Huw Duggan, Head of Teaching School, St Chad’s, tells us how changing the culture of a school is the key to growth and success

‘You may ask who would polish fish? More importantly what a glossy-gill bearing creature has to do with OTP/ ITP and our journey to becoming an OLEVI DOC? But this iridescent, aquatic creature is at the heart of St Chad’s journey.

To put this fishy tale into context, Headteacher, Peter Burnley, had a vision for St Chad’s as a professional learning community with outstanding outcomes. The key question was how to create and sustain outstanding? Peter believed outstanding is not a bureaucratic tick box procedure, rather a culture created through systemic leadership and coaching.

Often likening school to a fish tank, with the children and staff as fish, Peter believed to change a school you must focus not on the fish, but the waters in which they swim. You cannot pull a fish from the tank, smarten it up with training and plop it back in the murky waters and expect meaningful, lasting change. You must address the water itself.

After an Outstanding Ofsted in 2006 St Chad’s was established as one of the first four schools trained to facilitate OTP/ITP in Greater Manchester. With these programmes we discovered an approach and a vernacular, which challenged thinking, changed the environment, and clarified the waters around us.

The impact of the programmes was immediate and dramatic. Rather than just paying lip service to a sticky wall, or cartoon pictures of DR ICE®, staff began to use facilitated approaches to lessons; performance management was carried out in learning 3s; peer observation and learning walks are now common place; staff development is undertaken through Joint Practice Development (JPD) with staff leading on key aspects of school improvement; leadership is done through coaching and WWW/ EBI are a regular feature of evaluations for staff and children. All staff facilitate on programmes and the OTP is used as induction process.

What’s more this tide of DR ICE® has gone far beyond our own shallow tank. In 2009 Oldham LA commissioned St Chad’s to run the provision for NQT’s, by developing a high quality training programme, incorporating the principles of OTP/ITP. Not an ITP for NQT’s, but a specific programme designed to meet the needs of NQT’s and support the Induction Tutor through the first year. This programme, the NQTP, was badged and endorsed by Richard Lockyer in 2013, and is now run for over 90 NQT’s in Oldham. It is being rolled out nationally, through schools such as Tuxford Academy, in Nottinghamshire, and is being adapted and translated to fit into the Welsh system of early professional development. We hope to have over 500 NQT’s accessing the programme in 2015-16.

As a Designated OLEVI Centre, St Chads have been supporting the Central South Consortium set up and develop accredited hub schools for OTP/ ITP across South Wales, with the aim of creating a school led system, and turn the tide away from CPD towards JPD, with teachers, leading teachers.

Few things in education have had as much impact as the OTP/ITP. They continue to be effective because culture is at the heart of the programme rather than the individual. All of which leads to the moral of the tale: “stop polishing the fish and tackle the waters in which they swim”.