Engaging all teachers in a personalized development journey, sharing best practice and colleagues supporting each other has been instrumental in improving outcomes at a large primary school serving a diverse community in Waltham Forest. Headteacher Kerry Scott explains…
At the start of this journey, pupil outcomes at Ainslie Wood were low and the teaching profile reflected that (to read more about the journey Ainslie Wood Primary School has been on, read our interview with Kerry Scott).
In order to remedy this, we responded to research which demonstrated that the ‘quality of teaching’ children received had the most impact on outcomes. We had no choice but to rapidly improve our teaching profile.
I firstly took the decision to ‘split’ the Teaching from the Learning. This meant we would have different people and different teams focusing on specific areas for development. The key to the success of this approach was regular communication between the teams.
The newly appointed Leader of Teaching started building relationships with teachers and created a team teaching agreement. This included a single focus for development and could take many forms: observing a lesson, paired teaching, ‘in the ear’ teaching, videoing, or other methods, and would last for either a short part or a whole session.
By focusing on an agreed development point and having control of methods and length of team teaching time, trust was built and teachers appreciated the marginal gains they were making which resulted in significant improvement over time.
We identified teachers who were demonstrating excellence in specific aspects of their teaching and paired them up with someone who was aiming to develop in that aspect. This collaboration became an aspirational focus for our teachers who all wanted to ‘go and share’ with someone.
Our Teaching Team (the name given to the team who continue to focus on developing practice) is now led by the Leader of Adult Development (who leads on a similar approach for leadership across the school) and still contains the Leaders of Teaching and Early Teaching.
The system is now well established and teachers speak highly of being part of a system which invests in their continuous development as well as utilising their skills and knowledge for the development of others.
Evidence of success
In Autumn 2013, our teaching profile was 95% of teachers ‘below good’ (with 65% of those at ‘inadequate’). By summer 2014, our profile had completely changed and 95% of teachers were ‘good’ or better.
The impact on the pupils was just as impressive. We were the 3rd most improved school (based on end of KS2 data) that year as we improved from 43% L4+ to 78% L4+. Within 3 years, we had improved from the bottom 1% in the country, to the top 1% for pupil progress.
We no longer grade our teachers Outstanding – Inadequate, we have 2 categories: ‘developing’ teachers and ‘improving’ teachers. These determine the amount and type of support allocated by the teaching team, but teachers continue to support each other outside of this allocated support time.
Our current teaching profile shows an engaged, supportive and consistently improving teaching team who move quickly through development points and into more opportunities to engage with trials and risk taking.
What did and didn’t work
The most important contributory factor to the success of this way of working was the building of relationships and trust. This enabled people to open up to their own potential and to set a personalised programme in response to their individual developmental points. These relationships became a safe place to ask questions, trial methods and reflect.
The biggest difficultly we have experienced is overcoming the budget constraints that have affected all schools. We have had to reduce our compliment of teaching staff which has forced us to find increasingly innovative ways to release people to move around the building to provide support. However, our staff engagement and the established support system means that we have a lateral strength instead of it coming from one single point.
We have refined our approach to teacher development each year and are excited to be embarking on a project across three European countries to share this system. We will be doing this through the use of technology and a coaching and monitoring support system.
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