On Thursday 29 January, City Hall opened its doors to host the London Leadership Strategy’s Power of Hubs Conference.
Hosted by the GLA, supported by Challenge Partners, Teaching Schools Council and the National College for Teaching and Leadership, and with over 100 delegates in attendance, the conference comprised addresses from expert speakers and interactive group discussions around how hub models can effectively support evidence-based professional development.
After a context-setting panel discussion with representatives from the London Leadership Strategy Chair David Woods, Teacher Development Trust, Teaching Schools Council and existing maths, music and digital hubs, and an inspiring keynote speech from Sir George Berwick CBE of Challenge Partners, delegates settled into some in-depth table talk discussions on the following key questions:
- At what stage is your hub currently or are you considering exploring hub approaches?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses in terms of your hub’s achievements or around what you want to achieve and learn?
- Where do you expect to be in 12 months and what are your targets?
- Where are the hub gaps in London?
Enthusiasm vs reality
Themes emerged around challenges concerning funding, resources and capacity. Ambition and innovation were plentiful; capacity to realise aspirations was not so abundant.
In part, this is – as ever – about time, but it became clear that this is as much around skills. Many teachers and senior leaders acknowledged that, to run well, their hubs need to access and allocate resource to expertise in project management, event co-ordination, fundraising, business development and – as well described by one attendee – ‘fixers’. Too few of these and the ‘wheels are not oiled’ (however it was as clear that with too many the wheels can become stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare!).
Getting the balance right to create a win/win In projects like Ukie’s Digital Schoolhouse (which invest in some core management capacity), secondary schools become digital schoolhouses with their computing and IT teachers providing training and development for local primary schools. Not only do the primary teachers benefit from CPD, but there is anecdotal evidence that suggests the secondary teachers providing the guidance have achieved improved attainment in their own classes as a direct result.
Examples like this could be a catalyst to encourage the time-poor to get involved if they see the tangible, as well as moral benefits of collaboration. The notion of ‘growing the top’ using engagement in collaboration to stretch the highest performing schools and teachers is one that underpins the work of organisations such as LLS and was a key factor in the success of the London Challenge.
Multiple hats Half of the attendees have more than one title. Many had several. These overlaps can be a real strength in the system but if conflicts of interest are not dealt with transparently then resentments can occur and very real legal and financial issues can arise.
Trust – the development of social capital – is essential and a number of attendees were able to identify projects that they had been involved in where the lead ‘funded’ body had not, in their perception, played fair. Clear and open arrangements, agreed up front, are key to ensuring equal and truly collaborative partnerships.
Identifying the isolated schools and brokering support
Many attendees were part of multiple hubs, networks and organisations. But there are many schools that rarely connect with colleagues outside of their school or Trust. Identifying these schools and facilitating entry into collaborative approaches that they could both benefit from and where they can benefit others is something that attendees saw as a missing ‘piece’ in the system puzzle.
As one of the largest brokers of school-to-school support, LLS brokers hundreds of schools partnerships a year. We also run a range of knowledge-sharing programmes for schools to network with other schools and as a not-for-profit, all of our surplus is reinvested in making sure schools can access the help that they need. View our upcoming events, including many free opportunities.
The Mayor’s Education programmes – including Gold Club, London Schools Excellence Fund and the Mayor’s Education Conference play a key part in supporting a network of London Schools. To learn more – and share you own events and learning – go to the LondonEd website.
NCTL Associates have c.200 days a year funded by DfE to support collaboration and have a specific role to help TSAs and approaches to school-to-school support. To find your local NCTL Advisor and email TLA.email@example.com to secure support.
Make it your goal to share
Professor David Woods ended the day by extolling us all to share our learning. This might not be the beautifully written up presentation. It may be emerging evidence and not an RCT. It might not even be something that went well – helping others not to make the same mistake is valuable!
Whether it is on practice – education, teaching and learning – or on process – how you have ‘oiled the wheels’ of your hub, we want to know and so do your colleagues.
If you’d like help in writing a case study for the LondonEd blog or have a blog you would like to share, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07467 945848.
Thank you for your time.
View the powerpoint presentations and materials from The Power of Hubs Conference here.