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Investors in schools

One in three schools in the UK has the Investors in People standard. Altogether, more than 20,000 organisations, covering almost 25 per cent of the workforce, come under the IiP banner. Its work is carried out by assessors supplied through the regional learning and skills councils (formerly training and enterprise councils). According to assessors, 70 per cent of companies that receive the standard improve their productivity. And 94 per cent of employees are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 37 per cent in businesses lacking the standard.

Businesses are evaluated against 12 indicators of good practice, a "health check" that forms the basis of an action plan. In school these translate into six basic principles: a commitment to supporting the development of all staff; a clear and shared sense of direction and purpose understood by everybody; school development planning focused on raising pupil achievement; a wide range of staff learning and development activities related to the school's goals and individual professional development; opportunities for staff to work towards recognised qualifications; and evaluation of the benefit for staff and pupils.

Ruth Spellman, chief executive of IiP, stresses that it is not prescriptive, but supports diversity and the individual ways schools and businesses choose to achieve their goals. "There is a good business case for the standard. Anything that helps schools to recruit and retain staff has to be advantageous, especially with current teacher shortages."

Remarkably, IiP says there is little paperwork involved, because assessors can gain evidence for the standard by studying existing paperwork and talking to staff. Schools, IiP says, don't have to work harder; they just have to be smarter. Assessors cost around pound;500 a day, and three days is usually adequate for one school.

Organisations have to be assessed every three years to retain the standard, but some schools call in assessors every year for feedback as part of their annual planning cycle. Bishop Barrington, an 11 to 16 secondary in Bishop Auckland, was one of the first schools to take on the standard, and has gone through the process three times. Set in a former mining community, the school was suffering from falling rolls and poor staff morale. But deputy head Bruce Guthrie says investing in staff development and focusing on classroom practice has helped to turn things round. In his annual report last year, the chief inspector of schools named it as one of the most improving schools. "It's just good to get the feedback and it's not bureaucratic," says Mr Guthrie. "We just say to the assessor 'go in and talk to who you want to'.'" Investors in People UK is a public body with 40 per cent of funding from the Department for Education and Skills.

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