Become an #epic leader with Southwark Teaching School Alliance

I was recently invited to join a conference panel discussing how to have impact at any level as a leader. It got me thinking about successful leadership behaviours. I concluded there are four that together add up to epic leadership.

Epic leaders are empowering, (moral) purposeful, impactful and compassionate.

Epic wasn’t a word I used much until my home became dominated by the superheroes and accompanying jargon my husband and children are obsessed with. It seems a good fit for the notion that successful school leaders have a touch of the superheroic about them. But you don’t need special powers to be an epic leader; just four qualities anyone can develop.


Epic leaders don’t rely on personal performance, but inspire and enable others to deliver. This can be particularly tricky for middle leaders, who are often ‘pace-setters’, leading by example and urging others to keep up. It certainly can be difficult to let go, especially when you know (or think you do) that you can do something better yourself. Yet, while pace-setting can be an effective way to get things done in the short term, it can quickly lead to burn-out for you and demoralisation for staff.

Far better is giving staff genuine responsibility (for outcomes not tasks), and offering them the tools to succeed for themselves. Setting a clear vision and expectations, backed up with practical and moral support is key. Coaching can help staff find their own solutions and approaches, while metoring is useful when they’re stuck. You also need to create an environment where it is safe to try things out and sometimes fail – as we tell our students, this is an important way to learn.

(Moral) purposeful

OK, I had to cheat and put the moral in brackets for epic to work, but think of those parentheses as adding emphasis, not diminishing it.  To continue the superhero theme, with great power comes great responsibility. What you do with the power you have as a school leader really matters. Having a strong moral compass and set of values around securing the best outcomes for all children – while supporting the growth and wellbeing of the adults you lead – should determine the direction of your leadership. Consistently living those values in everything you do is crucial. People will be watching; it’s not good enough to expect people to do as you say if it’s not as you do.


Epic leaders have a positive and lasting impact on those around them, be they adults or children. Of course, the difference we make to the young lives in our care is our most important task as school leaders. It should extend beyond academic success to a genuine flourishing in all aspects of development, including the personal, social, moral and cultural. All our leadership endeavours – from the development of our staff to our use of financial resources – should be directed at securing this impact.

But we need to exercise care that the mantra of “doing whatever takes” doesn’t come at the expense of staff wellbeing, or indeed our own. We all work hard; what we need is to work smarter, innovating and experimenting to secure the biggest gains for the least effort. We cannot successfully nurture our pupils if we do not also nurture and nourish ourselves and the teachers and other adults around them.

The most epic leaders have impact beyond their own organisation, whether that’s a school, teaching school alliance or multi-academy trust. They share their expertise and enthusiasm as true leaders of the system, striving to make it better for everyone in it. System leaders can be found at every level, making an impact through exercising “soft” power and influence (shaping the agenda and promoting learning and development through blogs and conferences, for example), as well as taking on formal responsibilities.


Last, but certainly not least, epic leaders are compassionate – both to others and themselves. Compassion has been much underestimated in traditional models of “strong leadership”, but there is great strength in taking the time to know, understand and empathise with staff and colleagues and in treating them with compassion and respect. It is the right thing to do. It can also inspire commitment and loyalty that will result in a willingness to ‘go the extra mile’.

Compassion is a courtsey you should also extend to yourself. You are likely to be your harshest critic. If this is the case, ask yourself what you would say to a friend who was saying the things you say to and about yourself. Make your self-talk a more positive reflection of the person and leader you really are.

Epic, not infallible

Being an epic leader doesn’t mean getting it right all the time. Development and the achievement of success is not a linear process; it is very messy. Epic leaders acknoledge this, admit when they’re wrong, learn from it and move on. They also create a culture that ensures others can do the same.

Epic and authentic

Like superheroes, epic leaders come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t don a cape, they simply strive to become the very best version of themselves.

If you’re looking to develop an approach to epic leadership that’s as unique and authentic as you are, sign up by Friday 20 October for one of our four leadership development programmes:


Leading the Way – A look back at STSA leadership development in 2016/17 and ahead to 2017/18

Across Southwark Teaching School Alliance, we are striving to create a community of schools where all children and young people are nurtured and challenged to flourish in all aspects of their life – academic, cultural, personal and social. We are doing this by harnessing practitioner excellence and evidence-based practice for the benefit of all schools and children in the Alliance and beyond.

