Weaving a ‘golden thread’ through professional development

Teacher training reforms impact everyone from trainee to leader. The key to retention and progress is to offer consistency across your provision, writes Katie Waring

Teacher training reforms impact everyone from trainee to leader. The key to retention and progress is to offer consistency across your provision, writes Katie Waring

25 Jan 2022, 5:00

The flurry of recent changes to teacher training and development, together with the ongoing pandemic, has made navigating the complex world of recruitment and professional development even more of a minefield for schools. Yet, it is increasingly imperative to attract, recruit and retain the best teachers to provide the best education for our young people.

At Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust (BDAT) we decided to take a proactive approach to strategically manage this shifting landscape across our family of 17 academies. Over the past two years, we have forged a multi-faceted BDAT People Strategy to ensure we live up to our values and that every member of staff, at every level, has the opportunity to fulfil their professional potential. Our strategy, which formally launched in September, is designed to deliver consistent, tailored and high-quality professional development that streamlines the complex processes and reforms.

Key to our approach was securing successful partnerships in which we could help shape the delivery of our programmes. For example, for BDAT Initial Teacher Training (ITT), after extensive research and experience of working together, we carefully selected the successful GORSE SCITT to share in provision of teacher training across the trust. Crucially, we work alongside GORSE to supplement the programme to include the frameworks we use at our academies, preparing our teachers specifically for BDAT classrooms.

A new people strategy is already helping our staff feel valued

For our Early Career Teachers (ECT), we partnered with Ambition Institute to provide the quality professional development and mentoring they need to consolidate their practice and become effective and satisfied in their roles. We’ve also partnered with national providers and other trusts to deliver the new National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). These partnerships give us the benefit of working to deliver a high-quality research-informed programme that is based on the needs of teachers in Bradford.

Vitally, they also allow us to follow the national frameworks and reforms while ensuring that we have the breadth and capacity to adapt the content to best support our staff and communities. Having the provisions centralised within the trust also removes workload for our headteachers and leaders, who would otherwise have to conduct research and set up their own offers individually.

And among their many other benefits, these partnerships also ensure we continue to drive up standards for the benefit of our communities, many of which are in areas of high deprivation. They facilitate meaningful collaboration and connection between teachers across our academies. We have formed networks of ECTs, subject specialists and more, reducing a sense of isolation that is common among new teachers, and accelerating the sharing of best practice.

A final, crucial thread of our people strategy is our career pathways framework, which we specifically created to identify development opportunities for teaching and support staff alike. It outlines various opportunities for staff to develop within their current roles and progress on to their next steps. Line managers use these pathways to support appraisal and annual careers discussions.

Though early days, we have already found that a strong people strategy grounded in our values and ethos is helping our staff feel valued. They know we are prioritising their progression and this will, we hope, lead to establishing higher rates of retention through increased satisfaction at work and in their careers. Importantly, it is also building capacity for each of our senior academy leaders to focus on their academies, improving the education of their pupils while prioritising the development of their staff.

Our people strategy is unique to our trust, and our schools and their needs. But the lessons we’ve learned in its development are universal. First, take time to digest the new policies and frameworks and their underpinning rationale. Second, listen to the needs of your academies. There is plenty of scope for flexibility. Next, don’t try to go it alone. Forge new partnerships that match your academies’ needs and give you a voice in how programmes are delivered.

And finally but crucially, be proactive. These changes have happened with us, not to us. So let’s keep it that way!

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