We met Lee Gray the headteacher at Studley High at the induction for new teaching schools last year. We caught up with Lee later in the autumn term to find out more about his plans. You can watch a video of Lee below explaining why he chose to apply for Studley to become a teaching school.
About Studley High
I’m the head of Studley High, an 11 to 16 comprehensive school in South Warwickshire. We became a teaching school in September 2016 and established the Shires Teaching School Alliance, which reflects our proximity to the 3 counties of Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. The alliance includes 12 secondary schools, 6 primaries and a special school, as well as a university and a further education college.
The ethos underpinning the Shires is that we welcome all schools to get involved in school-to-school learning. Developing a distinct alliance identity, independent of Studley High, has been important, as we want to reflect that the alliance is about every single organisation.
One of our drivers for applying to become a teaching school was that Studley was already part of the South Warwickshire Education Partnership. We were already collaborating with other schools and colleges, so becoming a teaching school was the logical next step.
Yes, there is a lead school but that doesn’t mean it’s the head school. The lead school manages the funding and can be the glue that supports all schools in developing the capacity to develop others.
Building an open and honest alliance
To succeed we knew we needed our alliance of schools to be open and honest. Our schools have to be able to discuss their areas for improvement as well as their strengths. We also need to be honest about what we can devote our staff time towards. That’s the big commitment, letting your own staff out on occasion to help other schools. Getting all those things right requires lots of communication and set-up at the start, so everyone is clear about what is going to happen and everyone has a voice.
Our vision for the Shires is to be outward facing: let’s be open, let’s share data, let’s have a look at where our areas for development are.
Studley High’s new curriculum leader of English is an outstanding teacher but he is new to that role, so we’ve arranged support from an established curriculum lead in another school, who has been able to help with areas such as moderation for the new 1-9 GCSE grading. In turn, Studley’s maths department, which is outstanding, has been able to support the other school’s maths teachers.
This reciprocal relationship of release of staff is only working because we’re honest and open about what needs we have in our schools.
Being a teaching school is a fantastic achievement for the school and the staff within it. But do we have areas we need to work on and improve? Of course we do. We need to be open about that.
Developing teachers and leaders
From the outset, before making an application to become a teaching school, I discussed it with staff and governors and asked for their views. Whilst Studley is a small secondary school, we actually have highly ambitious staff with diverse experience, including a number of teachers in their second to fifth year of teaching potentially looking for their next step in career progression.
A major benefit of becoming a teaching school and being part of a teaching school alliance is the opportunities it offers for staff development, which in turn benefits the quality of children’s learning.
Our vision is that within our alliance, staff will move between levels and between schools, so they’ll have a much more open-ended career path. This will keep teachers in the profession, allowing us to develop leaders who can safeguard the profession and the quality of education in the future.
If we don’t have bespoke pathways for our teachers, we run the risk of losing them. We need to make it exciting to be part of our teaching school alliance.
It’s true that this development of our staff may mean that we’re supporting our teachers to move on to another school after a couple of years. But that is brilliant because they’ve given us a fantastic start with their early career, they’ve gone above and beyond for our pupils, so we need to go above and beyond for them, to help them with their next steps.
If we can achieve that career support and progression across the alliance, then teachers from all of our partner schools will be well suited to take up a role in another alliance school and be able to slot in and deliver at a high standard from day one – ensuring sustainability.
Specialist leaders of education
At this early stage in setting up a teaching school, I’m particularly looking forward to reviewing the applications I’ve received for new specialist leaders of education (SLEs). We aim to deploy our SLEs in a meaningful way, so they have genuine impact with teachers and pupils and generate positive feedback from schools. The notion of excellent practitioners supporting others to improve outcomes may sound easy but it will be challenging to get deployments right and I’m really keen to see this develop and succeed. The Shires is aiming to recruit between 10 and 20 SLEs in our first application round, focused on areas of strength already identified by our schools including maths, English and careers advice.
Developing our staff across alliance schools as specialist leaders of education is a really valuable part of the work that we do. Staff put a lot of effort in to applying for these roles – they want to develop their careers and to help other colleagues.
I see the nurturing of SLEs as a means of retaining staff by offering them professional development and opportunities to make an impact on pupil outcomes not just in their own school but in partner schools too.
Next steps for Studley High
We’re just starting as a teaching school, so our staff are having lots of conversations with other schools in the local area and we’re especially keen to encourage more primary schools to get involved.
Our aim is that as the teaching school alliance develops and embeds and has success in our key areas, then we can start to work with other alliances and really develop alliance to alliance support. Obviously we’re very early in that process.
Now that leads have been established, we’ll be working with strategic partners to plan activities and then report back to the next strategic meeting. Where we may not have a particular expertise within our immediate alliance, perhaps 6 to 9 months down the line when we can really start to work closely with other alliances and other schools, we can identify more talent out there. That way, we’re building on the best that every school has to offer, and identifying our own weaknesses as well as strengths in the process. That means we are all learning from one another and that’s what being a teaching school is all about.
You can read about Studley's approach to teacher training here.