School Improvement Partnership Programme: Using collaboration and enquiry to tackle educational inequality

The School Improvement Partnership Programme (SIPP) in Scotland was a three-year project undertaken between 2013-15 across eight national partnerships (including 14 local authorities and over 50 schools).

The SIPP model was characterised by developing sustainable school networks, underpinned by Collaborative Action Research (CAR). The Programme involved the Robert Owen Centre research team working with practitioners, local government, Education Scotland and their learning communities to empower their ability to use a range of research methods to generate knowledge and evidence to tackle educational inequity. The approach was grounded in international evidence and experience about improving outcomes for children and young people by changing teachers’ practice and building leadership capacity through professional learning and collaboration (e.g. Chapman et al., 2016; Ainscow, 2015).

The SIPP programmes involved a process of collaborative inquiry that created leadership opportunities and professional learning. A key feature of the SIPP was the support provided by the Robert Owen Centre for Educational Change (ROC) and associate colleagues at the Glasgow University to evaluate and build practitioners’ capacity to conduct collaborative enquiry. The University of Glasgow researchers worked with Education Scotland and local authorities to broker and facilitate partnerships within and across schools across the participating Scottish local authorities.

The evaluation of the SIPP adopted a number of interlinked quantitative and qualitative methods including: longitudinal surveys; in depth interviews and accounts of practice; secondary analysis of partnerships’ own data, materials and reports on progress and impact and Social Network Analysis (SNA) to map and illuminate the structure and nature of SIPP networks.

The evaluation of the SIPP found that the programme had a positive impact on teachers and students in participating schools, including tackling the attainment gap (Chapman et al 2016). Progress and impact was most evident in those partnerships that were able to adapt and apply the principles and core concepts underpinning the programme to their own context.

The programme made a significant contribution to the design and thinking of the National school self-evaluation process (How Good is our School 4) and the Scottish Attainment Challenge, the principles of SIPP underpin the Networked Improvement Community within the Challenge. Since 2016, the approach has been developed by ROC into the Network for Social & Educational Equity (NSEE), which is currently being deployed across a number of local authorities and is informing approaches in other countries including Chile.

PI and Co-PIs

PI - Prof Chris Chapman - University of Glasgow, School of Education

Co-PIs - Kevin LowdenStuart Hall - University of Glasgow, School of Education

Researchers: Hannah Chestnutt, Prof. Stephen McKinney, Niamh Friel and Moira Hulme


Start and End date

2013 - 2015


Funder and Funding amount

Funder: Scottish Government

Amount: £180,000


Related Publications

Chapman, C. (2018) School-to-school collaboration: building collective capacity through collaborative enquiry.In: Connolly, M., Eddy-Spicer, D. H., James, C. and Kruse, S. D. (eds.) The SAGE Handbook of School Organization.SAGE Publications Ltd: London, pp. 540-561. ISBN 9781526420664

Chapman, C., Chestnutt, H., Friel, N., Hall, S. and Lowden, K. (2017) Taking the lead: teachers leading educational reform through collaborative enquiry in Scotland. In: Harris, A., Jones, M. and Huffman, J. B. (eds.) Teachers Leading Educational Reform: The Power of Professional Learning Communities. Series: Teacher quality and school development series. Routledge: Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY, pp. 11-31. ISBN 9781138641051         

Chapman, C. , Lowden, K., Chestnutt, H., Hall, S., McKinney, S. and Friel, N. (2016) The School Improvement Partnership Programme: Sustaining Collaboration and Enquiry to Tackle Educational Inequity. Project Report. Education Scotland, Livingston.

Chapman, C. (2016) Networking for educational equity: rethinking improvement within, between and beyond schools. In: Harris, A. and Jones, M. S. (eds.) Leading futures: global perspectives on educational leadership.Sage: Los Angeles ; London ; New Delhi ; Singapore ; Washington DC, pp. 148-155. ISBN 9789351502555

Chapman, C., Chestnutt, H., Friel, N., Hall, S. and Lowden, K. (2016) Professional capital and collaborative inquiry networks for educational equity and improvement? Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 1(3), pp. 178-197. (doi:10.1108/JPCC-03-2016-0007)

Chapman, C. , Lowden, K., Chestnutt, H., Hall, S., McKinney, S. , Hulme, M. and Friel, N. (2015) The School Improvement Partnership Programme: Using Collaboration and Enquiry to tackle Educational Inequity. Project Report. Education Scotland, Livingston.

Chapman, C. , Lowden, K., Chestnutt, H., Hall, S., McKinney, S. , Hulme, M. and Watters, N. (2014) Research on the Impact of the School Improvement Partnership Programme: Using Collaboration and Enquiry to Tackle Educational Inequity. Phase 1 Report to Education Scotland. Project Report. Education Scotland, Livingston

Chapman, C. , Lowden, K., Chestnutt, H., Hall, S., McKinney, S. and Hulme, M. (2014) Research on the Impact of the School Improvement Partnership Programme: Interim Report. Project Report. Education Scotland, Livingston.


Project News

The programme has made a significant contribution to the design and thinking of the National school self evaluation process (How Good is our School 4) and the Attainment Challenge, the principles of SIPP underpin the Networked Improvement Community within the Challenge and Chapman has been seconded into Scottish Government as the Senior Academic Advisor to the Challenge. This role has involved offering professional advice on educational policy directly to the First Minister.

The OECD Review of Scotland’s Education system (2015) cited the SIPP report.

Media coverage of SIPP in TESS, e.g:

https://www.tes.com/news/equity-greatest-challenge-our-time