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Our Approach

#215 Norfolk Subject Lead Cooperative

Norwich Opportunity Area Team (written case study) and Alexandra Dyer, Head of French and MFL Lead Norfolk Subject Leads Cooperative, Notre Dame High School (video case study)

What did we do?

Reciprocal subject mentoring and support by specialist teachers between schools provides a valuable opportunity for CPD. A cooperative model is effective in giving schools and colleges the opportunity to provide and receive school improvement support and access a professional learning community. Key stage 5 standards tend to remain in line with the national average, but too many students achieve fewer A level A*-C grades than their peers nationally and too few students progress to HE, including to the most competitive universities. Building on a previous DFE Strategic School Improvement Fund KS5 project, Norfolk County Council and Educate Norfolk continued and extended an adapted version of this work within Norwich, to also include FE and KS4 provision. The original project aimed to raise A level attainment, progress and results across Norfolk, with a simple model of utilising existing KS5 excellence to provide targeted school to school support. Lead teachers in a range of key stage 4 and 5 subjects participated in a co-operative model to share expertise and support across a group of schools and colleges.

I would definitely recommend this project, it’s had such a great response from so many colleagues who have worked with us and who have wanted to participate. This participation has not happened just with specific school support but also with wider collaborative meetings where we’ve discussed subject specific issues.

Alexandra Dyer, Head of French and MFL Lead Norfolk Subject Leads Cooperative, Notre Dame High School

Summary of impact

Subject Lead teacher networks are well-established and consist of 61 Subject Lead teachers covering 30 major subject areas, deployable in any Norwich Opportunity Area (NOA) or Norfolk school or college. Leads are currently actively supporting and developing provision in 9 subject areas and 6 NOA schools are receiving support with individual subject action plans. Engagement with networks remained strong during Covid-19 disruption and 89 NOA teachers attended one or more of the 51 subject meetings during March – December 2020. Individual subject action plans reported positive impact following the support received and provisional, unverified local authority data suggests an apparent improvement in results.

Subject Lead network meetings continue and show no sign of slowing down with dates planned for future meetings and a continuing model of school to school improvement via Subject Leads supporting their peers.

Steps taken

Norfolk County Council led and delivered the project alongside Educate Norfolk, with a small amount of funding from the NOA team for 2019-20 & 2020-21. Training, development and deployment of a large pool of active, vetted Subject Lead Teachers covering most mainstream subjects at KS3-5, and willing support teachers and departments in any NOA participating school, or City College Norwich.

Each school or college joining the cooperative nominated one or more Lead Teachers and in return were able to receive free specialist support in up to four other subjects. Subject Leads were selected by Norfolk County Council, identified as strong practitioners, with a recommendation report and formal interview and were trained by EASTA. Ongoing training, support and monitoring was provided to Leads by the NCC Project Lead. Subject Leads completed half termly school visits to build subject specific action plans devised to improve teaching and learning.

Following Covid-19 disruption, the cooperative continued to facilitate half termly subject lead network meetings online, sharing resources and solutions to improve outcomes. Some networks were participant driven and continued to support each other through more frequent contact. During the first lockdown, 2,400 subject resources were shared between schools. The project continued to recruit new Norfolk Subject Lead applicants with 61 practitioners involved (at December 2020). Two new subject projects were established in 2019-20, to support under-performing/-recruiting/-achieving KS5 subjects. These were being trialled in Health & Social Care and Biology with a series of online and face to face workshops.

What would we do differently

With Covid-19 adaptions to the project it became apparent that appetite for online meetings was strong and far outweighed that for face to face meetings, even when possible, post-lockdown. Subject teachers valued the support provided throughout the pandemic and the opportunity to share challenges within their subject area, across Norfolk and between Trusts.

Key ingredients were high levels of trust and goodwill from schools, the local authority and school support organisations, supported by existing teacher networks.


The cooperative provides a model for schools and colleges to nominate Subject Leads in return for free support.


Norwich Opportunity Area Team
Alexandra Dyer, Head of French and MFL Lead Norfolk Subject Leads Cooperative

Notre Dame High School, Surrey Street

Norwich, Norfolk