Creating leaders and seizing success

Announced in January, the creation of the National College for Teaching and Leadership brings together and builds on the work led by the Teaching Agency and the National College. It aims to ensure that the best schools are at the heart of teacher training, professional development and school improvement,  will support schools to take control of their own recruitment and training of teachers through School Direct.

Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the new agency, said: “The merger of the National College and Teaching Agency makes perfect sense. This is an exciting opportunity, uniting the strengths of both.

“Together we will be better able to support the best schools, the best leaders and the best teachers as they lead the system.

Seizing success
This year’s annual leadership conference, entitled Seizing Success, took place at the ICC, Birmingham between 12-14 June, and brought together a blend of world-class speakers to share their insights into modern leadership.  Over the three days, delegates heard from inspirational speakers from education and attended practical workshops run by their peers. Over 80 exhibitors also showcased the latest educational resources and services.

Charlie Taylor took to the stage for the first keynote, and started by asking the question “How do we flick the switch to make someone want to become a teacher?”.

Taylor reminisced about his own experience as a trainee teacher and how, after one particularly disastrous attempt at a lesson, one of the pupils came back after the class and said: “That was really good, thank you”.

Taylor recalled that it was at this point he believed he could become a great teacher, and that it was these very special, inspirational children that can make the difference. He made the point that it’s important to hang on to these moments during difficult times.

Taylor went on to discuss the merger of the National College and the Teaching Agency, setting out some of the challenges the education profession is facing and how the new agency will support schools and leaders. He acknowledged there was some nervousness about the merger and talked about the important role the National College has played. He also stated that joining with the Teaching Agency was the last piece of the jigsaw and that bringing teacher training into the mix made sense.

Taylor shared his own journey to headship, and to becoming an expert adviser on behaviour for the government before going on to talk about a school-led system. The aim is that in three years’ time, there will have been an irrevocable shift out from the centre to schools themselves, to an education system led by schools.

He posed the question “Why school led?” and asked delegates to consider the alternative?. there was a space being left by the government and local authorities, and that schools themselves need to take up this space, to take up this unique opportunity.

CPD Discussions

He went on to discuss continuing professional development (CPD) – one of the key elements of a school-led system. He said that schools have to lead on CPD and that many are already, but also that more could be done.

He shared his own experience of CPD when he was a head, acknowledging that he, sometimes, was led by the latest fad rather than evidence. He said that we need to find ways of engaging more with research and asked delegates to always ask “Where is the evidence?” Taylor then talked about how there are more outstanding practitioners than there are outstanding schools and that it’s not just the high-flying schools that we can learn from. “All schools have something to give. Schools working collaboratively will help us to move forwards.”

Discussing School Direct, the government’s new approach to initial teacher training, Taylor talked about developing relationships between schools and teacher training providers and school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT), encouraging schools to get more involved and take control of their own recruitment.

Leading by example
On leadership, Taylor talked about the need to spot talent early and how leadership shouldn’t be about ‘time served’.

“If you’re good enough, you’re old enough,” he said, and went on the detail how the role is changing and the nation’s need for a new cadre of heads who are prepared to work beyond their own school.

He left delegates with a challenge – to consider five years from now, why we didn’t get involved in teacher training, why we didn’t hold each other to account and did we really let the government tell us how to teach?

School Business Managers
In one of the first sessions of day two, NCTL school business manager advocates were on hand for a question and answer session which gave an opportunity for delegates to drop in and speak to school business managers and directors about all aspects of school and academy business functions.

Each table had a different theme, one of which was a discussion about the relationship between heads and school business managers. There was agreement amongst the delegates that this relationship is absolutely critical and makes all the difference to how the role of school business manager is perceived within a school.

The discussion touched upon what happens if a new head comes in, or the relationship breaks down. It was clear that for some school business managers there is a sense of vulnerability and acknowledgement that they need to increase awareness of what they do beyond the headteacher to the governing body and teaching staff. Suggestions to tackle this included making time to ‘do something visible every day’ and to attend more senior leadership team meetings to engage with wider school issues.

With the introduction of academies and multi-academy trusts, it is clear that the role of the school business manager is undergoing massive change. One delegate described this as ‘really scary’ but positive as it brought acceptance of how vital the role actually is.

Chief executive of Ipsos MORI Ben Page joined delegates on the Friday morning to share Britain’s thoughts on the state of the nation. His theme covered how as a country we tend to be half empty rather than half full and whether we are passing this onto the next generation.

His first slide showed six per cent – the percentage of people who think Britain is getting better. Page went on to discuss what people value about Britain – namely our history, the NHS and the British armed forces, and what people least value – British sports teams, our position in the world and British business.

Moving on to what people think about education and schools, Page said that overall, concern about education is drifting downwards and that it is actually pupil behaviour and discipline that is the biggest issue (at 17 per cent) followed by funding (nine per cent) rather than standards and attainment.

On the economy, Page said that one of the biggest concerns now is youth unemployment. Surveying small business owners, 81 per cent said they are not confident that school leavers have the right levels of employability skills. Interestingly, these businesses also recognise that they need to do more to engage with schools to address this issue – but time constraints can be a barrier to doing this. Surveying school leavers about what would help them to prepare for the world of work, they said quite simple things like being taught to write a CV and interview techniques.

Next years event
The National College’s 2014 conference will take place on 11–13 June. Further information on this years event, with video footage of the presentations, please click here

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