People often ask us to share the key to our success. As a Teaching School, we are happy to open our doors and invite others to see what we do. But articulating always seems a struggle as so much of what we do seems to us to be common sense and practice that already occurs in many schools.
I have realised it's so hard for us to define because there are so many qualities that work subtly together to create the school we have. It's the complexity of all these that have resulted in the success.
When reading Danielson's Framework for Teaching in 'What makes Good Teaching?', I realised that all of these requirements also hold true as a framework for an effective school and these qualities permeate throughout ours.
It would take hours to distil all that we do but I thought I would share some of our ideas in small chunks in the hope that others may find it useful.
Knowledge of content and pedagogy
Whole school CPD is derived from our school development plan with a few key target areas identified using a range of school evidence. CPD is sourced carefully and time given to launch an initiative or change - giving staff the opportunity to consider and discuss the proposed changes. Teachers trial these changes in their classrooms and report back to year teams, subject leads and SLT through different channels including PPA or staff meetings and informal conversations. This keeps the target area high on our collective agenda. We try to be reactive to our school environment - refining and developing in response to the needs of our pupils. Teachers are able to access support through additional training, joint planning or model lessons to further refine what they do. The target area remains a priority until it has a chance to become embedded into our school practice.
From visiting other schools, we developed an effective model for CPD that shows staff that we value this training time. Once a month, all teachers gather together for a Friday afternoon training session whilst pupils are taught by visitors and other school staff. Pupils are organised into smaller mixed age groups and rotate around different activities as the year progresses; last year these focused on the children learning about different countries. A yearly timetable allocates a slot for most subjects and release time prior to this enables subject leaders to plan for and organise their CPD session in line with the SDP and subject action plan.
Establishing this culture means that we have teachers that understand that we always have more to learn, that actively seek out new knowledge and seek to clarify and refine together in order to provide the knowledge base and consistency required to teach our pupils effectively.
I understand how lucky we are to have the resources to be able to make this possible - the benefits of working in a larger school. But I think the principle of valuing CPD and allowing staff to develop through training, trialling, adaptation and discussion that spreads across the academic year (or in some cases beyond) is a powerful model to adopt.