Bigger role for teaching schools

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Teaching schools are to play a greater role in supporting the early years sector, Elizabeth Truss said last week.

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St Paul's Nursery School and Children's Centre is one of three nursery schools in the Bristol Early Years Teaching School Consortium

In a speech at a Policy Exchange event, the education and childcare minister said that there was already a network of 100 teaching schools and that 20 of them would be making new links with early years providers in their area.

Teaching schools have a large remit to provide training and development to other schools and early years providers in a number of different ways (see below).

Teaching school networks have to be open to all providers and the Department for Education aims to have a network of 600 teaching schools by March 2016.

Charlie Taylor at the National College for Teaching and Leadership has overall responsibility for teaching schools, which must all be graded outstanding and meet set eligibility criteria to apply for funding.

Nine more nursery schools have been designated as teaching schools this month, taking the number of them designated as teaching schools to 16.

During her speech, the minister highlighted the work of three nursery schools in Bristol awarded teaching school designation in March 2013.

The Bristol Early Years Teaching School Consortium is made up of Redcliffe, St Paul's and St Werburgh's, all nursery schools and children's centres, and all Ofsted outstanding for their nursery school and children's centre provision.

They support the nine other nursery schools in Bristol and also work with private and voluntary providers.

Elizabeth Carruthers, headteacher of Redcliffe Children's Centre and Nursery School, said that she believed teaching schools provide nursery schools, 'places of excellence for early years', with the chance to redefine themselves.

'This is nursery schools as teacher educational institutions. We design teacher educational programmes,' she told Nursery World. 'It's a way for nursery schools to reinvent themselves and put themselves at the centre of excellent practice.

'It's a way that we can survive, retain and build on that excellent practice, which is internationally recognised, and disseminate that good practice across England.'

In Bristol, the three nursery schools have so far offered places for 60 early years (initial teacher education) students. From September they will be supporting 100 students through five different routes into teaching, including some who will be on the Early Years Teacher Status programme.

But Lucy Driver, head teacher at St Paul's Nursery School and Children's Centre, added, 'Although I applaud the recognition that is being given to highly qualified staff leading in the early years sector, I am not in support of the new Early Years Teacher qualification, as it does not award QTS. I believe that all teachers should be awarded the same status and be paid on the same terms and conditions.'

The consortium has co-constructed the training programme with Bath Spa University and University of Gloucestershire.

The nursery schools have a service level agreement in which the teaching school is commissioned to deploy specialist leaders in education (SLEs) in areas and settings with identified needs.

There are also 11 designated specialist leaders in education attached to the nursery schools that work with other early years providers in the areas of mathematics, under-threes, assessment and transition and family support.

There will be a total of 24 SLEs from May, when specialisms will be added in early language, special educational needs, BME achievement, and play.

Ms Driver said, 'We have a rich history in developing research, delivering high-quality CPD, setting-to-setting support and close working partnerships with higher education institutions.

'Nursery schools, the few that are left, are best placed to lead in this direction - they have an enormous wealth of experience in multi-agency and partnership working, research, training, working across the sector and with primary and secondary schools.

'Above all, they have pedagogical leadership at their core and have a track record of most effectively narrowing, or filling, the gap for the most disadvantaged young children and their families.'

The consortium is also a research hub and is launching a website to showcase local, national and international research.

The three nursery schools offer more than 40 CPD courses and offer MA modules in maths, to be extended to birth to threes and outdoor learning. They also work with other primary and secondary teaching schools on a personalised leadership development programme for aspirant headteachers.

The consortium has also worked with the local authority to develop a co-constructed model of quality improvement and to develop and define leadership routes in early years in the city.

The consortium is now established as a charitable company limited by guarantee.

Ms Driver explained that there was 'a vision for there to be a city-wide cross-phase teaching schools alliance and strategy - in which every school and setting feels a sense of ownership of the quality improvement agenda and feel that they belong, sharing and learning from each other. The remit is huge; we can't do it alone.'

CORE AREAS

There are six core areas of responsibility for teaching schools.

  • School-led initial teacher training
  • Continuing professional development
  • Supporting other schools
  • Identifying and developing leadership potential
  • Specialist leaders of education
  • Research and development