What are teaching schools?

Teaching schools are outstanding schools that work with others to provide high-quality training and development to new and experienced school staff. They are part of the government’s plan to give schools a central role in raising standards by developing a self-improving and sustainable school-led system. National College of Teaching & Leadership, March 2014

A Teaching School is the lead school within an alliance of other schools and partners. Work focuses on six key areas (known as “The Big 6”) through which their success is monitored and evaluated. “The Big 6” are:

1. School-led initial teacher training

Teaching Schools are expected to develop opportunities to provide school-led initial training.

They lead the development of school-led initial teacher training through School Direct or by gaining accreditation as an initial teacher-training provider.

Teaching Schools take an active role in the recruitment and selection of trainee teachers and have a clear plan for teacher training, including:

  • access to outstanding lessons and teachers for observation and planning
  • mentoring
  • quality assurance
  • co-ordination of initial teacher training with professional development opportunities

Source: Teaching Schools Council

2. Continuing professional development (CPD)

Teaching Schools are expected to offer a range of professional development opportunities for teachers and school support staff, extending their strong learning culture to schools they work with.  These must build on initial teacher training and induction.

Teaching Schools achieve this by:

  • identifying the best teachers and leaders from across their alliance to provide school-based professional development
  • tailoring development to meet the specific needs of schools
  • offering coaching and mentoring
  • evaluating the impact of professional development across the alliance
  • offering opportunities for formal accreditation or school-based research

Source: Teaching Schools Council

3. Supporting other schools (School to School Support)

Teaching Schools are expected to lead the co-ordination of school-to-school support. This usually involves working with a school or academy in challenging circumstances to bring about improvement.

Teaching Schools identify priorities in their area and support under-performing schools and academies. Local authorities, dioceses and chains may also work with Teaching Schools to support schools in need of improvement.

It is important that the best leaders are working to improve the quality of teaching and leadership where it is most needed.

This includes deciding how to use the services of system leaders to provide support to other schools, such as:

  • middle and senior leaders working as specialist leaders of education
  • headteachers working as local and national leaders of education
  • chairs of governors working as national leaders of governance

Source: Teaching Schools Council

4. Identifying and developing leadership potential

Teaching Schools are expected to develop successful succession planning strategies to identify and develop people to fill leadership positions in the future.

To meet this responsibility, they:

  • develop future headteachers to help meet the most pressing national needs in primary, small rural, special, challenging urban/coastal and faith schools
  • take action to help more women and leaders from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to become senior leaders
  • put processes in place to identify potential leaders in areas of need
  • develop potential leaders within and across their schools
  • build strategic governance and partnerships in order to make decisions about developing and placing potential leaders

Source: Teaching Schools Council

5. Specialist leaders of education (SLE)

Specialist Leaders of Education are outstanding middle and senior leaders. They have at least 2 years’ leadership experience in a particular specialism (e.g. maths, school business management, initial teacher training).

Their role is to support individuals or teams in a similar position in other schools. They help others achieve outstanding leadership in their area of specialism.

Teaching Schools are expected to recruit and manage the placements of Specialist Leaders of Education. This involves:

  • identifying subject area priorities within their alliance
  • setting up a panel of headteachers to assess applicants
  • using eligibility criteria to select Specialist Leaders of Education
  • ensuring that the recruitment process is fair
  • notifying us of outcomes and confirming them to applicants
  • dealing with applicant appeals
  • organising training for Specialist Leaders of Education
  • negotiating Specialist Leader of Education work within their alliance
  • ensuring that Specialist Leaders of Education are providing high-quality support that is having a positive impact

Source: Teaching Schools Council

6. Research and development

Teaching Schools are expected to:

  • build on existing research and contribute to alliance and wider priorities
  • base new initiatives within their alliance on existing evidence and ensure they can measure them
  • work with other teaching schools in their area, or nationally, where appropriate
  • ensure that their staff use existing evidence
  • allow their staff the time and support they need take part in research and development activities
  • share learning from research and development work with the wider school system

Source: Teaching Schools Council

More information about teaching schools can be found at the following links:

Department for Education – https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/teaching-schools-and-system-leadership-how-you-can-get-involved

Teaching Schools Council – http://tscouncil.org.uk

Most teaching schools operate with subscriptions and a memorandum of understanding to which schools sign up. There is a management/committee structure with representation from schools and partners within the alliance. This allows the teaching school to plan a range of professional development activity to support teachers and leaders at all stages of their career. Teaching schools within a region can be licensed to deliver national leadership programmes and can act as an Appropriate Body for NQTs.

