Dawn Watson is Headteacher of Eaglesfield Paddle CE Primary Academy, who joined the Great Teaching Toolkit in 2021 as part of a small group of schools across Cumbria with the support of the WELL Project (Western Excellence in Learning & Leadership). In light of the feedback from this initial group, several more schools in West Cumbria have also since opted to join the group. Now in their second year with the Toolkit, we speak to Dawn about how the GTT has helped her as a school leader, but also how her staff have benefitted from having access to a wide range of evidence-informed CPD tools and courses to support their professional development.
What has use of the Great Teaching Toolkit looked like for you and the Paddle team so far?
The GTT has been an excellent framework for us, which has provided an easy way to support individualised professional development within a very robust structure.
In terms of how we’ve engaged with it, the most crucial factor has been time and support from the leadership team—we’ve allocated dedicated protected time for colleagues to engage with the toolkit, and ensured that improving teaching and learning has been given the due attention.
The majority of our staff have used the pupil surveys now, and what’s been really interesting has been seeing how all classes are different. When staff initially did these with one group, it’s been fascinating and impactful to see how the results have differed when they’ve tried them with another class. This has been a timely reminder that different pupils all need slightly different levels of support in each area, and really brings to light the fact that professional development has to be truly continuing! Our staff have been really open to this feedback, and then from there, they’ve used it to inform the selection of a development area—in some cases that’s been using the courses within the GTT, or other resources around it too.
What helps in this is how well structured the toolkit is; whatever resource our teachers have used to help them develop, it’s always been anchored in the process the GTT takes you through. We use some of our staff meetings for this: staff share what has resonated with them in their learning journey, what their commitment to improve is, and ultimately what the impact on their practice has been.
For me as a school leader, I know that if my staff are using the GTT, they’re working on things that really matter, and by engaging with it, they are strengthening the school ethos of “getting better together”.
And how have your colleagues found working with the GTT?
When I was asking for feedback from our teachers ahead of this discussion, it was overwhelmingly positive. They’re enjoying a very personalised learning journey, and feeling it is helping them to become better teachers. For me personally, I can see that the flexibility of the GTT is a real strength—it allows for individuals to engage in the right way for them and for their ever-changing classes, but all within an evidence-informed structure.
The information throughout the Toolkit is digestible in short, manageable chunks, with strategies that really help in the day-to-day. Even for teachers further into their careers, they have found it a very helpful resource to refresh their knowledge, reflect on their practice and ultimately keep improving what we do in the classroom.
It was really clear when speaking to our teachers that it is a very valuable resource, and it’s not only me who would recommend it to others from a headteacher’s point of view—they would too!
If you would like to speak to one of the team about how you might use Toolkit to support professional development at your school or college, simply fill out this form, and one of the team will be in touch!