School to School Support

With Christmas a mere five days away and the cold starting to bite, it’s hard to believe we were having a late summer heatwave on those first few days of term in September. A lot has happened since then – both in Southwark and the world outside – and, as is traditional at this time of year, I thought it worth a quick look back on the autumn term that was.

school-visits-autumn-2016

Since taking up post in September, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting primary, secondary and special schools across the borough and beyond (as indicated by the stars on the map). I am very grateful to the headteachers who have welcomed me and shared the many exciting things going on in their schools. An important task in the months ahead is to ensure we become more effective in identifying, signposting and spreading excellent practice wherever it is found, so that it impacts on as many learners as possible. If there’s something good going on in your school you’d like to share, please get in touch.

Other highlights of the term include:

Initial Teacher Training

  • Our Schools Direct partnership, led by John Donne, doing better than the national average (of 30,000 places awarded from 65,000 bid) to secure 18 of the 25 places they requested for trainees this year

Continuing Professional Development and Leadership Development

  • Launch of a new Middle Leaders’ Programme, being offered in partnership with UCL/IOE
  • Holding the first two of seven sessions in our second cycle of Leading Impact – NPQSL, run in partnership with Ambition School Leadership (formerly The Future Leaders Trust)
  • Securing money from the NCTL Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund to launch two programmes for female leaders; one for serving heads and executive heads exploring Headship Beyond One School, and the other for Senior Leaders contemplating their next steps towards headship
  • Shorter courses led by our Specialist Leaders of Education (SLE) on fabulous phonics, spelling in the new curriculum and pupil wellbeing, among others

School-to-school support

  • SLEs using their expertise to provide bespoke support to schools in Southwark, Smethwick and Uganda in topics ranging from phonics to SEND to school business management
  • Ongoing success of our pilot peer review cluster, with a second round of visits prompting detailed scrutiny, deep thinking and development of improvement plans in areas identified by hosting headteachers
  • Working with Mime and Southwark Council to give all Southwark primary schools access to data about how their pupils do at secondary school
  • Our first headteacher hot topic session, considering collective approaches to recruitment and retention, with key proposals being taken forward by Southwark Council

Research and development

  • Being one of only 11 schools/TSAs accepted (from 158 who bid) for funding as part of the workload challenge. The money will support a project involving 8 schools to examine the impact on pupil outcomes and teacher workload of dropping written marking in favour of verbal feedback
  • Continuation of the Connecting Knowledge Project with UCL/IOE and nine schools in Lambeth and Southwark – using Lesson Study to explore strategies to raise attainment in writing for disadvantaged children

Huge thanks to all the schools in our alliance who have contributed to such a successful autumn term. I look forward to working with you to widen and deepen our partnership and impact on pupil outcomes in 2017.

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recruitment-and-retention-pictureOn 8 November a group of headteachers came together to consider how to meet the challenges we face around the recruitment and retention of great teachers and leaders in Southwark. By the end of the morning we had a good grasp of the issues; some ideas to tackle them; and the suggestion of forming a working party to develop the best ideas further.

We started the morning with an overview from Derek Boyle from the Pan-London Strategy Group for ITT who shared figures suggesting that at the time of the last school workforce census, there were only 3 full-time teaching vacancies and 13 posts filled temporarily in the whole of Southwark! Recognising that this presents a far from accurate picture and says nothing of the appointments made simply to have someone in post, regardless of suitability, Derek encouraged us to all fill in these (non-mandatory) fields in the next school workforce census, as it is where the Department for Education and Ministers get their data from. No wonder they keep asking “what crisis?”

What we do know from the Southwark data, presented by Cara Cahill from Southwark Council, is that we are not holding onto all our initial teacher trainees and have particular challenges in retaining teachers and middle leaders who are 3-7 years qualified. Some of this is explained by the absence of affordable housing for teachers reaching the stage in life where they want a decent family home and we need to keep the pressure on our councillors and the GLA to address this pan-London issue, as well as thinking creatively about what we can do ourselves.

Simon Wattam, co-head at John Donne Primary School and Schools Direct partnership lead, revealed that the partnership was only awarded 18 of the 25 places requested for this year’s recruitment – though this represents a higher success rate than the national picture of 30,000 places awarded against 65,000 requested. Getting more (all) Southwark schools involved in the partnership would be a good way of securing a bigger supply of teacher trainees for the borough.

On retention, Cassie Buchanan, headteacher at Charles Dickens Primary School, explained how she uses flexible working as one way to keep good teachers and middle leaders. Tim Mills, headteacher at Angel Oak Academy, shared the benefits of offering fully-funded MAs (plus study leave and the chance to leave early on MA days) in attracting and retaining a certain type of teacher to his school.

