This is my second post in response to the inaugural meeting of the SSAT’s Vision 2040 group earlier this week. In the first post (https://dailygenius.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/a-vision-for-education-in-2040/) I imagined how things in 2040 might look from my own perspective as a retiring teacher. I took the optimistic route (it was ever thus and ever thus will be) imagining a system that had been transformed as a result of changes we, as professionals with plenty of autonomy, had made in the later part of this decade and the early part of the next.
In this post I want to continue the personal theme and imagine a vision for education in 2040 from the perspective of my 8 year old daughter who is determined to become a teacher and who, aged 35 in the year 2040, might well be applying for an Assistant Headship. This is her letter of application.
Dear Ms Bailey,
I am writing this letter in support of my application for the post of Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for teaching and learning at Everytown Academy.
Since I qualified as a Teacher of Art in 2027 I have held a number of positions of responsibility that I believe have prepared me for the challenges of this role.
As a classroom teacher I gained Chartered Assessor status with the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessment (the CIEA). Following the collapse of the external assessment system under exam boards that were too far removed from the profession, the government had finally responded to the teaching profession around the concept of a proper 14-19 English Baccalaureate. As part of my work with the CIEA I was instrumental in devising assessments for Art that dovetailed with assessments in other subjects and that allowed students to pursue more vocational elements and more academic elements according to their intended post-19 destinations. This work was, I believe, instrumental in helping our profession make sense of the extended compulsory participation age that had been introduced over a decade earlier.
Whilst working for the CIEA I was also engaged in pilot programmes for quality assuring the new assessment procedures of centres across my region. Some subject leaders I worked with who had been employed in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries said that peer-validated internal assessment procedures had not just introduced trust in their professionalism and integrity but had also improved their understanding of assessment processes and, consequently, the learning of students on their courses. It is an aspect of my career of which I am very proud and continue to carry out each year. I can’t imagine returning to an era where teachers are paid to assess the work of other centres but are not entrusted to assess their own.
My first school leadership post was as a Pastoral Leader. In this role I proposed that we join the fledgling Student Leader Network and its sister organisation, the Student Parliament. Having previously worked with a colleague on introducing Digital Leaders to our school, engaging them within the school, locally via other Digital Leader schools and nationally (and beyond) via social networking sites, I was very excited by the school-led national rollout of Student Leaders. This programme helped the school ensure that students moved away from arguments about their rights as individuals and towards discussions about their responsibilities as citizens in a way that the old-fashioned citizenship curriculum had failed to do. Our students were key contributors to the writing of revised PSHE programmes of study, liaising with ministers and the Teacher Policy Advisory Group (TPAG) in constructing a curriculum that met the needs of students, schools and the nation as a whole. Five of our students went on to be members of the national Student Parliament with one becoming the Student Shadow Minister for Education. In this role she gained national acclaim for helping persuade the Secretary of State that performance related pay mechanisms had failed, based upon interviews she had conducted that had been funded by the Student Leader Network as part of her extended project qualification.
After two years of performing this role I applied to become a Specialist Leader of Education (SLE). Unlike the first generation of SLEs, whose work supporting other schools was valuable but very hit-and-miss across the country, I was registered with the SLE Network that was born out of the SSAT’s Lead Practitioner Programme and Challenge Partners’ Directory. As an active member of this network I was engaged in all manner of school-to-school support ranging from one-off days with Pastoral Leaders in other schools to a half-term secondment. My school was happy to let me go because, under the reciprocity protocols of SLE Network membership, payments for cover or swapping of staff to facilitate my work was the norm. The bringing together of the SLE programme with lead practitioner networks gave me many opportunities to see the system as a whole and this will be of great benefit as I make the transition to senior leadership.
When I was promoted to Head of Faculty seven years ago I faced a massive challenge joining a school that had no Performing Arts resources and where the only specialist teachers were NQTs. At this point I was pointed in the direction of ‘teachat’, the SSAT’s educational social network and blogsite that replaced Twitter, LinkedIn, Dropbox and WordPress as teacher’s preferred social and professional networking tool. Through this online community (now accounting for 52% of teachers at the last check and still growing thanks to the SSAT’s decision to switch from institutional to individual membership) I was able to access resources right down to banks of lesson plans. I was able to organise visits to other schools and support in my own school from those who had faced the same difficulties we faced. I was able to integrate ideas discussed in blogs and video content that was brilliantly archived and curated by the site. I was able to recruit specialists without the need to pay thousands of pounds for advertisements as had bizarrely been the case for too many years previously. The end result was a coherent and stable staffing, a challenging and rewarding curriculum and rapidly increasing results that have seen dozens of our students go on to study for degrees in the arts at the most prestigious universities.
In the last two years I have been seconded three days a week to the Royal College of Teaching following my achievement of a distinction in my Masters degree. As part of their recently created Practitioner-Researcher initiative I spent the first three months learning a great deal more about various research methodologies which I was then asked to put into action in my school to ensure that our action research programme had far greater academic rigour. This was validated by my ‘buddy’, the academic who has been seconded to my school two days a week to observe, co-teach and deliver our Masters programme. Together we have formed a tight, harmonious relationship that has benefitted both my school and his university: We are somewhat of a personification of the success of this element of the RCoT’s work.
I hope that I have shown that I have all the knowledge and skills to be a success in the role of Assistant Headteacher. In this role I would draw upon all these experiences in order to influence the post-Ofsted landscape that is only two years away now. As a Teaching School with twenty-five years experience of raising standards it is indeed high time that you be charged with piloting what will become a national system of peer-led accountability mechanisms that dovetail with improvement mechanisms. In particular I am keen to use my knowledge of the Royal College and it’s universally praised Teacher Professional Expectations as those that will underpin peer review processes. That these peer reviews are genuinely peer-driven and not simply SLT-led means that we need to engage even more teachers in the process of observing colleagues in other schools in a way that is developmental in nature, but respectfully and honestly challenging where it needs to be as part of a productive dialogue for improvement. It won’t be an easy task but, after nearly half a century of external accountability that negatively skews student and teacher learning, we need to make an internal accountability model skew this learning positively. It is a challenge that I relish as much as I know you do.
In closing this application I wanted to say that I have been fortunate to have taught in a time when teachers have had plenty of opportunities to not only help improve their own schools but have had a right (indeed an expectation) to contribute to the improvement of other individual schools and of the system as a whole. Whilst I recognise that my experiences detailed in this letter are fast becoming the norm for teachers across the United Kingdom I believe that my track record demonstrates that I have embraced this vision of a practitioner-led school system as well as anyone else.
I hope to hear from you in the near future and relish the opportunity to speak further about how my experiences will inform my work in this exciting post in your exciting school at this exciting time.