March 2013: The School was awarded Teaching School status in March 2013
The idea of schools working in collaborative partnership has been around for some time and yet the ways in which such partnerships can lead to sustained school development and improvement has been gathering pace. This concept was supported within the coalition Government’s 2010 white paper The importance of teaching by the introduction of Teaching Schools to provide a focus for such work. The principle which underpins the work of Teaching Schools is to capture best practice and share it, but always with a focus on impact - on what will make the most difference to the success and opportunities for our young people. And at the heart of this is valuing and developing the teachers and school leaders that are in our schools.
To be designated as a Teaching School there are stringent eligibility criteria and a rigorous application procedure. There are now a total of 350 Teaching Schools across the country, 3 of which are in Oxfordshire. These schools are also accredited as National Support Schools (NSS) and their Headteachers are designated National Leaders of Education (NLEs). The Cherwell School in Oxford, King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage and Frank Wise Special School in Banbury have formed a multi-Teaching School Alliance, supported by 19 other ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ primary and secondary schools across the county. The Teaching Schools and their strategic partners have a responsibility for what is called The big 6. This term has been coined by the National College for School Leadership, the organisation responsible for the accreditation and monitoring of teaching schools. The big 6 are:
- To play a greater role in training new entrants to the teaching profession, in particular this is developing the new models of teacher training which are more based in schools, whilst working alongside Universities.
- To lead peer to peer professional and leadership development, for example by securing and sharing best practice models of professional learning for teachers and school leaders.
- To identify and develop leadership potential; succession planning and talent management. There is much evidence to show the importance of leadership in schools and this is at all levels. This is not about finding ‘super-heads’, rather equipping teachers as they move through the profession to have the highest quality leadership skills.
- To provide support for other schools. This may be where another local school has a particular need for support in terms of their own school improvement and the Teaching School would help to arrange that support. There is no suggestion that any one school, be they a Teaching School or not, has all the answers. A key role for a Teaching School alliance is to build relationships between schools so that support can be targeted where it is most needed, and in a way which is valued by the schools involved to ensure the best outcomes for the children and young people.
- To designate and broker specialist leaders of education (SLEs). SLEs are outstanding middle and senior leaders who have the skills to support individuals or teams in similar positions in other schools, and as such are able to support professional learning and school improvement. A particular strength of this model is the recognition that there are many outstanding practitioners in schools which may not have the ‘outstanding’ Ofsted label (and are therefore unable to apply to be a Teaching School). As such, a Teaching School can designate SLEs drawing from any other school.
- To engage in research and development. This may involve working with universities, experts in a particular field in education, or expert practitioners across schools to continue to develop a culture of professional learning, committed to being at the forefront of school based educational research.