By Susan Crisp from the Greater London Authority
I could almost hear the superhero movie music swirling around the London Living Room at City Hall as the heroes and heroines of London’s education debated the merits and problems of working through hub models.
Overall the schools and projects at the GLA/London Leadership Strategy conference in January embrace hubs as a dynamic and flexible model to deliver school improvement.
HUB (noun) – The centre of activity or a focal point
There is no one agreed definition of a hub. However, based on the London Schools Excellence Fund projects activity it seems that hubs are based around a lead school or a number of lead schools who are working with and lead a wider partnership or network of schools.
Hubs also work with other hubs to deliver programmes of professional development for teachers. The project can be led by a school, a teaching schools alliance or another non–school body.
Hub Power though can vary from place to place and time to time but there are some key elements which need to be secured as the baseline for success. These were neatly summed up by Professor David Woods as:
- What are the agreed shared values and principles?
- What is the over-arching purpose?
- What is the organisational structures and who leads on particular activities?
- What are the agreed success criteria?
- When and how is progress to be reviewed and who is accountable?
- Who is the progress chaser and expediter?
- Have the success and best practice been communicated?
Hubs models have also been around a while; sometimes called hub and spoke or hub and network or any other variation. It is not new or unique but it is a model that is being used a lot at the moment in education.
Nationally there are the maths hubs and the music hubs and outside London there are some language hubs. Within the LSEF there are at least 22 projects using a hub model. All of these projects run several hubs, they collaborate and share their knowledge; hub to hub.
Some key themes from the roundtable discussions on aims, strengths and challenges:
- Getting to delivery and action (not a talking shop).
- Getting collaboration to work (you have to put something in to get something out).
- Need to build hub-to-hub activity (networks but mature/immature hubs/clusters).
- Takes time to identify and get partners on board.
- Knowledge transfer and evidence of impact is difficult.
- Hubs do need resourcing to be effective/efficient.
- Opportunities for delivery of a wide range of programmes at scale.
- Building capacity and outward looking, linking hubs together and mapping activity.
- Part of school improvement and performance development.
None of this is easy work. As Professor Sir George Berwick pointed out, education focused hubs are at the edge of emerging effective innovation. Delivery activity can change very fast and is ahead of any research reports. However, there is still a responsibility to evaluate activity and understand what has and has not worked in delivering the hub. The GLA will be evaluating hub models as a cross-cutting theme of the LSEF.
To echo Professor Woods; we are calling on all hub leaders (aka education super heroes) to write a case study about their hub and share this through LondonEd and other networks.
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