Collaboration and partnership working are essential components of the academies and free schools programme. Over 50% of academies are in multi-academy trusts and a Department for Education report last year showed that 87% of academies support other schools. The department has also supported collaboration through the development of system leaders, enabling the best school leaders to drive improvement.
The department has implemented the Teaching Schools programme, with 644 teaching schools as of 21 May 2015. Since 2011, when the Teaching Schools programme began, £100m has been committed to developing the Teaching Schools network. Teaching schools are required to establish alliances of schools with which they work directly to provide school based initial teacher training, school-to-school support, research and development activity, and continuous professional development.
The department has also grown the number of National Leaders of Education (NLEs) from 470 in 2010 to 1040 as of 21 May 2015. NLEs are outstanding leaders who support other schools in challenging circumstances to improve. Each NLE receives a £6,000 annual bursary which covers the costs their school incurs in providing collaborative support to underperforming schools.
The department also introduced a School-to-School Support Fund in September 2014. The School-to-School Support Fund provides grant funding for teaching schools and NLEs to support school improvement by working with underperforming schools in the areas of greatest need through specific time-limited interventions.