In 2016/17, our schools have worked together to:

  1. provide initial teacher training for 36 trainees across our two Schools Direct partnerships;
  2. offer a range of practitioner-led continuing professional development for teachers and teaching assistants on everything from staff and student wellbeing to phonics to outdoor learning;
  3. formed five new peer review clusters across 22 primary and secondary schools and nurseries to provide school-to-school support and challenge; and
  4. engaged in a range of research and development activities, including leading a project to explore how to reduce the burden of marking while increasing the impact of feedback.

Developing leadership at all levels has been a central strand of our work because research in the UK and abroad has emphasised how “leadership not only matters: it is second only to teaching among school-related factors in its impact on student learning”[1]. And of course its impact extends beyond single classrooms to whole schools. In 2016/17 we have enabled over 50 teachers to develop as middle and senior leaders and towards headship, and 15 serving heads and executive heads to hone the skills needed to progress in executive leadership.

In our new brochure, STSA Leading the Way, you can read more about two of our leadership programmes and the successful leaders they have inspired. All have either secured promotion or taken on additional system leadership responsibilities. All share important reflections about their experience of leadership and why it matters – because of the difference it makes to learners.

You can find out more about the leadership development on offer through Southwark Teaching School Alliance in 2017/18, including National Professional Qualifications in middle leadership, senior leadership, headship, and executive leadership, on page 15.

I hope what you read in the brochure will inspire you to want to join Southwark Teaching School Alliance and pages 16-17 provide details of our 2017/18 membership offer. Together we can ensure that across our community of schools all learners flourish.

[1] Leithwood, K. et al (2004), How leadership influences student learning, p3. See also Day, C. et al (2009) The Impact of School Leadership on Pupil Outcomes Final Report.


Learning lessons on the performance of primary pupils through secondary education from longitudinal data

Southwark Teaching School Alliance and Southwark Council have been working with Mime Consulting to understand how Southwark primary pupils go on to perform in secondary and tertiary education. In this guest blog, Mime Consulting explain what their analysis has shown and how schools, multi-academy trusts and local authorities elsewhere in the country can benefit from similar analysis:

Our work tracking a cohort of primary pupils through to A-levels or equivalent found that a primary school’s performance at Key Stage 2 (KS2) often does not equate to success of those pupils in their secondary school. To improve the life chances of their pupils, primary and secondary schools need to understand the combined impact of their education.

Background to the review

We have undertaken a review of longitudinal data from the National Pupil Database (NPD)[1] in partnership with Southwark Council and the Southwark Teaching Schools Alliance (STSA).

A number of Southwark primary schools wanted to understand their impact on the outcomes of pupils after they left.  The STSA wanted to know if there were any lessons to support the sharing of best practice, particularly in pupils’ transition between primary and secondary.

Liz Robinson, Head at Surrey Square Primary School, explains:

“As a school, we understand that a huge part of our purpose is to prepare our pupils both personally and academically for success at secondary school and beyond. We HOPE that we do a good job of that, but don’t really know. That’s why we are really excited about, and committed to, deepening our understanding about how our pupils do at the next stages of their lives. We hope to be able to use this additional data to enhance our understanding of our pupils and their needs, and hopefully to begin a more focused dialogue with our secondary colleagues about what else we can be doing to give our pupils the very best chance of success beyond our doors.”

We have tracked individual pupil attainment through their school career. We looked at 3 cohorts completing year 6 in 2007/08 to 2009/10 across all Southwark primary schools. We tracked them from KS2 through to KS4 in 2012/13 to 2014/15. We tracked the first cohort year (ie Year 6 in 2007/08) through to Key Stage 5 (KS5) in 2014/15. We tracked pupils wherever they went, as long as they stayed in England.

Performance at KS2 often does not equate to success at KS4

We found that there was only a weak correlation between a primary school’s performance at KS2 and the performance of their pupils at KS4. We compared the percentage of pupils in each primary school achieving the expected standard at KS2[2] against the percentage of pupils from that primary school achieving the expected standard at KS4[3].  In statistical terms, at the school to school level, about 20% of the variation in the cohorts’ outcomes at KS4 can be explained by their feeder schools KS2 outcomes.

