The First Year in the life of a Teaching School - Jo Trewin

July 1st, 2014

We are coming to the end of our first year as a teaching school and I think we can now answer the question – what is a teaching school? When I was new in post as head of teaching school this was the question I was asked the most (nowadays it tends to be ‘Do you have any good Physics trainees?!’) and to be honest it was tricky to answer, as is the latter. The first year in the life of a teaching school has shown me that a teaching school is not really a ‘thing’ but a set of principles and aims.

In a changing landscape it’s crucial that we, as teachers, define what we know to be right and best for our students and teaching schools are vital in providing the mechanism to support this process. Ealing Teaching School Alliance is completely committed to the development of confident professionals and I have spent the first year exploring the Big Six with just that aim in mind. Admittedly some of the Big Six have felt bigger than others, but I’ve begun to lay the foundations for all of the strands to bring about real improvements for our students.

Of course, we’ve worked hard on the tangibles such as recruiting trainees for School Direct, deploying SLEs and bidding for R&D opportunities but it’s the intangibles that have taken the real time and energy. Investing in principles, forging relationships built on trust and securing credibility are hard to record on a piece of paper or a spreadsheet but without them the rest will amount to nothing. I look forward to having more of the measurable outcomes in the future but I am convinced that the cultivation of the ‘softer stuff’ will pay dividends for our alliance.

So how have we built trust?

Without sounding too simplistic, we’ve done this by being nice. Manners not only maketh the person but I think they maketh the teaching school too. I’ve tried to be helpful and useful. I’ve tried to be concise and clear and I’ve tried to consult and include all our partners.

We all know that as trainee teachers we respect the mentors who really cut it in the classroom and we admire the leaders in our schools who still understand the pressures of the 5 period-day with break duty and a difficult Year 9 tutor group. The same applies to teaching schools – you need to prove that you can do something useful before other professionals will see you as useful. Therefore I spent the first few weeks in post writing the briefing papers I wished existed and I tried to ensure that the documents I produced could be read and digested by the busiest people I know – teachers. Initially I worried that these documents would just sit in people’s inboxes but in reality they provided a great introduction to me as someone who either had some of the answers or certainly knew someone who did and someone who could be relied upon to decipher and filter polices and systems new to us all.

As I reflect on the first year, I wonder if a big, showy event might have been a better way to put us on the map but instead we’ve quietly worked hard on the things we believe matter and as a result we’re in a great position to capitalise on our achievements so far and become a teaching school of real worth and merit.