In September 2011 we began work as one of the first wave of teaching schools. Initially, like others in the same position as us, we were unsure exactly how this would become embedded in the school improvement work we lead across the CLF and the wider alliance. 18 months later, and I think I understand the potential this vehicle has now to become truly transformational
I think we have an advantage as a federation over the single school that acquires this status. We have 11 schools of our own to work with but we have also engaged another 9 schools who are not in the federation to form the wider alliance. I tend to look at improvement journeys and implimentations plans in three year cycles. Our teaching school journey is no different.
Year 1-2011-12 was about understanding the model and creating the strategy so that we could deliver support and development opportunities to the classroom door
Year 2-2012-13 has been about getting on with it and showing colleagues how the teaching school can create impact-in short, doing all we can to make sure this is not another one of those branded projects that exist in our minds and development plans but never reaches the students. Some quick wins but some significant input to lead improvement for the 2013 outcomes for children
Year 3-2013-14 & beyond will be about the teaching school being the key driver for school improvement so that we can demonstrate, as we probably can now, that as a result of becomign a teaching school we have been able to improve standards across our alliance which after all was the plan!
Colleagues who ask me about becoming a teaching school often ask about the 60K which of course reduces in Y2 and Y3 and in reality what can you do to have an impact for such a modest figure. In some ways, the relative size of the grant is a benefit as it forced us to think about how we treat it as seed money and then grow further income to sustain the model beyond teaching school days if future SOS decide they no longer want it. We invested in a senior leader to lead and implement the vision for 3 days per week and added 20 hours of admin time to manage the logistics and it works for us!
So how have we led improvement as a result of being a teaching school?
Delivery Focus 1-School to School support sits with our team of Specialist leaders in education (SLE). By the end of this year our team will be made up of over 40 members who together work in teams that our alliance partners and the CLF identified as being the most useful to support their learning journey. Our SLE teams therefore are behaviour and attendance, phonics, literacy and numeracy, CPD and NQT development, middle into senior leadership coaches, Post 16 teaching and learning and specific subject SLE time in English, Maths and Science. The key for us has been to focus our energy on the areas that our schools say they need support with rather than go for broke and have SLE in everything.
Our SLE team members have a JD that outlines their core work:
1 Support in key areas for one day per week-this is a substantial period of time (40 days per year) and the CLF pays for this so that backfill can be provided. The income comes from outreach school support that is brokered through my NLE work so that there is a direct benefit to our students of staff working beyond Bristol and the CLF
2 Another group of SLE work for half a day per week to visit our alliance schools and work with subject and team leaders to identify best practice and to agree the shape of up coming training so that we provide the support that our teams say they want. The schools where the SLE are based provide this within non contact time and there is no cost to the teaching school for this
3 The remaining SLE put 5-10 days each into the pot so that we can call on this time (minimum notice for this is 3 weeks) to support school reviews, INSET days, training sessions or support for a team of colleague in difficulties
This work is high profile and very visible and we work hard to support the SLE with training for them, especially in coaching skills, so that their work has impact and they become more confident in their delivery. It is working for us!
Delivery Focus 2-Leadership Development, talent management and succession planning is an equally important priority for us. Even if we had not been awarded a license to deliver the National College Leadership curriculum we would still be doing this work. My vision is that all 900 staff in the CLF, from Principals to grounds and caretaking teams will participate in leadership programmes so that the concept and language of being a leader is embedded across the federation and alliance. The Teaching School provides the delivery mechanism for the leadership programmes, the bulk of which are delivered by me and my team of Principals and senior leaders, the coaching that follows up the training and then the coordination of school to school exchanges and secondments that enables leaders to test themselves in a different context
Delivery Focus 3-Initial Teacher Training is vital to sustain school improvement and to ensure that we have a steady flow of good and outstanding teachers joining the CLF. We have embraced school direct and have been impressed and encouraged by the quality and volume of applications we have received. We recruited 11 in 2012 and have 26 joining us in 2013 so modest figures to begin with as we grow this model. Our partnership with the University of the West of England has been vital to us and a concrete example of HE and Federation working together. Our plan is that our NQT in 2013 and 2014 will provide the backfill for SLE outreach work, so that the cost of an experienced teacher over two days is equal, or almost equal to the full time cost of an NQT. This way any of our schools may be losing one of their strongest teachers for 2 days but gaining a full time replacement to add even more capacity to their Academy
Delivery Focus 4 is built around Research and Development. This focus is not 4th in order of importance but because the previous three foci are supported by it. In my career as a school leader I have not been good at capturing the journey that has led to improvement and we are weaker because of it. We need to remember what we did before we forget, so that we and others can learn from it and replicate change in new contexts in the future. Every SLE is required to write up an action plan for school improvement that they have led so that over the first three years of being a teaching school we should have at our disposal over 100 mini research stories that led to something tangible as an outcome. For me the simpler the better;
- What was the breakthrough for a year 9 student in shifting attendance from 75% to 90% in year 10?
- How did you turn the challenging year 8 group around so that Maths became their favourite subject by the end of the year?
The more we share this thinking across our own micro system in the CLF the better we will be in understanding the strategy and context of change
So there we are! Our Teaching school lives and breathes an emerging existence and for us has been the glue that binds a lot of the work we planned and delivered since the CLF formed in 2007. As ever, more than happy to share more detail with anyone embarking on the same journey as us via twitter, e mail or face to face.