You can see this in the diagram below.

Mime blog diagram 1Each dot represents a primary school in Southwark. The solid line across the middle shows the best line of fit with the data.  It shows two important results:

  • It was harder to achieve the expected standard at KS4 than at KS2. This will have changed along with the revision in expected standards defined by the DfE since these cohorts
  • Many of the dots are quite far away from the line of best fit. We explore this further below.

Huge variation in outcomes between feeder schools and secondary schools attended

From a secondary school perspective, there is a huge variation in outcomes between feeder primary schools. This diagram shows attainment of the expected standard at KS4 of the primary schools pupils for one secondary school in Southwark:

Mime blog diagram 2

The same is true for primary schools. There is a wide range of outcomes depending on the secondary school attended.

These differences cannot always be explained by the prior attainment of the primary school. We found that many of the highest performing schools at KS2 had lower KS4 achievement than the lowest performing primaries.

Mime blog diagram 3

It is important to note that these results won’t be true of every primary and secondary school. Nevertheless, there are some interesting messages here and it provides a useful starting point for discussion between primary and secondary school heads.

Understanding the reasons

We are in the early stages of exploring with schools what is behind these findings. We believe that the reasons might include the following:

  • Embedding of learning – Some primary schools are good at getting their pupils over the threshold for the test at KS2 but the learning is not embedded. So as the child progresses through secondary school, they are unable to keep up with the increasing expectations. We found clear trends for this in school cohorts in both English and maths
  • Transition support – There is better transition support between some primary and secondary schools, particularly where there is an established route between the schools. We found that outcomes improved from 55% to 69% achieving the expected standard at KS4 when the cohort of pupils moving together increased from 1 to 11 or more
  • Compatibility of teaching methods – There may be issues of compatibility of curriculum or teaching methods between some primary and secondary schools
  • Disadvantaged pupils – the challenging circumstances of many disadvantaged families in the schools we looked at makes it hard to sustain good outcomes through secondary. Our initial investigation found that for disadvantaged pupils, primary outcomes were a less good indicator of secondary outcomes than they were for other pupils.

In partnership with STSA we plan to do further sessions with schools to explore these findings in more detail. We hope to draw out any lessons of best practice that can be shared. The analysis continues to be a useful tool to encourage dialogue between primary and secondary schools with the aim of improving the combined outcomes.

Find out more

For more information, please visit the Mime Consulting website here  or to talk about how we can support your primary or secondary school, or schools in your local authority or area, please contact us at .

[1] The Data Controller of NPD is the Department for Education (DfE). The DfE does not accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived from the NPD Data by third parties

[2] For the cohorts studied, the DfE’s expected standard at KS2 was to achieve Level 4C or above. This was later changed to 4B and subsequently to scaled scores but in 2008 was as shown.

[3] For the cohorts studied, the DfE’s expected standard at KS4 was to achieve 5 or more A*-C grade at GCSE including English and maths. This was later changed to Progress 8 but in 2012/13 was as shown.

Securing the best teaching and leadership talent for Southwark – next steps

In November, Southwark Teaching School Alliance hosted an event for headteachers examining the challenges around recruitment and retention and opportunities to work together to address them. While there are few quick fixes, there were several actions identified that will help build a sustainable pipeline of teachers and leaders for our schools.

In a follow-up conversation with Southwark Council we agreed the following next steps and opportunities for you to get involved:

  • Southwark Council is developing a Southwark recruitment portal on its website which will:
    • Sell the benefits of living and working in Southwark, including cycle scheme, rent deposit scheme, leisure and cultural opportunities etc.
    • Advice and support for prospective applicants – e.g. how to create a strong CV
    • Potentially offer the facility for Southwark schools to post vacancy and secondment opportunities
  • The Council would like schools’ input as the portal is developed and anyone interested in contributing should contact Cara Cahill.
  • Southwark Council will continue to promote teaching in Southwark at HEI recruitment fairs, with the opportunity for schools to send along promotional materials, information about vacancies and representatives.
  • Southwark Council is continuing to talk to members about making more affordable housing available for teachers. Schools could reinforce this message by lobbying their local councillors.
  • Southwark Teaching School Alliance will continue to offer Schools Direct as a route into teaching in Southwark. The more schools that get involved with this work, the more training places we will be able to secure and the better the supply of Southwark-grown teachers, so schools are urged to consider joining one of our two Schools Direct partnerships led by John Donne (salaried scheme) and Crampton (non-salaried scheme).
  • Southwark Teaching School Alliance will also explore what more it can do to support career progression within the borough to support retention, including by giving middle and senior leaders the chance to be recognised as Specialist Leaders of Education and by working with HEI partners to offer a Southwark Masters qualification.
  • Southwark Council is exploring the possibility of hosting a big recruitment event, hosted in one of Southwark’s iconic spaces, in autumn 2017 to sell teaching in Southwark. The Council would like school input into the shape of this event and to the event itself. Southwark Teaching School Alliance will contribute to both.

