Canons Park TSA Conference – 5th & 6th February 2016

Posted on December 3, 2015


“A lot has been said and written about ‘system leadership’ and the ‘self-improving school system’, but I am not always convinced that what is actually being done in the name of these concepts is being done well, being done right or being done in a way that ensures that it lasts.  When Canons set up a Teaching School Alliance with our near neighbours, Park High School, we wanted to try and capture a more organic essence of what ‘system leadership’ should be about.

For that reason we ‘burdened’ ourselves (please note the inverted commas) with the strapline of “doing it well, doing it right, ensuring it lasts” and set our stall out to focus our attentions away from the traditional Big 3 of the Big 6 (CPD, ITT and Leadership) and instead focus on the Little 3 of R&D, SLEs and school support.  We established partnerships with all kinds of schools, rather than keeping ourselves in our secondary state-school phase bubble and, most importantly, we have made alliance membership – and pretty much all that we offer – free to schools and other organisations who want to commit their time and energies to creating a mutually beneficial partnership.

What we want most from the Canons Park TSA is for it to be an alliance that thinks carefully about what it does, challenges conventional approaches when these  approaches are problematic and utilises the ideas and energies of all those who wish to align themselves with us: to be a genuinely bottom-up (or inside-out) force for purposeful, ethical and sustainable improvements in all of our schools.

For this reason we have decided that our first annual conference should not be about sharing what we want to do, but to find out from delegates what the system, and the myriad of schools that make up that system, want and need from so-called system leaders such as our alliance.  We want to challenge you to help us conceptualise what “doing it well, doing it right, ensuring it lasts” might really mean for alliances, schools and other partners, staff and students. 

For this reason, we will be inviting every person who signs up to attend one of the conference days to submit a ‘request to present’ (the details are below) along with a piece of research or other stimulus material that will be sent out to delegates who select that session.  The sessions selected will be those that best ‘crowdsource’, engaging and involving attendees in seeking out the solutions to the challenges, problems and issues that a self-improving system brings. 

I hope you can make it.  It could be wonderful.  Keven”


Canons Park Teaching School Conference – Friday 5th and Saturday 6th February 2016 from 10am to 4pm – The Hive – Barnet Football Club, Camrose Avenue, London, HA8 6AG

Eventbrite details:

This conference aims to draw out, rather than put out, by asking questions of, and seeking alternatives to, existing ways of doing things. It will be exploratory and invitational in nature, both as a whole and in each session and starts with no assumptions that there are any right and wrong answers.

The conference will be ‘crowdsourcing’ in nature.  All attendees will be sent a ‘request to present’ form.  If you wish to do so you will need to demonstrate how your proposal relates to the aims, audience and/or strands of the conference outlined below.  Sessions will be an hour in length with a 45 minute input from presenters that involves the audience in identifying a problem or issue with system leadership, thinking through an alternative approach, and suggesting or modelling solutions that epitomise the ‘doing it well, doing it right, ensuring it lasts’ principles the Canons Park Alliance is striving to achieve. The final 15 minutes of each session will be plenary sessions, recorded to capture the work of participants.

Proposals, including session stimulus materials, need to be sent to by Monday 4th January 2016.  Those selected to present will be informed by Friday 8th January 2016.

Aims of the Conference

  1. To fully explore potentially transformative approaches to school-led system thinking
  2. To draw from, but not reify, best practice in all elements of system leadership
  3. To evaluate research literature on system leadership and its potential for alliance work
  4. To reflect deeply on the challenges of school to school support and collaboration
  5. To conceptualise how alliances can connect with schools, other alliances, higher education institutions and other local and national partners for genuinely mutual benefit


  • School staff interested in self-improving school system leadership thinking and roles
  • School leaders keen to explore alternatives to existing models of Teaching School Alliances
  • Schools not involved, or not yet fully involved, in their local TSAs
  • Alliances eager to develop different approaches to ‘apex’ and ‘traded services’ models
  • Universities seeking coherent and research-generating relationships with TSAs
  • Education organisations wishing to develop mutually beneficial relationships with alliances

Conference Strands and Organisation

  • Strand 1 – Doing it well – Purposeful professional learning
  • Strand 2 – Doing it right – Ethical collaboration
  • Strand 3 – Ensuring it lasts – Sustainable capacity-building

Within each of the three strands, there will be a choice between sessions that focus on:

  • School staff and leadership contributions
  • Alliance leadership contributions
  • Partnership contributions


On Friday 5th February 2016 tickets cost £50.  The charge for the Friday Conference is made to cover costs.  Because the Canons Park Alliance is interested in collaboration over costs, all delegates who attend will receive a free voucher for day of SLE support that will be valid until the last day of this academic year.

On Saturday 6th February 2016 all tickets are free.

Who we are

Canons Park TSA has the philosophy that a self-improving school system should be done from the inside-out, that what happens in the classroom should be at the core of what we do and that leadership of such a system should be as distributed as widely as possible.

It is rooted in the view that a ‘hub’ model of working, in which all partners contribute as equals and in which a lead school functions solely to provide the conditions for this, is infinitely preferable to an ‘apex’ model, in which a high-performing lead school is seen as the ‘first among equals’.

Our conference is committed to the notion that a self-improving system is built upon the learning from the strengths of its component parts – their surpluses and not their deficits – at an individual, team and wider network level, and that the whole should be agile and responsive to these parts.

Finally, we are strongly of the belief that a research-rich, inquiry-oriented approach to system leadership, as opposed to a problem-solving approach, will provide the optimum conditions for ‘doing it well, doing it right and ensuring it lasts’.


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