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School improvement at Anthem

The Anthem School Improvement Strategy is our approach to monitoring, evaluating, supporting and challenging our schools to secure the best possible outcomes for our children and young people.

How does it work?

Our School Improvement Strategy is implemented collaboratively between school leaders and Education Directors. The process is both iterative and responsive to the needs of our schools. The cycle begins in the Autumn term when Education Directors and school leaders work together to review the schools’ overall effectiveness, based on robust school self-evaluation. The outcome is an annual school summary, which captures strengths and areas for development. This supports effective school development planning and informs the work of the Trust in providing support to our schools.

By far the most significant part of this joint work is what we call a ‘Gateway Assessment’ - a conversation designed to highlight and agree what support schools need, and what the desired impact of that support will be.

The Gateway offers schools three levels of support:

The Core Programme

The Core Programme has been created by schools and the Trust together – all our schools contribute to and benefit from the Core Programme. It offers a range of challenge and support for school leaders, and signposts to peer support and resource, as well as the capacity and expertise employed by the trust to support schools. The Core Programme is vast, and includes the professional development offer to our schools, as well as our Professional Learning Networks.

The Development Programme

In addition to the Core Programme, schools may have identified particular areas for development and can access additional support and quality assurance on the Development Programme to support improvement. This additional quality assurance and/or support is over and above the Core Programme and may include capacity and expertise beyond the trust. We discuss and agree this during the ‘Gateway Assessment’ in order to be assured of the quality and impact of school resource in relation to development planning. The development programme can be commissioned or brokered by the Headteacher, or by the Education Director, but will be funded by the school.

Targeted Support

In addition to the Core Programme and the support noted in the Development Programme, schools identified as needing Targeted Support will be able to receive additional interventions, support and quality assurance. This will be commissioned or brokered by the Education Director, and a discussion will be had with the Headteacher to agree how this work will be funded. This gives us the opportunity to add significant value to schools and harness the wider capacity of the trust to secure rapid improvements where needed.

What other support is on offer?

Support for all schools in their ongoing improvement is provided by the Anthem School Improvement Team. Led by Anthem’s Education Directors, this group of talented individuals have a track record of exceptional practice in their own school or cluster. 

The School Improvement Team are responsible for the coordination, facilitation, development, monitoring and evaluation of:

  • Targeted support for schools and school improvement provision through the Core and Development programmes

  • The work of the Professional Learning Networks (PLNs), Lead Learners and specialist school improvement teams

  • Coaching, mentoring and wellbeing strategies

  • The approach to developing teachers and leaders and talent management

  • The interface with professional partners including Kyra Research School, LIfE, Chartered College and others

Click on the links below to find out more about our specialist school improvement support teams and initiatives.

Primary PLNs and Lead Learners

Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) are practitioner-led collaborative networks facilitated by selected teachers that focus on first-hand experience and research-driven practice. Their core purpose is to improve the skills and knowledge of the members through collaborative study and enquiry, expertise exchange, and professional dialogue. The PLN leaders work closely with the Anthem School Improvement Team ensuring that the focus aligns with Trust and regional improvement priorities.

Each region has a team of seconded Lead Learners who are strategically deployed by the Education Directors to drive school improvement. The Education Directors and School Improvement Team work collaboratively with one another to review, monitor and evaluate the impact of Lead Learners against agreed development priorities.

Secondary PLNs and Lead Learners

We have a wide range of Professional Learning Networks which are used as a tool for driving and sharing best practice in pedagogy, assessment and curriculum planning across our schools. Each of these networks is run by a Professional Learning Network Lead (PLNLs) who facilitates regular meetings with Heads of Department and provides bespoke support for individuals when needed. All our PLNLs are excellent teachers, with a wealth of experience and knowledge in their subject area. 

We also employ Lead Learners in Assessment, Geography and Science. Alongside working in their home schools, these expert practitioners spend one to two days per week working on the strategic development of key areas in our schools.

Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs)

SLEs are outstanding middle and senior leaders with a particular area of expertise and the skills to develop the leadership capacity of colleagues in similar positions in other schools. SLEs have a track record of relevant and successful leadership expertise in their own or other schools to draw upon, and support will be based on a coaching approach. Improvement is through discussion, asking the right questions and seeking solutions together.

There are a number of primary and secondary SLEs already designated within Trust schools, either via KYRA or other Teaching Schools local to Trust schools. These SLEs may be deployed within or outside the Trust. Brokerage for support is conducted between the leadership of the school seeking support and the SLE’s affiliated Teaching School. 

Pedagogy Assessment and Curriculum Group (PAC Group)

This is a group formed of Anthem’s strongest secondary senior leaders, who work together to design and implement an ambitious research-informed vision and approach to curriculum design, pedagogy and assessment. This year, the group has used shared reading, peer-to-peer school visits and reviews, and termly meetings to design co-constructed pillars of effective pedagogy, assessment and curriculum.

During the recent coronavirus lockdown, the group used the pillars to design a collaborative approach to remote education. Together, they have designed lesson and feedback structures, CPD packages, and quality assurance mechanisms. The group will continue to collaborate during 2020-21 on a collaborative Anthem-wide approach to blended learning and the recovery curriculum.


Working in an Anthem school means you have a wider network of colleagues to call upon for support, advice and challenge.

Vicki briody, headteacher, abacus belsize primary school