A look back at autumn term 2016

With Christmas a mere five days away and the cold starting to bite, it’s hard to believe we were having a late summer heatwave on those first few days of term in September. A lot has happened since then – both in Southwark and the world outside – and, as is traditional at this time of year, I thought it worth a quick look back on the autumn term that was.


Since taking up post in September, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting primary, secondary and special schools across the borough and beyond (as indicated by the stars on the map). I am very grateful to the headteachers who have welcomed me and shared the many exciting things going on in their schools. An important task in the months ahead is to ensure we become more effective in identifying, signposting and spreading excellent practice wherever it is found, so that it impacts on as many learners as possible. If there’s something good going on in your school you’d like to share, please get in touch.

Other highlights of the term include:

Initial Teacher Training

  • Our Schools Direct partnership, led by John Donne, doing better than the national average (of 30,000 places awarded from 65,000 bid) to secure 18 of the 25 places they requested for trainees this year

Continuing Professional Development and Leadership Development

  • Launch of a new Middle Leaders’ Programme, being offered in partnership with UCL/IOE
  • Holding the first two of seven sessions in our second cycle of Leading Impact – NPQSL, run in partnership with Ambition School Leadership (formerly The Future Leaders Trust)
  • Securing money from the NCTL Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund to launch two programmes for female leaders; one for serving heads and executive heads exploring Headship Beyond One School, and the other for Senior Leaders contemplating their next steps towards headship
  • Shorter courses led by our Specialist Leaders of Education (SLE) on fabulous phonics, spelling in the new curriculum and pupil wellbeing, among others

School-to-school support

  • SLEs using their expertise to provide bespoke support to schools in Southwark, Smethwick and Uganda in topics ranging from phonics to SEND to school business management
  • Ongoing success of our pilot peer review cluster, with a second round of visits prompting detailed scrutiny, deep thinking and development of improvement plans in areas identified by hosting headteachers
  • Working with Mime and Southwark Council to give all Southwark primary schools access to data about how their pupils do at secondary school
  • Our first headteacher hot topic session, considering collective approaches to recruitment and retention, with key proposals being taken forward by Southwark Council

Research and development

  • Being one of only 11 schools/TSAs accepted (from 158 who bid) for funding as part of the workload challenge. The money will support a project involving 8 schools to examine the impact on pupil outcomes and teacher workload of dropping written marking in favour of verbal feedback
  • Continuation of the Connecting Knowledge Project with UCL/IOE and nine schools in Lambeth and Southwark – using Lesson Study to explore strategies to raise attainment in writing for disadvantaged children

Huge thanks to all the schools in our alliance who have contributed to such a successful autumn term. I look forward to working with you to widen and deepen our partnership and impact on pupil outcomes in 2017.

Development opportunities for heads and senior leaders

We are delighted this week to launch three great leadership development opportunities for headteachers and senior leaders. Although they are aimed at women, please also read on if you’re a man – because it’s possible you’ll have a female colleague who could benefit and would really appreciate a “tap on the shoulder” from you.

