By Jason Lever
I’ve had some interesting chats recently with London school leaders. However, one thing that’s come up again and again is the feeling that neither they nor their staff has time for continuing professional development (CPD).
I say this as lead for the London Schools Gold Club. This is our initiative to celebrate exceptional schools that do the best for their students – whatever their circumstances.
At the heart of this, is that 95 primary and secondary Gold Club members come together to share their ideas and help other schools in London learn from their successes. Now in its fourth year, we’ve just had two terrific events.
Over 30 school leaders attended a primary conference day to hear from inspiring heads on their journeys from requiring improvement to outstanding, and a secondary seminar on how to create a school with consistently outstanding teaching. Yet, it’s taking huge efforts to attract schools to some other events. This is despite excellent feedback that it was ‘great to hear current teachers sharing good practice that is tried and tested daily.’ There’s no clear pattern as to why some are fully subscribed and others less so.
Wouldn’t a large number of primaries like to hear from the head of a Gold Club school sharing insights into their pilot year of the new Ofsted inspection framework? If that’s you, there are still spaces on this session…
I fully appreciate, of course, that demands on improving attainment now and constant new policies means it’s a tough call to take time away from your own school for reflection and development. At the same time, the fantastic four in five joining rate of eligible Gold Club schools really shows that London has an appetite to share ideas, tools and inspiration for success. But with this ‘demand’, there must also be ‘supply’.
The Gold Club is designed as an ‘added value’ CPD offer, alongside longer term programmes like the London Leadership Strategy’s ‘Good to Great’ programme or what’s put together within TSAs, federations, academy chains or unions like NAHT Edge.
As I’ve found, Gold Club school leaders are candid on how courageous leadership has been at the heart of their schools’ achievements in these sessions. They’re also keen to learn from other schools still making that upwards journey.
As Karen Wyatt, Head Teacher of St Joseph’s RC Primary School (Kensington & Chelsea) in the Gold Club this year told me after presenting at her event, “I really enjoyed yesterday and have to say, I particularly found my HT colleagues inspirational to listen to”.
Ultimately, the fantastic feedback at each event encourages me to keep plugging away despite the crowded market of often free, high quality CPD.
I’m buoyed by delegates telling us they value hearing about ‘highly effective pedagogy’, alongside ‘the practical ideas, which are easy to use in class straightaway’. In essence, all our sessions are led by schools that have ‘been there and done it’ for all their students.
As a secondary system leader never tires of saying, ‘a school can be any place except in isolation’. And so Gold Club will keep playing its part in London’s journey towards a self-improving school system. Linking up members with other schools at our events is starting to translate into longer-term partnerships. And that’s exactly what Gold Club’s about.
Jason Lever is the Gold Club project manager and senior education policy officer at London’s City Hall.
Register here for Gold Club schools events including seminars, conference days and school development visits. Each school can book up to three free places for each session.