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Teaching Schools: a vision becomes reality

The development of Teaching Schools provides a framework for continual, sustainable school improvement, raising the quality of teaching and improving the learning outcomes of all our children.

This Spring the National College for Teaching & Learning published Teaching Schools: first among equals? The paper, by Prof. Peter Matthews and Prof. Sir George Berwick, explores the development and growth of the teaching schools’ concept and how it has evolved to become a major plank of national policy for improving teaching (DfE, 2011b:12).

It was in 2001 that Sir George first articulated the concept of ‘teaching schools’ – similar to teaching hospitals – where the best practice, skills and knowledge that already exist within a school could be shared and used to improve the quality of teaching, and consequently improve the learning outcomes of pupils.

Sir George, then Headteacher of Ravens Wood School, Bromley, set out to explore how best to achieve this. Along with his staff he developed a framework to retain and value excellent practitioners as well as providing them with a means by which they could facilitate the professional development of others.

Ravens Wood School became a centre of excellence and, driven by a moral commitment to ensure all children had the best learning outcomes, shared their expertise with other schools through school-to-school support.

In 2003, London Challenge provided an ideal context in which the teaching school model could flourish. The Improving Teacher Programme (ITP) and Outstanding Teacher programme (OTP), developed by Ravens Wood School as part London Challenge, went on to become part of the Teaching & Learning Syllabus developed for the City Challenge and National College. OLEVI’s ITP and OTP are now an integral part of the engine of improvement used by Challenge Partners.

When, in 2010, the coalition government announced the designation of 500 teaching school alliances in England by 2014-15, it set the foundation for a teaching school-led system and Sir George’s vision was realised.

Teaching schools offer a real solution to the challenge of handing greater responsibility for teacher training and development, leadership development and school improvement to the profession. They have already started to make their mark:

  • Nearly 1 in 10 schools nationally, representing 1 in 8 students, had joined one of almost 200 teaching school alliances by summer 2012.
  • The first 100 teaching schools delivered over 10,000 initial teacher training placements 21 of the first 33 licences awarded by the National College to deliver leadership development have gone to teaching schools.
  • More than two-thirds of teaching schools are delivering OLEVI’s highly sucessful Outstanding Teacher Programme (OTP).

Matthews, P and Berwick, G (2013)
Teaching schools: first among equals?
Nottingham, National College for Teaching and Leadership

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