The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Denise Inwood

Teaching schools must work together, but they need a helping hand

Six years on from the introduction of teaching schools, there’s a challenge to be faced: the absence of any coordinated school-to-school support.

Teaching schools were first introduced in 2011 to facilitate systemic change in teacher training. Since then, it has become evident that the support they provide to schools can be fantastic. 

In the days of local authority-led training, lots of the delivery came from teachers who had stepped out of the classroom – and indeed may have been away from the ‘chalk face’ for some time.

But today, via networking, teaching schools can ensure that training is more current, expert-led and better grounded in current practice. 

The teaching profession is helping itself by using its most experienced members to provide high quality training, development and support to new and experienced colleagues. These professionals are undoubtedly agile and more in touch with the realities of the classroom.

But teaching schools do face a challenge. Their resources are limited and coordination and management of these services new.

Their resources are limited and co-ordination and management of these services new

Perhaps in the move away from local authority-led training we threw the baby out with the bathwater. The old local authority system did have lots of expertise in co-ordinating and managing.

The best training in the world still needs to be coordinated and monitored. There must also be thorough evaluation of the impact of school support.

Simply put, teaching schools need some help.

Potential for partnerships

I believe there is a real need, and a place, for some expert support to manage the coordination process.

We can learn a lot from looking at the old models of best practice used in advanced skills teacher networks to engender sustainable school improvement.

We can learn a lot from looking at the old models of best practice used in advanced skills teacher networks

For instance, excellent local education teams ran development programmes for ‘budding’ ASTs to ensure a succession of future expertise would be available for ongoing school to school support.

In the absence of resources to coordinate and manage school support processes, who can provide this back-up for teaching schools?

I would suggest that there are some powerful opportunities to partner with education providers who are lean and who have experience of managing the administration and co-ordination of school to school support.

Better performance, less paperwork

Teaching schools understand the market, needs and strengths and can identify where they are. Their challenge is in how to best administrate and co-ordinate the support while monitoring and tracking its impact.

There are lots of organisations that have resources to reduce workload and bureaucracy to best administer this – supporting the management of staff development while reducing workload and paperwork.

Ideally such professional support can and should be linked to the three key areas of a teaching school’s responsibility, namely:

  • teaching training
  • continuing professional development and identification of leadership potential
  • supporting other schools.

Ringwood School, a national teaching academy in Hampshire, works collaboratively with an alliance of local primary and secondary schools and specifically supports the School Direct ITT programme, supervised by the University of Southampton. It uses an online performance management system to keep a careful track on the progress of its trainees, including all the evidence of their practice, linked to teaching standards.

Every trainee teacher has an account which becomes a great portable portfolio for them. The University of Southampton has access to each account, making the logistics far simpler. The trainee’s second school can see what the first school mentor has been advising, which makes their transition seamless.

Perhaps we will see more teaching schools begin to use similar tools to get the most from their support services.

To learn more about what BlueSky Education can offer, visit their website.

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