Developing, celebrating and encouraging the skills which are central to strong leadership needs to start early in our profession - beginning with recruitment and training and continuing through induction during initial teacher training (ITT).
It is vital because it is only by having a focused, high-performing professional workforce that schools can achieve the improvements central to their growth. A profession that recognises its own worth, embraces challenge and change and is strong enough to withstand external attempts to undermine its status and value, is one that will recruit well and sustain its workforce.
At Teach First, the largest graduate recruiter in the UK, we train teachers at over 900 primary and secondary schools serving low income communities across England and Wales.
We are acutely aware of the importance of self-evaluation from recruitment onwards, so that our teachers are critically reflective practitioners. The importance of developing self-awareness and adaptability is fundamental to the journey to outstanding practice. We want our recruits to be aware of their performance, their strengths and weaknesses and to be realistic about what and how they can do better.
Our research reveals that Teach First teachers are over seven times more likely to progress to senior leadership positions in schools early in their career, compared to teachers trained through HEI routes. In November 2014 there were 75 Teach First teachers in senior leadership roles, compared to 10 in the matched sample of PGCE teachers (Education Datalab, July 2016).
Our Leadership Development Programme (LDP) is tightly focussed on three strands: teaching and learning, leadership and movement. In order to achieve our vision of a day when no child’s educational success is limited by their socio-economic background, we need to develop a community of leaders with the knowledge, skills and abilities to drive change in all fields.
We will be focussing in on the importance of leadership in building evidence-based and reflective practitioners. We will be exploring how our new programme model, and the framework that underpins it, allow us to support our trainees to become next generation leaders in their classroom, school and community.
So how do we encourage our leaders to take responsibility for their development and our trainees to be critical reflective practitioners? Once our trainees are recruited to the programme, and before their formal training begins in the summer, we share with them some preparatory work that helps to engage them with Teach First’s approach. We introduce them to the importance of reflection which enables them to consider their achievements and failures and to take responsibility for implementing change accordingly. We introduce them to key models of reflection whilst giving them autonomy to adopt a process that works for them, they then practise reflection in the participant preparation work.
One of the most fruitful ways in which we empower our participants to reflect on their practice and progress, is through using BlueSky –online staff development professional learning and self-evaluation software. Teach First began using BlueSky last year as the tool by which the trainees reflect on their weekly practice using journal entries and progress against reviews, such as our bespoke reviews and the national teacher standards. Previously we had used a paper journal, which didn’t offer a method of tracking reflection against the progression framework.
Now all support staff, such as school mentors and those from partner universities, also use the tool to work with Teach First participants to celebrate progression and success and to identify areas where development is required. Objectives are then set accordingly. Our participants also collate evidence against the teacher standards to form part of the Qualified Teacher Status Standards portfolio which can be easily reviewed by the relevant stakeholders.
The feedback from trainee teachers during our summer 2016 survey on the impact of BlueSky was very positive and we will be delighted to tell you more during our breakout session ‘How can Initial Teacher Training provide next generation leadership?’ at ASCL’s Annual Conference aimed at growing the next generation of talent.
Together with colleague Kyle Bailey, Helen Gooch will be leading the How can Initial Teacher Training provide next generation leadership? break out session at the ASCL Annual Conference 2017 on Saturday 11 March – 11.30-12.20