Charlie Taylor speaks at the Academies Show

Chief Executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership speaks about the role of the NCTL and teaching schools in the school-led system.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Teachers writing

Thank you very much for having me here today. I wanted to spend some time talking about the role of the new National College for Teaching and Leadership and then to talk about the development of teaching schools.

The aim of NCTL is to drive forward the move towards a self-improving, school-led system so that by 2016 there is an irrevocable shift from the centre to schools in 4 particular areas: initial teacher training, continuous professional development, school-to-school support and the recruitment and training of the next generation of school leaders.

But in a school-led system, what can be the role of a government agency?

It is important to say that this is a new agency. It is not simply a collapsing of the old Teaching Agency into the National College for School Leadership.

The government has rightly protected schools’ budgets, but this has meant we have had to make savings elsewhere in the DfE. And NCTL cannot, and should not simply replicate everything it did in the past. We are now a government agency, part of the Department for Education, with a much tighter remit for delivering our business.

Our focus must be on the priorities that will have the most impact in improving our schools in our 4 main areas.

Initial teacher training

NCTL will continue to administer the School Direct programme and the allocation of places to schools, universities and school-centred initial teacher training providers (or SCITTS).

The take-off of School Direct has been quite remarkable. When it started schools asked for 1,000 places, last year they wanted 9,300, and this year they have asked for 17,700 places. The exceptional growth of School Direct shows the enthusiasm schools have for growing their own teachers, selecting the right candidates, working with universities or SCITTS to design a programme of study and receiving their fair share of the training money.

In order to stick within our budget and fulfil our commitments to universities, we had to cap School Direct places, particularly in the most popular subjects - English, history and chemistry.

And I know some schools have been very disappointed with the numbers of places they got in these oversubscribed subjects and we are considering how we can improve this situation next year. However, as long as teacher training is funded by the government, there will have to be a limit on how many teachers can be trained every year.

But School Direct has not just been seen as an opportunity for schools. Universities such as Oxford, Sheffield Hallam, Nottingham Trent, Cumbria and Christchurch Canterbury have embraced School Direct. They see it as a way to develop their partnerships with schools that now extend into CPD, joint research projects and the opportunity for teachers to gain academic qualifications such as masters or doctorates.

A number of schools and academy chains are choosing to take things even further and open their own SCITT, where they will become an accredited ITT provider. In these cases, NCTL will support schools with their bid, put them in touch with other successful SCITTS and help them prepare for opening - schools like South Farnham run by Andrew Carter whose SCITT is training 60 teachers this year rising to 90 the year after.

School-to-school support

NCTL will continue to broker support from national leaders of education for schools that have got into difficulties. This can range from early intervention, where there has been a dip in performance, to a sponsored solution where things are going badly wrong. We will work with Ofsted regional leads so that as soon as a school is inspected and is found to require improvement or is placed in special measures, the right support package can be negotiated through NLEs and teaching schools. At the moment NCTL has an important role in developing NLE and LLE deployment, but in the future I would like this brokering role to be done regionally through teaching schools, local authorities, Ofsted and other outstanding schools.

NCTL is currently looking at the role of national, local and specialist leaders of education to make sure that they have the most impact where their expertise is needed. I am delighted that 135 NLEs have signed up to do the Ofsted inspector training over the next year. The more serving headteachers who join Ofsted inspections, the better the quality will be. In the future I hope every inspection team will include an outstanding, serving head teacher.

Training and recruiting the next generation of school leaders

We also will continue to develop the licensed model of leadership training, which is devolved across the country. We have moved to a system where the essential work of talent spotting, promoting and training the leaders of the future will be done by people with the most expertise in this field, and we now have 60 licensees delivering NCTL training courses such as NPQH and NPQML. But I am keen to listen to our licensees to see how they want to improve the model in future years.

Continuous professional development

We will continue to pay a part in the supporting development of CPD but the days of government-sanctioned CPD are over, it is up to schools to work with partners to develop the CPD that they require. There is a huge range of CPD of very varied quality out there. NCTL will support teaching schools to flag-up and publish examples of high-quality CPD that has a real impact in the classroom.

Teaching schools

And speaking of teaching schools, I think that in the future, they may well be seen as the greatest achievement of this government. We now have 352 teaching schools in the country and will have 500 by 2015 with the aim to go up to 600 the following year.

It is quite remarkable what teaching schools have achieved in a short period of time. And what is so refreshing is the different models that have developed across the country.

If you ever feel cynical about education… if you ever have any doubts about what schools are capable of achieving… if you think schools can’t be trusted to deliver a school-led system, then I recommend you visit a teaching school.

At times, I still get the sense that people think that a self-improving, school-led system isn’t really possible, that we can’t really trust teaching schools to deliver teacher training or great CPD or effective school-to-school support or that they aren’t up to identifying and training of the next generation of leaders.