The opportunities are:

  • Headship Beyond One School – aimed at serving female heads who are, or would like to, lead beyond one school – as an executive head, a MAT CEO or by supporting other schools in some other way
  • Senior Leadership Development for Women – aimed at female senior leaders who could be ready to step up into either deputy headship or headship
  • Seizing opportunities: Leading women to headship and beyond – a one-day summit hosted by the Leading Women’s Alliance

Read on for more details and to sign up…

Headship Beyond One School

Fully funded from the NCTL Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund, this pilot programme will:

  • Explore the range of opportunities available to women looking to lead beyond one school – whether through supporting other schools, executive headship, MAT leadership or other forms of system leadership – and how to fulfil them in a way that is true to yourself and your leadership style
  • Provide insights and inspiration from executive leaders in the education sector and beyond, including shadowing opportunities
  • Focus on the key skills and attributes needed to succeed
  • Create a powerful network of like-minded female leaders
  • Aid your succession planning by providing parallel development for future female heads within your school, federation or MAT

You will also have the option to:

  • Coach and/or mentor aspiring female headteachers, with funded coaching training available
  • Work with others to develop and trial family-friendly policies and practices within your school, federation or MAT

In return for over £1000-worth of CPD per person, we ask that you:

  • Commit to attending around six sessions between January and June 2017 – mostly breakfast seminars or twilights
  • Help shape the programme to best meet your needs and for roll-out to subsequent cohorts
  • “Bring someone with you” by identifying one or more female leaders within your school to participate in our parallel female leadership development programme
  • Pay an upfront “commitment fee” of £250 per school or £400 per MAT to be returned at the end of the programme providing the above requirements are met

For more information or to sign up please contact Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Senior Leadership Development for Women

Fully funded from the NCTL Leadership Equality and Diversity Fund, this pilot programme will:

  • Sharpen your leadership skills, with sessions tailored to your needs
  • Offer insights and inspiration from female headteachers, including shadowing opportunities
  • Provide mentoring and coaching from successful female leaders
  • Prepare you for application and interview success
  • Create a powerful network of like-minded female leaders

You will also have the opportunity to take part in optional activities to explore how the joys and challenges of balancing senior leadership and motherhood can be made more manageable.

In return for over £1000-worth of CPD, we ask that you:

  • Commit to attending around six sessions between January and June 2017 – mostly breakfast seminars or twilights
  • Help shape the programme to best meet your needs and for roll-out to subsequent cohorts
  • Pay an upfront “commitment fee” of £250 to be returned at the end of the programme providing the above requirements are met (this fee will be waived if your headteacher is taking part in the Headship Beyond One School programme)

For more information or to sign up please contact Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

Seizing opportunities – Leading women to headship and beyond

Southwark Teaching School Alliance is one of a number of organisations proud to support the Leading Women’s Alliance, which seeks to encourage and empower more women to take up headship and executive leadership positions.

The Leading Women’s Alliance’s second summit on 20 January 2017 will feature renown speakers on women’s leadership – including Sian Carr, ASCL President – and aims to:

  1. Equip and inspire women to seize opportunities presented by the changing leadership landscape
  2. Explore values-led leadership – essential in influencing our local communities at this time
  3. Review the Leading Women to Headship Strategic Plan, including The Pledge, and to commit to action

A full programme for the day is available here and you can sign up on Eventbrite. There is an early-bird discount price for people signing up before the end of November.

Recruiting and retaining great teaching and leadership talent in Southwark

recruitment-and-retention-pictureOn 8 November a group of headteachers came together to consider how to meet the challenges we face around the recruitment and retention of great teachers and leaders in Southwark. By the end of the morning we had a good grasp of the issues; some ideas to tackle them; and the suggestion of forming a working party to develop the best ideas further.

We started the morning with an overview from Derek Boyle from the Pan-London Strategy Group for ITT who shared figures suggesting that at the time of the last school workforce census, there were only 3 full-time teaching vacancies and 13 posts filled temporarily in the whole of Southwark! Recognising that this presents a far from accurate picture and says nothing of the appointments made simply to have someone in post, regardless of suitability, Derek encouraged us to all fill in these (non-mandatory) fields in the next school workforce census, as it is where the Department for Education and Ministers get their data from. No wonder they keep asking “what crisis?”

What we do know from the Southwark data, presented by Cara Cahill from Southwark Council, is that we are not holding onto all our initial teacher trainees and have particular challenges in retaining teachers and middle leaders who are 3-7 years qualified. Some of this is explained by the absence of affordable housing for teachers reaching the stage in life where they want a decent family home and we need to keep the pressure on our councillors and the GLA to address this pan-London issue, as well as thinking creatively about what we can do ourselves.

