diocese, local authorities and private sector organisations] who lead some aspects of training and development”.

In reality, every teaching school alliance is organised and operates differently. All commit to delivering the “big 3” – initial teacher training (ITT), continuing professional development (CPD), and school-to-school support, with research a strand that runs throughout. But how they do so is a matter for them.

Within STSA, ITT takes the form of a salaried Schools Direct partnership led by John Donne Primary School and a non-salaried scheme based at Crampton Primary School. CPD for teachers, teaching assistants, and business and support staff is led by Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs) drawn from seven schools across the borough. Leadership development programmes are provided in partnership with the UCL Institute of Education and The Future Leaders Trust. School-to-school support takes a variety of forms, from structured peer reviews using a model developed by the Education Development Trust, to consultancy from our three National Leaders of Education (NLEs) and 13 SLEs, to termly sessions where headteachers can work together on issues of common interest (our next being on recruitment and retention). Over time we expect all strands to be underpinned by and/or contribute to research into what drives the most effective practice.

What we do at STSA provides only part of the answer to the question of what STSA is; the other parts come from understanding why and how we do what we do. The answer to why lies in our vision of:

“a community where every child and young person is nurtured and challenged to flourish in all aspects of their life – academic, cultural, personal and social”.

It is about development of the whole child, through excellence across the whole curriculum and all aspects of school life. It is about impact on children’s and young people’s life chances.

How we go about doing that is described in our mission, which is:

“To build a strong community of impactful teachers and leaders based on the sharing and development of practitioner excellence and evidence-based practice”.

That sense of “community” and “sharing” in our mission, and “alliance” in our name is crucial; it is about doing with, not doing to. Our strategic leads shape our areas of focus, but they do not have all the answers. STSA will only succeed if it continues to bring together a wide range of schools to develop and improve alongside each other, drawing on expertise that already exists in schools across the borough, and creating new best practice through purposeful collaboration. Ultimately, STSA is whatever those schools who engage in the alliance make it.

The answer to where STSA fits within the wider Southwark landscape is, for now, less clear – largely because that landscape is itself evolving. In the short-term we are working with the council, as well as schools, to ensure that between us we cater coherently for the needs of Southwark learners, schools and their staff. Beyond that, we look forward to playing our part in shaping the landscape of the future, realising fully our potential to provide a forum for collaboration and action that strengthens and benefits all Southwark schools and the children and young people they serve.

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Journal club

Journal Club!

This week we hosted our first journal club at Charles Dickens Primary School.  We looked at ‘The Relationship Between Student Engagement and Academic Performance: Is it Myth or Reality?’ by Jung-Sook Lee.  The session sparked lots of lively debate as Jemima Rhys Evans (Lead Practitioner at Charles Dickens Primary School) guided us in groups to reflect on the paper and it’s relevance to our current teaching practices.

We are excited to be now be opening journal club up to all schools in the alliance.  If you would like to join us in journal club, please let us know by email

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lesson study

Lesson Study Project – STSA and the IOE

On 12th October a group of six schools came together to begin an exciting research project. The project involved taking the lesson study approach to CPD and educational research (which originated in Japan) and applying this in six different schools.

What is lesson study?

Lesson study is a research and development process led by a research theme. Through repeated cycles of research, planning, teaching, observation and discussion, it focuses on improving teacher ability to anticipate students’ learning approaches, problems and solutions.

What does the research tell us about the likely benefits of lesson study?

  • Increased knowledge of subject matter
  • Increased knowledge of instruction;
  • Increased ability to observe students;
  • Stronger collegial networks;
  • Stronger connection of daily practice to long term goals;
  • Stronger motivation and sense of efficacy;
  • Improved quality of available lesson plans.

Lewis C (1995) Educating hearts and minds

The current STSA project involves a range of types of Southwark schools including a special school and both primary and secondary. So far we have had our initial meeting and will be meeting in late November to receive training and confirm our research themes for the project. At the end of the academic year we will be sharing our findings.

If you would like to know more about our project, or to get involved in lesson study yourself, please email

The schools involved in the project are:

Dulwich College Junior School,

Dulwich College

Cherry Garden School

Charles Dickens Primary School

Crampton Primary School

Cathedral Primary School


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