Cardiff Education: Collaboration and Federation Strategy



A new approach to delivering education in Cardiff could see more schools working together through formal collaboration and federation, to deliver a highly effective and sustainable education system.

If agreed by Cardiff Council's Cabinet, theCollaboration and Federation Strategywouldprovide a framework to encourage more schools to come together through collaborative working, building on the achievements and success of partnership arrangements and formal federations already operating effectively across the city.

Research and practice has demonstrated the benefits of collaborations, federations, and other arrangements where schools are brought together to deliver education. This has included the ESTYN thematic review (2019) and the Federation Process of Maintained Schools Guidance for Local Authorities and Schools (2023) which critically considered the research and concluded the following key benefits:

  • Strong strategic leadership, governance and management structures to focus on teaching, learning and raising standards
  • Broader learning and social experiences for learners
  • Attractive recruitment opportunities and retention of staff
  • New opportunities for staff to work together, increasing motivation, reducing workload through shared planning and activities
  • The sharing of resources
  • Shared responsibilities and accountabilities for children across communities
  • Extended services across schools and a variety of activities, childcare, parent support and community access supporting community cohesion and helping to sustain education provision

TheCollaboration and Federation Strategywould build on this evidence using the experience and knowledge of Cardiff Council and Central South Consortium (CSC) professionals, and headteachers who are skilled in collaborative working and that have a demonstrable ability to lead high-quality teaching and learning organisations. It recognises the role of strong leadership and governance in advancing educational outcomes for children and families, harnessing the skills and experience of Cardiff's most talented education leaders and highly capable governors.

The strategy also supports the Council's Stronger Fairer Greener' commitments and meets the aspirations set out in the Cardiff 2030 vision, where all children and young people in Cardiff experience high-quality education and develop the knowledge, skills and attributes that enable them to become personally successful, and globally-engaged citizens.

Cardiff Council Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas said:"We are already working with partners across Cardiff to make sure that children and young people are benefitting from the advantages that only growing up in a capital city can bring, including access to an extensive range of leisure, sporting, and cultural opportunities across our city.

"This strategy sets out the future shape of education and would deliver the principles of Cardiff 2030. We are committed to working towards an education offer that ensures the best possible quality of learning opportunities for pupils through a consistent, sustainable, pattern of fit-for-purpose schools which provide opportunities for all learners to achieve high standards and contribute to community development, social inclusion and economic prosperity across the city."

If progressed, the strategy would address challenges faced by schools in the current climate and for the future, including;

  • Recruitment and retention challenges
  • Additional Learning Needs (ALN)  demand
  • Inequality of provision - including access to Welsh medium education and post 16
  • Wellbeing and mental health of young people
  • Financial instability with an increasing number of schools facing budget challenges
  • Insufficient use of facilities across the education estate
  • Demographic changes
  • Education estate - that is in poor condition and inefficient to run with high carbon use


Cllr Thomas added; "Cardiff is clear that strong leadership and governance are critical to preserve and advance educational outcomes for children and that senior leaders and governors contribute to embedding positive behaviour cultures in schools through shared visions and values.  We are fortunate to have a range of highly capable leaders and governors along with strong emerging talent across our education workforce, all of whom have demonstrated their ability to deliver positive outcomes for our learners along with a firm commitment to inclusive practice."

Cllr Sarah Merry, Deputy Leader & Cabinet Member for Educationsaid: "Over the past decade Cardiff has worked with schools and partners to deliver sustained improvement in the quality and effectiveness of our education system. We are closer than ever before to making every school a good school, with strong inspection outcomes, education attainment above the national average and the roll-out of the Sustainable Communities for Living Programme investing millions in delivering high-quality learning environments.

"Now firmly established and backed by national and international research into effective school systems worldwide, Cardiff's collaborated schools have experienced benefits such asenhancing learning opportunities,narrowing the attainment gap for deprived pupils,increasing professional workforce development, while maximising strong leadership and governance to improve outcomes for learners and school staff.

"We recognise that there are a number of different models that can be considered for a collaboration or federation depending on local circumstances and there is no one size fits all. Any proposal where a significant change could be implemented would see clear guidance where key stakeholders will be consulted and the Council would work closely with partners, including the Central South Consortium (CSC) and ESTYN, to review collaborations and federation outcomes should proposals be implemented."

In progressing collaborations and federations, consideration would be given to the primary school sector as a priority ahead of special and secondary schools, which would be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Every school would be invited to express an interest in participating and apackage of support would be provided to grow the knowledge and skills of prospective governors of collaborations/ federations.             

Following the establishment of collaborations and federations, evaluation processes would be undertaken in conjunction with schools and partners in line with the usual review and reflection processes including feedback. The outcome of these processes will be used to inform mainstreaming of good practice, inform evolution of the models, and identify mentors to provide support for new schools as they enter the process.

What is a Federation and how does it differ from Collaboration?

A school federation is "a more formal way of extending collaboration and promoting closer working relationships and is the principal initiative for achieving formal partnership working amongst schools to improve performance and narrow the attainment gap for deprived pupils." (Welsh Government 2022).

A collaboration can be similar to school federation, the key difference is that there is no change to the governance of each school.

Cardiff 2030 visionisunderpinned by two themes, five goals and priority commitments:


  • A shared responsibility for education and learning across the city,
  • Meaningful participation of children and young people


  • A Learning Entitlement Learners' health and wellbeing
  • Realising the Curriculum for Wales 2022 in Cardiff
  • A world-class education workforce
  • High-quality learning environments


The report will be considered by Cardiff's Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee at its next meeting on Monday 26thFebruary at 16.30.