Advice from Teachers for Teachers
Two things have been confirmed to me in the last 24 hours whilst writing this blog post:
1. The role and rhetoric around teaching schools is highly strategic, the greatest challenge facing them is to make the strategy and vision a reality by overcoming the barriers to effective support and collaboration over distance.
2. Twitter is brilliant for getting intelligent answers to difficult questions from experts in a particular area...thank-you to all those who shared their wisdom (which I've collated below!)
The current state of affairs:
Since the first tranche of teaching schools were announced two and a half years ago, there's been some fantastic examples of success. But, similarly, the challenges of the complex role have come to the fore. The fourth cohort of 200 teaching schools, recently announced, have the benefit of reflecting in the successes of the current teaching schools as well as hopefully avoiding some of the pitfalls.
I asked both our teaching school customers and the #teachingschools twitter community, for their advice for the new cohort and collated the responses here.
11 tips for new teaching schools, from the experts:
1. Remain focused on your core purpose
"Don’t forget, it is about pupils and the high quality education we all want to provide." Kate Mayglothling, Assistant Head of Wigmore School
2. Ensure shared vision
"Create a shared vision with your alliance and build trust." Andy Buck, Senior Leadership Advisor for United Learning and Dean of the Leadership Faculty at Teaching Leaders (@Andy__Buck)
3. Increase capacity
"Make sure you have the capacity across your alliance to ensure you can keep improving your own schools as well as developing and innovating in agreed areas and supporting other schools through your SLEs, LLEs and NLEs with the understanding that this has to be a self financing operation." Jane Waters, Associate Headteacher at Seven Kings High School
4. Share responsibility
"Create shared responsibility, tight collaboration, deep support/challenge." David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust (@informed_edu)
5. Be clear on impact objectives
"Be clear from the beginning on the impact you want as an alliance." Vivienne Porritt, Executive Director of London Centre for Leadership in Learning (@LCLL_Director)
6. Remember: collaboration, not competition
"Be a hub for the excellence of others, not a beacon of your own excellence." Keven Bartle, Senior Leader (@kevbartle)
7. Start small and local
"Start small with areas that are of interest and relevance to you as a school or community." Jacqui Waine, Head of Education Teaching Alliance Lewisham
"Take everything that's on offer & look to make it work your way, locally." @Denbigh_TSA
8. Weave in research and evidence
"Be strategic by staying up to date with changing education policy, research and best practice - important role for Teaching Schools." Michael Pain , Director of Forum Education (@michaelpain)
9. Innovate, don't replicate
Back in 2011 when the Teaching Schools were first announced, consultant Alistair Smith said that successful leaders of teaching schools will innovate, not replicate what they already do. Replicating what has worked in their own school won't be sustainable, rather they need to develop a self-sustaining culture of collaboration and sharing of practice to harness the expertise that exists within the teaching community.
10. Don't grade observations
"Don't grade lessons. Instead, ask colleagues: "How can I observe you in a way which will best help you improve your teaching?" John Tomsett, Headteacher of Huntington School
A great final response to round this blog up:
"Engage & enthuse, build capacity, create alignment ... And enjoy!" Vicky Beer, Executive Principal of Ashton on Mersey School (@VickyBeer1)
Andy Buck responded to a tweet I sent that: "The most useful things are always the hardest". Overcoming the time and cost constraints of school to school support is a challenge, but one that can be achieved with strong leadership, the advice above and the tools to enable effective collaboration.
What's your experience or advice for teaching schools to be successful?
Read the Wakefield City Academy case study - "The future of inter-school collaboration"