School improvement. It’s somewhat of a disparaging term. At least, many see it that way. As if needing or seeking help from an outside agency to support progress and development belittles you. Well, it doesn’t. In fact, how many people use coaches and mentors to help improve themselves as they strive for excellence? From sport to business, people in all walks of life look for guidance and support. It helps to have a professional keeping you accountable. Effectively, it’s an objective second set of eyes to make sure you’re on track to meet your targets and succeed. That’s what a school improvement partner brings to the table.
As a school improvement consultant, I work in close partnership with Headteachers to build systems that drive continuous school improvement. These systems also ensure the schools I consult with consistently meet the requirements of the Independent School Standards. It’s not solely about being Ofsted-ready or achieving good outcomes from Ofsted inspections (although this is the yardstick for success). My job is to be that second set of eyes. That mentor and motivator.
In short, I work closely with educators to make sure they’re doing the best by their pupils.
Who Is Ellen Mukwewa?
When you form a relationship with someone, when you’re able to connect with them and create a shared understanding, the results of your work are far more fruitful.
This belief transcends the classroom, where good interpersonal relationships are the foundation of great learning.
Whatever you do, wherever you go, being able to relate to people, empathise, and communicate effectively provides the foundation for ongoing success.
That’s why I’d like to formally introduce myself.
I’m Ellen Mukwewa, School Improvement Partner, Director and Consultant at Marell Consulting Ltd.
I am a specialist consultant focused on delivering school improvement solutions for independent schools that are inspected by Ofsted. And I’ve been doing so since I founded Marell Consulting in 2012.
Interestingly, I never set out to become a school improvement partner. Which is usually the way of things. I always dreamt of becoming a Pharmacist or a Physiotherapist. Yet instead, I became a Chemistry Teacher. And after a somewhat varied career within education, I now help schools improve their delivery approach in line with Ofsted guidelines, to ensure positive outcomes during inspections.
More specifically, I work with schools both pre- and post-inspection.
Before inspections, I help prepare schools by building and embedding systems that make it easy to continuously improve the quality of education. This is the ‘prevention’ approach.
For schools who’ve had unfavourable inspection outcomes, I’m usually called in to develop the methodology and coach and support schools through the strategies for improvement in the areas outlined by the inspection report. This is the ‘cure’ approach.
Of course, prevention is always preferable to cure. However, there’s always room for improvement.
An Experienced School Improvement Partner
I could go into great detail about my experience and qualifications here. But that can all be found on my LinkedIn profile.
Instead, here’s a line from Roy T. Bennett’s The Light in the Heart which rings true for me personally, whilst also having wider implications within the work that I do:
“No matter how much experience you have, there’s always something new you can learn and room for improvement.” Roy T. Bennett
I have taught all around the world. And I have always endeavoured to learn from, and alongside, those I have taught. Those experiences have served me well. They have led me to where I am today, working in Quality Improvement and as a School Improvement Consultant since 2010.
In that time, it’s fair to say, that every school I’ve worked with has been different. Each one with its unique set of needs and circumstances. All requiring improvement. Whether they’re ‘Good’, or not.
Because improvement is an ongoing process, not an end. By any means.
In my experience, all a school needs to improve, is someone to help them develop a robust continuous improvement system, an internal “driver” to lead implementation and a critical friend to hold them to account and ensure that they are making improvements.
Teachers are busy teaching. Leaders are busy leading. As a school improvement partner, I provide an external and objective view of the landscape. From the outside looking in, it’s easier for me to audit and identify the gaps. Without the pressure of running a school, I have the time to devise the quality assurance checks, evidence collection and monitoring procedures. But, more importantly, my role is to provide staff with ongoing support and mentoring. I offer the accountability that’s needed to change habits and embed strategies. It’s not simply about helping schools turn things around. It’s about putting the systems in place that will allow them to build for continuing future success.
As a school improvement partner, I no longer want school improvement to have negative associations. It’s not only for education providers who have ‘failed’ inspection.
School improvement is ultimately a drive for better education, for all.