Unleashing expertise in our schools; securing better outcomes for children and young people

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Dr Kate Chhatwal as Director of Southwark Teaching School Alliance. Here she shares a bit about herself and why she’s excited to be taking up the role in September:

 

I started my career working in the Department for Education and Skills (as it was then known) on a strategy to improve adult literacy and numeracy. I believed – and still do – that education has the power to transform individuals and societies for the better – not just academically, but personally, socially, creatively and culturally. Having just completed a PhD in education policy, I thought the way to “make a difference” was by thinking great thoughts and writing great strategies at what I imagined was the heart of the education system.

It didn’t take me long to recognise that the real heart of the education system is our classrooms and that teachers, leaders and support staff are the ones who make the real difference. I saw it for myself visiting schools in some of the most deprived communities in England as the senior civil servant responsible for the Labour Government’s flagship National Challenge programme. And research proves it; Eric Hanushek, for example, notes how over the course of a year the best teachers “can get an entire year’s worth of additional learning out of their students compared to those near the bottom [of the quality distribution]”. He and his colleagues also demonstrated the impact of effective headteachers, which is less than the impact of the best teachers, but with benefits for more children.

I am delighted to be taking up post in September as Director of Southwark Teaching School Alliance because I will be working closely with the practitioners who are making the real difference.

For the last three years, I have overseen the design and delivery of senior leadership development programmes at The Future Leaders Trust (TFLT). As Chief Programme Officer, I have been privileged to visit scores of schools and work with hundreds of school leaders, from aspiring assistant heads to multi-academy trust CEOs. They – and my eight years’ experience as a governor and multi-academy trust trustee – have taught me a lot about what makes schools successful and the challenges they face. They also taught me how teachers and leaders can and do develop the knowledge, skills and attributes critical to their success.

A core design principle of TFLT’s programmes is that they should provide opportunities for participants to share experience and skills. This is because the deepest adult learning is achieved by teaching others. But that principle also respects the deep professionalism and reflectiveness of teachers and leaders. It is enshrined in teaching schools whose very being is predicated on the assumption that school-based practitioners are capable of generating and sharing the expertise that will enable all schools to improve. Research and evidence are important, but are no longer the sole preserve of academics.

In my role at STSA I am looking forward to working with and drawing on the unique strengths and varied expertise of schools and partners across the borough to achieve better outcomes for Southwark children and young people. I also want to ensure that the evidence and expertise we develop is shared with schools across the country, at the same time ensuring we have access to the very best practice from elsewhere.

The government’s commitment to the school-led system and the role of teaching school alliances within it provide an opportunity for every professional to contribute to system leadership. Let’s seize the opportunity we have to shape the system around us for the benefit of children and young people in Southwark and beyond.

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