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Headteacher becomes facilitator to move school forward

Julie Willows, Headteacher, Newlaithes Infant School, shares how becoming involved with the OTP has helped her school and others in Cumbria grow.

We became involved with the Outstanding Teacher Programme following feedback from Ofsted who suggested we made more teaching outstanding. Having undertaken research into what CPD was available; I decided OTP would be perfect as it appeared to be more than a way of producing a showcase style lesson.

My aim was to gradually send my teachers on the programme as my budget and other time constraints would allow. Unfortunately, there was nowhere in Cumbria offering the OTP and the nearest location was just too far to send teachers for several half day sessions.

I decided that if this was going to be available for my teachers I would have to train to facilitate the programme myself. I discussed it with Nick Parry at Ashton-on-Mersey School and arranged for my Deputy, Michael Craig, to join me for three full days of facilitator training in 2014.

It wasn’t until we attended the facilitator programme that we realised the potential value of the OTP, and it soon dawned on us that our original plan of using the programme just for our own staff wasn’t going to work. The real value of the programme is the discussions that take place between the participants. We also hadn’t fully appreciated the value of the ward round. So, after discussions with our teachers, we decided to offer the programme out to local schools also. So far we have run two full OTPs and we have another oversubscribed to start in September.

The outstanding teacher programme has been fantastic; it makes teachers think about their own practice and how they can improve.

Michael Craig, Deputy Head, Newlaithes Infant School

Although Ofsted inspectors have yet to come back to visit us and give their opinion on how the programme has affected us, we are delighted with it. The programme has, in my opinion, had a positive impact on our children. There is much more facilitating learning going on and the children are actively involved. Our teachers are building their coaching skills and our children don’t bat an eyelid when adults walk into their classrooms. We have been clear in our sessions we are not trying to add to teacher workload. We encourage participants to think differently to try to make outstanding sustainable.

It was a really positive experience that has made me look at my teaching in a different way and helped me be more creative instead of prescriptive.

Morag Harrison, OTP delegate, Newlaithes Infant School