What is the Teaching Schools Council and how does it work?

In the recent white paper, the Department for Education pushed the expansion of teaching schools as its preferred method of school improvement.

In fact, teaching schools – which are Ofsted outstanding schools that collaborate with others to provide high-quality training and development – were mentioned 33 times in the 128-page document.

Yet, the Teaching Schools Council (TSC) was namechecked only once, something that underplays its role as a provider of management and support for the 730 teaching schools across the country.

Schools Week decided it was time to find out more.


In 2011 the government approved its first cohort of teaching schools and established the Teaching Schools Council (TSC), a “middle-tier” body set up to co-ordinate teaching schools and their alliances. Its existence, however, is not as widely recognised as other middle-tier bodies such as the regional schools commissioners.

The nine-member board has a mix of elected and co-opted members.

Vicky Beer, its former chair, has now moved on to become a regional commissioner, and has been succeeded by Dr Gary Holden.

Speaking to Schools Week, he said the purpose of the TSC was to “support coherence” across the schools system.

Carolyn Robson, one of his vice-chairs, said “collaboration” was the key theme of the council’s work. “We are passionate about collaboration and on the potential to transform education in a networked way. No school is an island.”

In the white paper, the DfE raised its concerns about the geographical spread of teaching schools, highlighting areas of the country without any of the centres and promising a further 300.

Speaking with representatives from the TSC, its stated aims include:

acting as a national voice for teaching school alliances (TSAs) – of which there are more than 500 working with Ofsted leads and the RSCS to “enable more collaborative and focused interventions” in weaker regions

translating government policy “into coherent practice at school level”, as well as help to shape future policy (each council member has a specialist area) making sure teaching school alliances impact areas of greatest need, such as those with greater deprivation (for example coastal areas) helping choose future system leaders and TSAs


The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), an arm of the DfE, supports the existence of the Teaching Schools Council (TSC).

Council members are not paid, but their schools are given a grant by the NCTL to “backfill” their time.

This means each school is compensated by the NCTL for allowing the council member to travel across the country to speak at events and meetings. The money does not go directly to council members.

Carolyn Robson said the level of funding “varies depending on the role undertaken by each representative”.

The regional leads, as outlined in the map above, were appointed in June 2014, so are fairly new on the TSC scene. The hope is that they will extend the role of the TSC and make it more collaborative and coherent.

Every region has its own action plan, which Robson said is shared with “other key players”, such as local authorities and regional schools commissioners.

The regional leads are tasked with creating new networks, or building upon existing work, to make sure there is a “clearly understood” sub-regional strategy. As an example, in the north west, boards oversee school improvement strategies in various sub-regions, whereas in the north east there is just one board for school improvement.

In the white paper, the DfE said it planned to work with the TSC to expand the school-led system by “partnering schools with the potential to become strong system leaders with existing teaching schools” and national leaders of education.



Alongside the national members, there are 10 regional representatives (see map).

A parliamentary committee has already raised concerns that school commissioner regions do not match Ofsted areas. To add to the confusion, the TSC regions are different again – making it difficult to organise support after a poor Ofsted or commissioner warning.

Carolyn Robson told Schools Week the regions “represent local groupings, rather than fixed boundaries”, but that they were under review with an aim to “align more coherently” with RSCs.

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  1. ‘Teaching Schools’ that replace University Schools of Education are a dangerous development likely to lower standards if they are under the ideological control of this government.

    My book, ‘Learning Matters‘, confirms, explains and supports most of the EEF Toolkit research, especially with regard to the most effective interventions. Some examples are as follows.

    1= Metacognition and self-regulation (8)£****

    1= Feedback (8)£***

    3= Collaborative learning (5)£****

    3= Oral language interventions (5)£****

    3= Peer tutoring (5)£****

    Are these the approaches that Nicky Morgan, Nick Gibb and the MATs are promoting? Have they even heard of them, or are they just dismissed as lefty, airy-fairy academic theorising?

    This is especially serious that teacher training is to be taken away from our best University Schools of Education, where trainee teachers could expect to meet and discuss such ideas, to be replaced by ‘training on the job’ organised by MATs under the control of the ‘Executive Principals’ of each Academy. These all-powerful, usually non-teaching school bosses will decide on which trainee teachers working in their schools will be given ‘Qualified Teacher’ status and which will not. This seems likely to require teachers to enthuse about the ineffective approaches to teaching and learning used in their ‘training schools’and to dismiss the research of EEF and other respected researchers. Unless trainee teachers, ‘toe the line’ (a phrase reported to have been used by a senior manager in an Academy) they may damage their careers in teaching. Nothing could be worse for the professional collegiality, self respect and morale of teachers. No wonder teacher retention has become such a serious issue as academisation has been forced onto more and more schools, imprisoning their teachers within damaging and educationally ineffective practices like Performance Related Pay.

    The issue of evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning is discussed at length in this article.

  2. Margaret Fraser

    It’s very depressing and makes me want to emigrate to a saner country where teaching has the kudos, pay, respect and working conditions it deserves. I despise all our political parties. Thanks to social media, we are seeing. Early quickly and very easily the extent of the corruption of the politicians, government and academy contract givers/receivers, pompous quango employees, even HR. ALL have a higher status than teachers now. I can only assume that we deserve this mess, because the average British family, like the average British NHS patient, is so utterly thick and apathetic, they are not supporting striking staff, or doing so themselves. We have lost a once noble and life-changing profession. Who on earth would be a teacher now? Education and health just cannot be done on the cheap. Long term, it returns to bite and doubles the initial cost one would have spent if one had funded it properly to begin with.