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Many questions for colleagues in teaching school alliances, but 4 May will provide some of the answers

group-huddle-1024Peter Kent, immediate past president, ASCL, writes…

There is something comforting about certainty. If I read an Agatha Christie whodunit I am fairly sure what I’m going to get and the literary rules that are going to be followed. If I go to a football match I know for certain how long the game will last and who will be playing.

The problem is that so much of education is moving away from the comfort that certainty brings. I must admit that sometimes I work on educational data with its clear set of rules (though fuzzy application) as a release from the more complicated and ambiguous issues that increasingly dominate the life of a school leader.

Those of us who work in teaching school alliances are increasingly familiar with this experience. When we were designated in cohort one there was a fairly clear set of rules that went with the ‘badge’. Do something about each of the ‘big six’ (teacher training, CPD, school to school support, etc), form a reasonable sized alliance and keep in contact with your National College rep, and all was likely to be well.

In 2016 much of that certainty has gone. Teaching schools are mentioned in the White Paper and are clearly seen as a crucial part of the future, but what exactly does government want them to do?

  • The ‘big six’ objectives for teaching schools are now widely seen as too broad, so which bits should we be concentrating on?
  • What is the difference between a MAT and a teaching school alliance?
  • Who should we be speaking to for check that we are on the right lines now that the future role of NCTL seems so unclear?
  • And how do teaching school alliances fit into the ideology of the profession taking irrevocable control of its own leadership qualifications through the Foundation for Leadership in Education?

Avoiding fragmentation

As Johnny Nash observed many years ago, there are more questions than answers. However, one way to deal with uncertainty and the stress that it brings is to avoid fragmentation.

By coming together and sharing ideas, perspectives and potential ways forward we can make sure that we shape the future, rather than allowing ourselves to be buffeted by the winds of increasingly uncertain times.

For all of these reasons I think that the National Teaching School Conference on Wednesday 4 May (a joint collaboration of ASCL with SSAT) is hugely important. The day provides the chance to hear directly from those deciding policy, so that we can influence them and also understand where they are coming from.

Hear from those deciding the policies

Hence we will have keynotes both from Roger Pope, the chair of the National College for Teaching and Leadership and Gary Holden, chair of the Teaching School Council. Professor Qing Gu, from Nottingham University, will also share some of her work on how to evaluate the work of teaching school alliances.

During the ASCL South-West Regional Conference in 2015, Sir David Carter (himself the former head of a teaching school alliance) expressed the view that it should be possible to rank teaching schools against a clear set of published criteria – it is likely that the pressure to do this will increase over coming years.

As always, I suspect that the most valuable part of the day will be the opportunity to network and share experience with colleagues in similar situations. In uncertain times it is crucial to learn from one another. For this reason I hope to see you in London on 4 May.


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