Where are the teaching schools in North Somerset?

There are currently three teaching schools in North Somerset. They have formed alliances so that other schools can join and participate in the six key areas of teaching school work.. Each teaching school alliance website has the most up to date information. The teaching schools are not bound by county borders and schools can ask to join whichever teaching school best meets their needs, character and ethos.

How do the teaching schools in North Somerset work together?

The teaching schools in North Somerset work closely together in a number of ways, whilst maintaining their own distinct identity. All belong to the Teaching Schools Council and are bound by the protocols and processes of that body.

How are teaching schools different from multi-academy trusts (MAT)?

Importantly, teaching school alliances are not set up to be multi-academy trusts, although some may have a lead role in a MAT. Belonging to a teaching school alliance does not require a change in governance or the same ‘due diligence’ approach that schools take when converting to an academy or becoming part of a MAT. Lead teaching schools have a responsibility to deliver support to schools within the alliance but are not accountable for performance in the same way as a multi-academy trust. Where a school is underperforming, Teaching Schools are not expected to become a sponsor but may be approached if they are a MAT.

If I’m joining a MAT, do I still need to be part of a teaching school alliance?

In short, no, but both offer different support and are not mutually exclusive. It can greatly benefit a school to be part of both.  A teaching school alliance may offer a range of training and expertise that is either not available through the multi-academy trust, or complements the work of the trust. The wide ranging brief of teaching schools, their performance measures, and both the regional and national networks, mean that they are well placed to support schools and offer opportunities for professional development for aspiring leaders and teachers. As more MATs are emerging, many are remaining as members of a teaching school alliance.

Why should my school join a teaching school alliance?

Schools are not forced to join a teaching school alliance. Teaching school alliances are there to provide a unique platform for support and development within the school system. With the focus on school improvement, research and professional development and strategic partners across the education system, they offer a secure network for any school seeking to work collaboratively, whatever its designation.

What are the expectations of me if I join a teaching school alliance?

The success of a teaching school alliance is dependent on the reciprocal relationship of the schools within. On the basis that all schools have something to contribute to the learning community, your school can identify expertise and knowledge that can be shared as well as needs which will be supported by others within the alliance. As teaching school alliances evolve the dynamics of the partnership will develop and deepen.

If I’m an outstanding school, why should I join a teaching school alliance?

It is vital that schools, whatever their status and success, are able to work together to improve outcomes for children and young people. Schools that have been judged to be outstanding are in a strong position to contribute to the programme of professional development that each teaching school alliance plans. It is widely acknowledged that when teachers work together in a coaching relationship for example, the coach benefits as much as the coached. As an outstanding school being inspected, a key area of leadership and management is the way in which leaders build strong partnerships and collaborate with others.

Do I need to join the teaching school alliance that is nearest to me?

It is important to look at the range of opportunities that each teaching school alliance offers and choose the one that best fits your school’s needs and ethos. Many schools do opt for a local teaching school as this often fits with existing collaborative arrangements and a number of the alliances evolved from local groups.

Will teaching schools exist in the future?

It would be foolish to try and predict any future government policy so it is difficult to answer this question. Indeed the government’s latest white paper (Educational Excellence Everywhere, March 2016) sees the role of teaching schools at the heart of the school system. What we do know is that teaching school alliances are operating within the current self-improving system and have demonstrated that they can offer a range of professional development and school to school support and, most importantly, make a positive difference. While schools, either as individuals or in groups, make decisions about academisation, teaching schools continue to have a clear focus and remit. Those leading the teaching schools in the South West know that teaching school alliances need to evolve to meet the needs of schools. They are committed to ensuring that all school leaders have opportunity to participate in partnership and collaboration supports professional development and school improvement during this next phase of system evolution.