By the end of the morning, we had distilled from our speakers and discussions a set of “ideas with legs” to explore further with a wider group of heads, including:

  • Development of a collective approach (and collective “buying” power) on things like recruitment, ITT and a Southwark masters. The aim would be to benefit from having a bigger voice and economies of scale, while celebrating what is special and unique about each Southwark school.
  • A single portal for anyone looking to teach in Southwark to make it easier for them to navigate the confusing plethora of routes in, and to sell the many positives of a career in teaching (without hiding the realities around the need for hard work and resilience to realise these).
  • Tackling non-schools-based issues, like housing, and looking at the “offer” for Southwark teachers and leaders drawing on the many resources and opportunities across the borough (e.g. discounted gym membership, access to cultural institutions etc.).

In the coming weeks, Southwark Teaching School Alliance and the Council will be considering the best way to work with a wider group of Southwark heads – including existing headteacher groups – to develop these ideas further. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, please email kate.chhatwal@southwarktsa.co.uk.

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After a whirlwind seven weeks as the new Director of Southwark Teaching School Alliance (STSA), half term offers a moment to pause and reflect. The questions at the forefront of my mind were posed recently by a new-to-Southwark headteacher who asked what STSA is and where it fits in the wider Southwark landscape. The answers are beginning to take shape.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) defines teaching schools as:

“outstanding schools that work with others to provide high-quality training and development to new and experienced school staff. They are part of the government’s plan to give schools a central role in raising standards by developing a self-improving and sustainable school-led system”.

There are two of these at the heart of Southwark Teaching School Alliance: Charles Dickens Primary School and Crampton Primary School.

NCTL goes on to explain how “teaching school alliances are led by a teaching school and include schools that are benefiting from support, as well as strategic partners [which may include other schools, universities, multi-academy trusts, diocese, local authorities and private sector organisations] who lead some aspects of training and development”.

In reality, every teaching school alliance is organised and operates differently. All commit to delivering the “big 3” – initial teacher training (ITT), continuing professional development (CPD), and school-to-school support, with research a strand that runs throughout. But how they do so is a matter for them.

Within STSA, ITT takes the form of a salaried Schools Direct partnership led by John Donne Primary School and a non-salaried scheme based at Crampton Primary School. CPD for teachers, teaching assistants, and business and support staff is led by Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs) drawn from seven schools across the borough. Leadership development programmes are provided in partnership with the UCL Institute of Education and The Future Leaders Trust. School-to-school support takes a variety of forms, from structured peer reviews using a model developed by the Education Development Trust, to consultancy from our three National Leaders of Education (NLEs) and 13 SLEs, to termly sessions where headteachers can work together on issues of common interest (our next being on recruitment and retention). Over time we expect all strands to be underpinned by and/or contribute to research into what drives the most effective practice.

What we do at STSA provides only part of the answer to the question of what STSA is; the other parts come from understanding why and how we do what we do. The answer to why lies in our vision of:

“a community where every child and young person is nurtured and challenged to flourish in all aspects of their life – academic, cultural, personal and social”.

It is about development of the whole child, through excellence across the whole curriculum and all aspects of school life. It is about impact on children’s and young people’s life chances.

How we go about doing that is described in our mission, which is:

“To build a strong community of impactful teachers and leaders based on the sharing and development of practitioner excellence and evidence-based practice”.

That sense of “community” and “sharing” in our mission, and “alliance” in our name is crucial; it is about doing with, not doing to. Our strategic leads shape our areas of focus, but they do not have all the answers. STSA will only succeed if it continues to bring together a wide range of schools to develop and improve alongside each other, drawing on expertise that already exists in schools across the borough, and creating new best practice through purposeful collaboration. Ultimately, STSA is whatever those schools who engage in the alliance make it.

The answer to where STSA fits within the wider Southwark landscape is, for now, less clear – largely because that landscape is itself evolving. In the short-term we are working with the council, as well as schools, to ensure that between us we cater coherently for the needs of Southwark learners, schools and their staff. Beyond that, we look forward to playing our part in shaping the landscape of the future, realising fully our potential to provide a forum for collaboration and action that strengthens and benefits all Southwark schools and the children and young people they serve.

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STSA peer review

STSA have embarked on an exciting Schools Partnership Programme working with CfBT. The aim of the programme is to support partnerships, high quality self evaluation, peer review and school-led support and challenge, both between and within schools. At the heart of the process is peer review and four schools have now begun collabourating together to support each other in this process.

The four schools who are involved in the current project are:

St John’s Walworth C of E Primary School

Charles Dickens Primary School

Surrey Square Primary School

John Donne Primary School

So far the headteachers of all the schools have received training from CfBT and are about to embark on the first round of peer review shortly. In preparation for the project, the senior leadership teams from all four schools me. Through discussion and collabouration the wider group have begun establishing open, supportive and honest relationships between the schools. We are excited to see how the project develops.

If you are interested in further information on peer review or how to become involved in a project like this, please email enquiriesstsa@gmail.com

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