Simon Wattam, co-head at John Donne Primary School and Schools Direct partnership lead, revealed that the partnership was only awarded 18 of the 25 places requested for this year’s recruitment – though this represents a higher success rate than the national picture of 30,000 places awarded against 65,000 requested. Getting more (all) Southwark schools involved in the partnership would be a good way of securing a bigger supply of teacher trainees for the borough.

On retention, Cassie Buchanan, headteacher at Charles Dickens Primary School, explained how she uses flexible working as one way to keep good teachers and middle leaders. Tim Mills, headteacher at Angel Oak Academy, shared the benefits of offering fully-funded MAs (plus study leave and the chance to leave early on MA days) in attracting and retaining a certain type of teacher to his school.

By the end of the morning, we had distilled from our speakers and discussions a set of “ideas with legs” to explore further with a wider group of heads, including:

  • Development of a collective approach (and collective “buying” power) on things like recruitment, ITT and a Southwark masters. The aim would be to benefit from having a bigger voice and economies of scale, while celebrating what is special and unique about each Southwark school.
  • A single portal for anyone looking to teach in Southwark to make it easier for them to navigate the confusing plethora of routes in, and to sell the many positives of a career in teaching (without hiding the realities around the need for hard work and resilience to realise these).
  • Tackling non-schools-based issues, like housing, and looking at the “offer” for Southwark teachers and leaders drawing on the many resources and opportunities across the borough (e.g. discounted gym membership, access to cultural institutions etc.).

In the coming weeks, Southwark Teaching School Alliance and the Council will be considering the best way to work with a wider group of Southwark heads – including existing headteacher groups – to develop these ideas further. If you’d like to find out more or get involved, please email

So what is Southwark Teaching School Alliance anyway?

After a whirlwind seven weeks as the new Director of Southwark Teaching School Alliance (STSA), half term offers a moment to pause and reflect. The questions at the forefront of my mind were posed recently by a new-to-Southwark headteacher who asked what STSA is and where it fits in the wider Southwark landscape. The answers are beginning to take shape.

The National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) defines teaching schools as:

“outstanding schools that work with others to provide high-quality training and development to new and experienced school staff. They are part of the government’s plan to give schools a central role in raising standards by developing a self-improving and sustainable school-led system”.

There are two of these at the heart of Southwark Teaching School Alliance: Charles Dickens Primary School and Crampton Primary School.

NCTL goes on to explain how “teaching school alliances are led by a teaching school and include schools that are benefiting from support, as well as strategic partners [which may include other schools, universities, multi-academy trusts, diocese, local authorities and private sector organisations] who lead some aspects of training and development”.

In reality, every teaching school alliance is organised and operates differently. All commit to delivering the “big 3” – initial teacher training (ITT), continuing professional development (CPD), and school-to-school support, with research a strand that runs throughout. But how they do so is a matter for them.

Within STSA, ITT takes the form of a salaried Schools Direct partnership led by John Donne Primary School and a non-salaried scheme based at Crampton Primary School. CPD for teachers, teaching assistants, and business and support staff is led by Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs) drawn from seven schools across the borough. Leadership development programmes are provided in partnership with the UCL Institute of Education and The Future Leaders Trust. School-to-school support takes a variety of forms, from structured peer reviews using a model developed by the Education Development Trust, to consultancy from our three National Leaders of Education (NLEs) and 13 SLEs, to termly sessions where headteachers can work together on issues of common interest (our next being on recruitment and retention). Over time we expect all strands to be underpinned by and/or contribute to research into what drives the most effective practice.

What we do at STSA provides only part of the answer to the question of what STSA is; the other parts come from understanding why and how we do what we do. The answer to why lies in our vision of:

“a community where every child and young person is nurtured and challenged to flourish in all aspects of their life – academic, cultural, personal and social”.

It is about development of the whole child, through excellence across the whole curriculum and all aspects of school life. It is about impact on children’s and young people’s life chances.

How we go about doing that is described in our mission, which is:

“To build a strong community of impactful teachers and leaders based on the sharing and development of practitioner excellence and evidence-based practice”.

