2020 Summer Term


  • We're here to help
    Geoff Barton says school and college leaders have risen to the challenges of the current pandemic and have provided calm and principled leadership. Here he highlights how ASCL has and will continue to support you throughout. More
  • Stronger together
    Senior leaders Abigail Boddy and Catherine Carre believe that having two heads rather than one can offer a healthy, powerful and sustainable approach to school leadership. More
  • The missing link
    MFL Consultant, Suzanne O'Farrell highlights ASCL's Key Stage 2/3 Flexible Transition Toolkit, which provides primary leaders with an expert overview of what knowledge and skills could equip their learners for a good start in Key Stage 3, and provides strong deliverable foundations for language learning at secondary. More
  • Technically speaking...
    With so much uncertainty concerning the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Suzanne Straw, from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), reflects on the findings of NFER's research on T levels, and the implications of the current context on the roll out of the first T levels in September. More
  • Be LGBT inclusive
    Deputy Headteacher David Lowbridge-Ellis shares ten simple ways you can support your LGBT staff and pupils. More
  • Strengthening bonds
    Chair of the Teaching Schools Council, Richard Gill, sees the new Teaching School Hubs as an opportunity to evolve the education system. Here he explains his thinking around the hubs and talks to one school leader taking part in the test and learn hubs. More
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Chair of the Teaching Schools Council, Richard Gill, sees the new Teaching School Hubs as an opportunity to evolve the education system. Here he explains his thinking around the hubs and talks to one school leader taking part in the test and learn hubs.

Strengthening bonds

One of the most exciting strategies during my 25+ years in education was the launch of Teaching Schools in 2011. Yet, nearly a decade later, I have to admit that we have to accept the ongoing challenge around Teaching Schools, including those who question their impact. There are numerous examples across all regions of those who can easily evidence the impact Teaching Schools have had across their local communities. We must, however, accept that, as with anything, they are only as strong as their weakest link and, unfortunately, collectively, they have not been able to have the impact across the sector that was intended.

There are, of course, a variety of reasons for this – not least, the lack of accountability given to them. That said, Teaching Schools in 2020 are working in a very different landscape compared to 2011. There are now many more multi-academy trusts (MATs), some of which are also Teaching Schools, and the contribution made by local authorities in this space differs from region to region, some playing a significant role and others, not. Yet we have still been asking Teaching Schools to perform the same function.

I see this is an opportunity to evolve the system. The future provides an opportunity to evolve further, to learn from the strongest practice, to draw in other, potentially unused expertise, and to work at scale on a place-based agenda that will impact on more, not just a few.

An opportunity for collective leadership

It sounds promising but can this be achieved? This isn’t about competition versus collaboration, this isn’t about MATs versus Teaching Schools versus local authority versus independent versus grammar and so on. This is an opportunity for Teaching School Hubs to lead and facilitate locally, using the collective expertise from within its locality. The inequalities within the system have not gone away. This provides an opportunity to use such collective capacity in order to have significant impact at scale.

Teaching School Hubs will be a major partner, locally, developing strong practice alongside others. The new hubs will aim to facilitate local delivery across 200–300 schools. They will be a key local partner supporting early career teachers, Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and wider professional development.

There are complexities in making this happen. This will require school leaders to work beyond existing structures. The strategy must be built on a forensic analysis of need specific to a local area. The challenge must be met with an evidence-based approach yet, where possible, allowing for innovation so that the original design principles of Teaching Schools can come to the fore.

It will need deep collaboration, where there are no barriers and no limits. And, at the heart, there must be a confidence to lead the system and a proven track record of success.

The first hubs

In January, the first six test and learn Teaching School Hubs were designated. Their first few months have been affected, not least by the current pandemic, however, they are able to provide a great insight into the early stages of development. In total there will be around 87 hubs, with the application process currently due to open in autumn.

Richard Sheriff, Director of the Red Kite Teaching School Alliance (RKA) and ASCL Immediate Past President, is leading one of the hubs. Richard said, “As ASCL president last year, I stood and addressed Annual Conference on the theme of uniting our fragmented educational system. I talked of the need for us as school and college leaders to make this happen and move to a landscape where interdependence replaces autonomy and networks advance to make empires obsolete. Grand words, however genuine, don’t make change happen but it seemed serendipitous when the announcements were made shortly afterwards to develop a new Teaching School Hub model.

“RKA is a genuine partnership project that I serve as director but the steering group of headteachers shapes what we do and how we work together. Shared values, a huge amount of professional generosity and lots of talented people have given us the ability to become stronger together as other Teaching Schools have struggled to continue.”

Working together for the common good

The RKA is a network of over 40 primary, special and secondary schools, and now trusts, that work together in partnership for the common good. Richard said, “Working together gives us the scale and capacity to deliver and the financial stability to employ a team to support our work. The steering group saw the potential in the hub model as in effect it was what we already were – an interconnected set of schools, trusts and other partners working together to ensure all schools received the support they needed. The Red Kite Teaching School Hub reaches out to our region but remains connected with our partners in other areas, maximising our capacity and encouraging the flow of ideas and intellectual capital across the system.”

Richard pointed out that, as usual, first impressions can be misleading. He said, “Some saw hubs initially as an opportunity to build bigger empires. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the hub model. The hub is not a place, or an institution, it is a connection point – a nexus. The hubs will not provide all the CPD for schools in their region but they will know where the brilliant, evidence-based CPD is and be able to connect providers with recipients.” He believes that to make this happen, it requires sophisticated data and communication systems rather than grand buildings and teams of advisers. He said, “It also requires us as leaders to behave differently, to sacrifice a little of our autonomy for the opportunity to gain more from the collective. Leaders will need to be generous enough to give capacity to the system and humble enough to accept that all of us need support at some time.”

He commented, “There must be a sense of accountability in our new system if our activity is to have real purpose and impact. It is not enough to put on courses and hope for the best. We must ensure that what we do together is backed by evidence that it will help us deliver for children.” This, he believes, means developing an accountability model that is meaningful but does not fall into the trap of box ticking, or is too reliant on metrics that have the potential to distort all good intentions.

Richard believes the pilot has been hugely encouraging as they have started to engage with local partners, including Teaching Schools and local authorities, to receive their support and endorsement for this new approach. He said, “Education leaders see the need for reform and the potential to create a more sustainable and equitable infrastructure.”

As Covid-19 wreaks its havoc over our world there has never been a more important time for us to embrace the opportunity to develop the sustainable interdependence that can help every school and every child reach their potential – the new Teaching Schools Hubs could do just that.

Richard Gill
Chair of the Teaching Schools Council and Chief
Executive of The Arthur Terry Learning Partnership in the West Midlands