The Arthur Terry School, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
The Arthur Terry School became a teaching school in July 2011 and less than a year later achieved accreditation as a SCITT – school-centred initial teacher training – provider. It is part of a 25-strong Teaching School Alliance which includes Birmingham City University plus primary, special and secondary schools.
Simon Robert is its Director of Teaching School, with day-to-day responsibility for running the teaching school.
Why did your school take the decision to become a teaching school?
We’d been fulfilling many of the criteria that schools need to become a teaching school on an unofficial level for years; we’d been working with a sister school and had a strong commitment to system leadership. We also wanted to be at the heart of initial teacher training; although universities do a great job we felt we had so much expertise in the school that we were able to offer an alternative. Our aim was to offer something different to trainees who want to be in the classroom and benefit from school-based learning, though we rely on support from higher education to ensure academic rigour.
What were the main challenges?
One of the challenges was making the change at a time when the educational landscape was, and still is, changing so quickly. Arthur Terry had built up enough capacity in terms of staff, so I was able to immerse myself in what was a major development for the school. Another challenge was ensuring that other schools were aware of our status as a teaching school. As an alliance we have recruited fifteen National College Specialist Leaders of Education. This group of talented senior and middle leaders have the skills and attributes to support improvement outside their own school. Again the challenge has been raising the profile of this group, so that other schools are aware of their areas of expertise and the impact that they can have.
What have the benefits been for staff and pupils?
Staff have gained wider experience from working with other schools and in different contexts. Even when you’re the one providing support you still benefit, and our teachers have drawn on good practice in other schools and brought it back to Arthur Terry.
When it comes to ITT for our trainees, we’ve gone for a coaching approach. Our Learning Coaches are outstanding teachers with three or four years’ experience, and working with trainees gives them their first taste of leadership, helping their own career progression.
As a result of all this our pupils have been exposed to better teaching, which is crucial.
What advice would you give any school that’s considering becoming a teaching school?
Firstly make sure you have enough staff capacity. The criteria developed by National College are very demanding and you need enough headroom to ensure your ‘core business’ remains excellent and that there’s sufficient support.
Also, develop a strong relationship with other schools and with strategic partners, in particular a university. It’s worth considering a cross-phase partnership; for example, we’re a secondary school but are working with primary schools in our teaching alliance.
School-centred initial teacher training: http://www.education.gov.uk/get-into-teaching/teacher-training-options/school-based-training/school-centred-training
Criteria for becoming a teaching school: http://www.education.gov.uk/nationalcollege/index/support-for-schools/teachingschools/teachingschools-who-for.htm
Specialist leaders of education http://www.education.gov.uk/nationalcollege/index/support-for-schools/specialist-leaders-of-education-programme.htm