That somehow they won’t be able to do it unless the government or their local authorities tell them what to do. There is even an expectation that we should produce some sort of rigid blueprint that makes it all neat, ties them up in bureaucracy and prevents then having the freedom to develop in their own way.

But teaching schools are showing us what can be done if they are given the freedom they need to operate. It is not for the government to dictate how high-quality CPD should be generated and delivered at schools like Latchmere in Kingston-upon-Thames, where Julie Ritchie is the headteacher. They have set up their own training for teachers in the alliance to improve level 6 reading, writing, grammar and punctuation and they report that 93% of children whose teachers have been trained have achieved level 4 or better. They are also working with 8 local schools in conjunction with the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) to improve the subject knowledge of teachers and this has led to improvements in maths in year 3 and 4 classes across the network.

There is no central programme that is telling Vicky Beer from Ashton-on-Mersey school, part of the Dean Trust, how to support schools in difficulties in the North West, but Vicky’s NLE and SLE support in schools such as Forest Gate Primary have seen KS2 results rise by 50% in one year. Ashton-on-Mersey also runs a maths specialist programme that has led to an 11% increase in A* to C in maths GCSE grades.

Then there is Arthur Terry School in Sutton Coldfield, led by Sir Christopher Stone, who has helped a number of local schools including St Michaels and Mere Green primary schools and Kingshurst Academy where, as a consequence of the support from Arthur Terry, results have improved significantly.

Teaching schools work so well not in spite of their freedom to operate but because of this freedom.

In Torbay, the work of Peter Maunder, headteacher at Oldway Primary School, has led to the development of school-led school improvement through the Torbay Teaching School Alliance. This work is commissioned by the local authority and when a school in Torbay gets into difficulties it is not the LA, but the teaching school alliance that takes on the school improvement role.

In this model, it is serving teachers and heads, who know the local population, who have a track record of achieving great results who are taking responsibility for making their local schools even better. They know the children, they know the parents, they know what needs to be done and they won’t make excuses.

I am often told that no one wants to be a headteacher any more, that the pressures are too great, that the challenges are too hard. Yet most headteachers I meet tell me how much they enjoy their jobs. I understand how hard it can be taking on a school in difficult circumstances - I have done it twice - but the personal rewards for turning round a school, of getting children who have been previously written off to succeed are enormous.

Earlier in the year I visited Maura Regan at the fantastic Carmel College in Darlington. They are a key school in the North East Teaching School Partnership delivering the NCTL licenced NPQH course which was full of outstanding teachers who will become the next generation of great head teachers. Maura told me she doesn’t believe there is a shortage of people who are capable of becoming brilliant head teachers. They are out there today working in schools, but they need to be identified, supported and given the opportunities to develop into head teachers not when they are old enough, but when they are ready.

And I recently visited Cornwall SCITT, an outstanding provider of teacher training, where they are finding that within weeks of starting, some trainees are already showing the qualities that mark them out as future headteachers. As a result they are looking at adapting their programme to give these exceptional people a bespoke training package that will help them to prepare for leadership. When I visited Chafford Hundred school in Thurrock in Essex, the exceptional executive head, Chris Tomlinson, explained that the reason they were being so selective about their trainees to School Direct was that they were not only looking for exceptional teachers, they were also looking for the next generation of headteachers to lead Harris Academies in the future.

The innovation and creativity of teaching schools continues to amaze me.

Who would have believed just a few years ago that a one-form entry primary school like the Wroxham School, run by the remarkable Alison Peacock, would be at the centre of an alliance of 50 primary and secondary schools in Hertfordshire? That they, rather than the local authority, would become the appropriate body for primary NQTs across the alliance. That they would be mentoring 20 School Direct trainees, that they would have established research study groups for headteachers and senior leaders to improve the quality of teaching and that in 1 year they would have supported 5 schools - 2 with serious weaknesses and 3 with requires improvement grades, to the extent that all ended up being judged as good by Ofsted.

The teaching schools I have described have only been designated in the last 2 years and yet look what they have managed to achieve - and the model is continuing to evolve. We are now seeing groups of outstanding schools, such as in Derby, coming together to form strong, sustainable shared teaching school alliances with responsibility shared between primary, secondary and special schools.

This is just the beginning. Applications from the latest round of teaching schools have now come in and I’m pleased to say it will be other teaching school heads who will be in the majority on the designation panels - teachers, not the government, deciding who will become the next generation of teaching schools.

I believe that teaching schools will revolutionise education in England over the next 10 years. I have only mentioned a handful of them today, but across the country they are doing quite amazing things. Yet I think this is only a fraction of what can be achieved when the best heads, in the best schools, take more control of our education system.

Published 27 November 2013