On Thursday 27th April 2017, Exceed SCITT and Teaching Schools delivered a workshop at the Optimus Education’s Teaching Schools Summit in London. This post summarises some of the key considerations we discussed. A copy of the PowerPoint presentation can be downloaded here. This is the second blog post of a series that relate directly to this event. We’re not sure that it’s purely aimed at new Teaching Schools as the workshop title suggests! It’s more of a representation of the current system (as we interpret it at this moment in time, it may have evolved further soon after writing this post!) and some of our reflections on how the school-led system has developed in the last year/months.
The local partnership working of Bradford’s Teaching Schools has been a significant factor in helping to secure the school-led system of school improvement within the district. Established by the schools soon after an intensive period of engagement with the Local Authority exploring and developing the vision for the future of school improvement in 2015, the Teaching Schools identified their strengths and interests to develop going forward. This wasn’t a competitive process. Some focused on their multi-academy trust or diocese schools; others a more city-wide offer support to all schools. For us, we focused on leadership development, professional learning and English as an Additional Language (EAL) and New to English (NtE) provision (although not exclusively, we still had to work towards fulfilling our duty relating to the Teaching Schools’ “Big 6” priorities) for all schools. Others focused more intensively on initial teacher training (ITT), Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT) and Early Years provision, for example. The need for regular networking, peer support and coordination saw the formation of the Bradford Teaching Schools’ Forum with membership growing as new Teaching Schools were designated. Our DfE/NCTL/Teaching School Council (TSC) advisor joined many of the meetings, providing regular updates on the evolving national policy. This has been an effective way of facilitating collaboration rather than competition.
Its become our view that every Teaching School actually needs to be involved in delivering on all aspects of what was seen as the “Big 6” priorities, now reduced to 3: school-to-school support (including system leader designation), initial teacher education (including NQT and Recently Qualified Teacher (RQT) support) and professional development (including leadership development). Teaching Schools shouldn’t replace local authorities: they serve the needs of their partner schools and multi-academy trust(s). We don’t individually have the capacity to support 200 Bradford-based schools! We need a model that is different to those which have gone before. Therefore, Teaching Schools, ultimately, need to be involved in all aspects of the partners’ needs or commission support from other Teaching Schools. Without clearly defined partnerships, or Alliances, or as these partnership grow and alignment of individual schools shifts to achieve this, Teaching Schools can feel like they are competing with each other: those areas they ‘led’ are now becoming aspects the other Teaching Schools’ offer to their partners schools and MATs.
At times we’ve felt the pressure to work collaboratively with one or more Teaching Schools rather than independently. Whilst there are many positives when collaborating and where this is the most effective model it should be embraced, each Teaching School also needs to grow its role and remit and working alone on an project or initiative becomes important. Each Teaching School needs its own identity.
In developing initial teacher training, especially our own School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) provision, we have seen the element of competition develop between providers. All the providers need to be financially viable (and this comes through recruiting trainees) and secure great trainees for their partner schools. This means trainees need to be secured, usually from the same pool of applicants as all the other local providers! We’ve tried to address this ourselves by being confident in what we offer: our innovative, well-consider provision; our determination not to lower our expectations of the quality of candidates we offer places to; and accepting that some candidates may be better suited to other providers programmes. We’ll maintain our reputation for quality and we’re confident this will bring success, and viability!
We’re proud to work in partnerships with Teaching Schools and SCITTs around the country. We support them, they support us. We utilise their context and experiences to enhance our own provision, and vice versa. Our partnership with Education Teaching Alliance Lewisham (ETAL) Teaching School is a fine example of this. They developed an innovative study visit programme for school leaders to visit “outstanding schools in challenging circumstances”. Together, we’ve refined this programme to meet our needs to facilitate leaders to undertake study visits. In 2016 and 2017, we’ll have taken 100 school leaders to visit Lewisham schools with great success and impact (see our posts on executive leadership and models of school leadership for details). This partnership continues to grow with new collaborations in development.
Can there be collaboration and no competition within the system? It would be great to think this was achievable but the landscape is complex.
Coming next: Innovative approaches to continuous professional development (CPD).