Developing a Self-Improving, School-Led Education System, via @the_college

Charlie Taylor, NCTL chief executive, describes the development of a self-improving, school-led education system.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by England’s National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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The great privilege of my role is the opportunity I have to visit fantastic schools and hear from their headteachers. As I travel round the country, I see a transformation in the roles and responsibilities of schools as they move towards a school-led education system.

The change in the role of the headteacher has been remarkable over the last few years. Heads are now taking on responsibility for areas that were traditionally seen as the sole preserve of central or local government, or universities. In the past it would have been unthinkable for a headteacher to run two or more schools, but now as principals of multi-academy trusts this is becoming increasingly common. This shows the enormous talent that exists amongst headteachers to adapt and develop the role.

In a school-led system, I see schools taking an increasing role in the following areas:

  • initial teacher training
  • the selection and training of the next generation of school leaders
  • school improvement
  • evidence-based continuing professional development (CPD)

These changes are coming about as a result of new, stronger school partnerships. Across the country, headteachers are realising that by working collectively they are able to achieve more for both their own school and for their partners.

Teaching schools

At the forefront of this change has been the development of teaching school alliances.

There are nearly 600 teaching schools in England; these are outstanding schools that work with others to improve the workforce and quality of local schools. They are represented nationally by the Teaching Schools Council (TSC), a self-elected body that is now also responsible for the designation of new teaching schools.

I recently talked to Vicky Beer, the current chair of the TSC, about the work of teaching schools on professional development and school improvement.

 

Supporting other schools

Teaching schools are not working alone. They and their alliances, with national leaders of education (NLEs) and their national support schools are helping to shape a self-improving system through:

  • peer review
  • sharing data and evidence-based practice
  • supporting schools in difficulties and, where necessary, full academy sponsorship

There are over 900 NLEs across the country and they are working with 1,600 local leaders of education, almost 5,000 specialist leaders of education and just under 300 national leaders of governance.

These system leadership roles give professionals more responsibility for school improvement, putting the professionals, the real experts, in control. Headteachers and teachers in these roles are helping to improve standards across their alliances. They frequently tell me how much their teachers and their own schools benefit when they work beyond the boundaries of a single organisation to help their peers elsewhere.

Initial teacher training

School Direct was introduced to give schools more influence over the training and development of their workforce, in partnership with universities and other training providers. The appetite for schools to become involved in initial teacher training through School Direct has been staggering. In the first year, 2011/12 we allocated 1,000 places; this year over 23,000 School Direct places were requested.

Schools have more control over the content of teacher training courses and they play a central role in selecting trainees. Some schools have decided to go further, taking full control of the process by becoming accredited providers of School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT). Groups of schools and academy chains are now offering real career progression for trainees to compete with the best graduate employers.

“Come and work for us,” schools are saying “and we will offer you great initial teacher training, support as a newly qualified teacher, continuing professional development and – if you’re the right person – training to become a school or system leader in the future.”

Schools are working hard to attract the brightest and best into the profession. Last year, 80% of School Direct schools used the School Experience Programme to talent-scout high quality potential applicants. They are also using the delivery of subject knowledge enhancement courses to make offers to applicants, in those all-important priority subjects such as maths or physics, where they think potential trainees need additional subject knowledge.

Leadership development

Great schools need great leaders – working both within and beyond their schools. Talent spotting and bringing on the next generation of excellent leaders is critical in a school-led system. The National College used to commission and develop training programmes like the National Professional Qualifications for Middle Leadership, Senior Leadership and Headship. Now these programmes are delivered by licensed providers across the country, in conjunction with schools. This new flexibility means that schools can develop leaders with the skills they need to succeed locally.

Although we continue to quality assure the national professional qualifications, ultimately I would like to see them being owned by the system.

Evidence-based continuing professional development

Teaching schools are taking the lead in designing and delivering bespoke CPD that has a direct impact in the classroom. They are building on existing research and using evidence to support CPD and to develop practice.

They are also working within their alliances and across the wider system to share and develop their research, producing popular publications like Beyond levels and Closing the gap with the new primary curriculum.

The school-led system

The school-led system is becoming a reality. A momentum is building up across the country as more and more schools collaborate, realising the strength they draw from being part of an alliance or other partnership.

I know it will be hard work, full of great challenges, but I believe in the quality and strength of our school leaders. This is a prize worth fighting for: a strong, self-confident profession that takes control of its destiny, and ultimately benefits all the children of this country.


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