Teachers need to talk
Early results from trials in 25 schools suggest teachers could improve their own skills by popping into colleagues' lessons for a few minutes to see how things are done down the corridor.
The study, looking at the best ways to share good practice, is being carried out by members of the leadership network of the National College for School Leadership.
Ray Tarleton, national leadership network co-ordinator and principal of South Dartmoor community college, said: "I assumed teachers had been talking to each other and were picking up best practice. After all we have had training days and departmental meetings.
"But when you probe deeply, you find people are not aware of some techniques which their colleagues are using."
His college is running a project which records short sections of lessons.
These video clips, which can be as short as one minute, are edited onto a CD-Rom with a commentary from the teacher.
At 405-pupil Holmes Chapel primary, near Crewe, all teachers have a Teacher Buddy, a colleague with whom they can discuss problems and aims in their job.
The headteacher Phil Rowbotham said: "It is important to develop a culture at the school where everybody is seen as learners, that everybody has something they need to learn.
"When people identify areas where they need support, they may then look for courses or consultants.
"But the answer can often lie within their own school, among teachers who are doing the job every day."
The research has been prompted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2000 study which found in England's largely comprehensive system that there is a greater range of achievement between pupils at the same school than there is between different schools.
Four ways of reducing variation within schools are being piloted in the project: learning from colleagues, ensuring there is a standard way of using children's performance data, fitting the curriculum to children's needs and the management skills of heads of department or subject co-ordinators.
Headteachers who would like to join the NCSL Leadership Network should log on to www.ncsl.org.uk leadershipnetwork