The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Katie Renton

The aim of teaching school alliances

Optimus Education recently held the ‘National Teaching School Summit 2015’ in London, bringing senior leaders from all across the country to meet and share their strategies for developing teaching schools. Katie Renton, junior content executive, summarises the main aims that were discussed.

Teaching schools are at the heart of the government’s vision to allow schools more freedom and to take increasing responsibility for managing the education system. Since 2010, the number of teaching schools across the country has grown rapidly, now with almost 600 across England. Aspects of teacher training, CPD and school improvement are being led by these outstanding institutions, and through multi-school alliances. The National Teaching School Summit 2015 took place within the beautiful Hotel Russell. This event was a fantastic opportunity for teaching school senior leaders to meet, discuss strategy and share advice and stories of their alliances. In addition to this, there were a number of interesting and informative presentations from a range of experienced speakers discussing topics such as maintaining alliances, marketing services and evaluating impact. This conference allowed insightful offerings for how best to work towards delivering the Big 6.

The teaching school landscape

We began with a keynote from David Crossley, executive director of Whole Education, who discussed the current and future landscape of teaching schools. He suggested that schools have two choices: to be reactive and only respond to government requirements, or to be proactive and seize the agenda – which turned out to be a key theme of the day. He posed 3 potential focuses for teaching schools:

  1. Raising the ceiling of attainment as well as raising the floor to close the gap.
  2. Acting as test beds to trail system innovation.
  3. Building and informing systems’ evidence based on what works.

David also emphasises the importance of not attempting to cover every aspect of The Big 6, suggesting that while TSAs can do anything, they should not try to do everything – taking on too much will limit thorough success!

Building and maintaining strength

This was followed by Stephanie Rodgers, director of Astra Learning Alliance, then David Whitfield, director of Southfields Teaching School Alliance. Stephanie covered their journey along the road towards becoming an outstanding teaching school, from identifying priorities of the Big 6, ensuring quality school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) delivery and building systems to support excellence. David then discussed how to maintain a strong and successful alliance through managing workload and empowering partners to lead on their expertise. From these presentations, I gathered a number of important points.

  • Collaboration is key. Teaching schools should guide and support, but not lead forcefully.
  • Schools must prioritise and cater for the needs of the local area.
  • Identifying strengths in staff is beneficial to deploying workload.

Seizing the agenda

I managed to attend three of the streamed sessions, and came away from them all truly understanding what David Crossley had mentioned in his keynote about ‘seizing the agenda’. The central aim of teaching schools and their alliances is to work towards a self-improving and sustainable school system. It was clear that the main focus is always improvement and support of pupils. Talks by David Weston (chief executive, Teacher Development Trust) about how to effectively and realistically evaluate outcomes, and by Jacki Parris (vice principal, Swavesey Village College) about how best to deploy SLEs were strong examples of this aim. Ultimately, the day provided an excellent platform for delegates to inspire others through sharing ideas and approaches.

Additional resources

Take a look at our In-House Training courses, for practical training materials to help deliver CPD across your school. Request a demo today!


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