In the second instalment in our series on schools’ transformation, Jamie Tegerdine, Strategic Lead for Teaching, Learning and Professional Development – Diverse Academies Trust, explains the elements that make up the organisation’s approach and presents the evidence to justify it.

Growing our people  – PIPS to PDPs – an evolution not a revolution

Jamie writes that the trust’s original aims were in part justified by the NFER’s January 2020 study into teacher autonomy and how it relates to job satisfaction and retention in England.

The key findings from this study were:

  • Teacher autonomy is associated with higher job satisfaction and intention to stay in teaching.
  • Teachers’ perceived influence over their professional development goal setting is the area most associated with higher job satisfaction and a greater intention to stay in teaching.
  • The average teacher reports a lower level of autonomy compared to similar professionals.
  • Teachers report relatively high autonomy over classroom activities, including the teaching methods they use and how they plan and prepare lessons, but lower autonomy over curriculum, assessment and their professional development goals.

The PIP evolves into the PDP

Jamie continued that it was crucial to embody the trust values of ‘we empower, we respect, we care’ in any changes. An emerging coaching culture and an already high trust and supportive environment in many of the trust’s academies strongly underpinned the change needed. This provided a stable platform on which to start.

The new PDP contained the following elements:

  • The PDP and Capability policies were decoupled- they are now two different policies. This is so that the focus is clear- improve not prove. Of course, the capability policy still exists for the very rare occasions it may be required.
  • A July-to-July cycle so that objectives were ‘oven ready’ in September. A caveat to this is that some objectives may be set over a multi-year timeframe.

  • An explicit emphasis on wrap-around (formal and informal) coaching throughout the year, with coaching time being built into academy professional development plans. The trust believes that coaching, in all its guises, adds significant value to professional development programmes. To emphasise this, a Strategic Development Lead for Coaching was appointed.
  • A requirement for two PDP objectives (with relevant actions), written with the support of a coach (who doesn’t have to be their line manager). The helped ensure that PDP objectives allowed for personal and organisational growth:
    • Academy/Team-focused objective: This objective should support and link to academy or team improvement plans
    • Professional growth objective: This objective should be about growing an area of professional interest. It doesn’t have to link directly to academy or team improvement plans, but could if wanted.
  • A Standards review: staff reflect on professional standards and behaviours with their coach. The resultant Bluesky ‘heatmaps’ act as a stimuli for coaching conversations and are also used to identify patterns of strengths and needs across teams, academies and the trust. A key part of this process has been to work towards all staff having standards to work to.

Institutional Knowledge

The diagram below is an example of the information available from using the Bluesky system to record the issues being addressed across the academies’ schools. In the past, the trust’s PIPS weren’t really analysed in great detail at academy or trust level. The process had been very compliance driven. Using the Bluesky system offered the opportunity to gain ‘intelligence’ from the new PDPs if approached carefully and with the consent of staff. It was key that staff understood why they were sharing their objectives, standards reviews and CPD requests with the trust, otherwise it may come across as a judgmental instrument. It would also be likely that standards reviews would provide useless data if staff felt that they were being judged on them (they may just score themselves highly in that scenario).

Data accessed through Bluesky reporting was used on many levels. For example, to look at all of these questions on an individual, team, academy or trust level:

  • What are staff objectives focusing on? Are there any themes emerging?
  • Why were they choosing those objectives? To prove, or to improve?
  • What standards are a strength, and which are areas for development?
  • What CPD do staff want to access? How does the Diverse Association respond to these needs? How do the Academy CPD plans respond to these needs?
  • Where is CPD being taken up, and where isn’t it?
  • What expertise exists amongst staff and how can it be identified?
  • Increasingly, this has helped the trust maintain a strategic view of the development needs of staff and the problems they are trying to surmount.

We are grateful for Jamie’s contribution and we would like also to thank David Cotton, CEO of Diverse Academies for allowing us to publish Jamie’s account.

In the concluding instalment in the series, Jamie explains the actions taken to bring about the transformation of his staff’s learning and considers the evidence even in these early days of its impact.

We are aware that many readers will be on or are about to complete a similar journey and hope you have found this article informative and reflective.

Take care and stay safe.

George

Professor Sir George Berwick, CBE