That sense of “community” and “sharing” in our mission, and “alliance” in our name is crucial; it is about doing with, not doing to. Our strategic leads shape our areas of focus, but they do not have all the answers. STSA will only succeed if it continues to bring together a wide range of schools to develop and improve alongside each other, drawing on expertise that already exists in schools across the borough, and creating new best practice through purposeful collaboration. Ultimately, STSA is whatever those schools who engage in the alliance make it.

The answer to where STSA fits within the wider Southwark landscape is, for now, less clear – largely because that landscape is itself evolving. In the short-term we are working with the council, as well as schools, to ensure that between us we cater coherently for the needs of Southwark learners, schools and their staff. Beyond that, we look forward to playing our part in shaping the landscape of the future, realising fully our potential to provide a forum for collaboration and action that strengthens and benefits all Southwark schools and the children and young people they serve.

Unleashing expertise in our schools; securing better outcomes for children and young people

We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Dr Kate Chhatwal as Director of Southwark Teaching School Alliance. Here she shares a bit about herself and why she’s excited to be taking up the role in September:


I started my career working in the Department for Education and Skills (as it was then known) on a strategy to improve adult literacy and numeracy. I believed – and still do – that education has the power to transform individuals and societies for the better – not just academically, but personally, socially, creatively and culturally. Having just completed a PhD in education policy, I thought the way to “make a difference” was by thinking great thoughts and writing great strategies at what I imagined was the heart of the education system.

It didn’t take me long to recognise that the real heart of the education system is our classrooms and that teachers, leaders and support staff are the ones who make the real difference. I saw it for myself visiting schools in some of the most deprived communities in England as the senior civil servant responsible for the Labour Government’s flagship National Challenge programme. And research proves it; Eric Hanushek, for example, notes how over the course of a year the best teachers “can get an entire year’s worth of additional learning out of their students compared to those near the bottom [of the quality distribution]”. He and his colleagues also demonstrated the impact of effective headteachers, which is less than the impact of the best teachers, but with benefits for more children.

I am delighted to be taking up post in September as Director of Southwark Teaching School Alliance because I will be working closely with the practitioners who are making the real difference.

For the last three years, I have overseen the design and delivery of senior leadership development programmes at The Future Leaders Trust (TFLT). As Chief Programme Officer, I have been privileged to visit scores of schools and work with hundreds of school leaders, from aspiring assistant heads to multi-academy trust CEOs. They – and my eight years’ experience as a governor and multi-academy trust trustee – have taught me a lot about what makes schools successful and the challenges they face. They also taught me how teachers and leaders can and do develop the knowledge, skills and attributes critical to their success.

A core design principle of TFLT’s programmes is that they should provide opportunities for participants to share experience and skills. This is because the deepest adult learning is achieved by teaching others. But that principle also respects the deep professionalism and reflectiveness of teachers and leaders. It is enshrined in teaching schools whose very being is predicated on the assumption that school-based practitioners are capable of generating and sharing the expertise that will enable all schools to improve. Research and evidence are important, but are no longer the sole preserve of academics.

In my role at STSA I am looking forward to working with and drawing on the unique strengths and varied expertise of schools and partners across the borough to achieve better outcomes for Southwark children and young people. I also want to ensure that the evidence and expertise we develop is shared with schools across the country, at the same time ensuring we have access to the very best practice from elsewhere.

The government’s commitment to the school-led system and the role of teaching school alliances within it provide an opportunity for every professional to contribute to system leadership. Let’s seize the opportunity we have to shape the system around us for the benefit of children and young people in Southwark and beyond.

STSA – End of year celebration!!

13th JuneThank you to everyone who attended our End of Year Celebration!  It was a fantastic evening and it was wonderful to see so many of you there!  During the evening, schools had the opportunity to learn about the different projects that we are running next year and a chance to discuss ideas with other headteachers including our NLEs and SLEs.  We also all had the opportunity to listen to and discuss ideas with Russell Hobby (General Secretary NAHT)  who shared his views on the current educational climate.  The evening was hosted by PWC who provided the refreshments for the evening.  We shared the many successes of STSA in its first year including the following highlights from 2015/2016:

33 – schools engaged with us

20 – CPD opportunities

39 – School Direct students trained

20 – teachers set to achieve NPQSL

6 – schools took part in a lesson study project

4 – schools engaged in peer review

13 – Specialist Leaders of Education recruited, trained and now supporting in schools.