Ruth Stead is the Assistant Headteacher of Netherhall School, in Cumbria. Netherhall School has 800 students on roll, 39% of which are pupil premium students. Over the last 6 years, Netherhall has been on a journey from ‘special measures’ to becoming a ‘good’ school in 2018. In 2021, Ruth enrolled Netherall School on the Great Teaching Toolkit. Here, she talks to us about how the Toolkit offers her colleagues bespoke CPD.
What attracted you to the Great Teaching Toolkit in the first instance?
I first heard of the Great Teaching Toolkit through the WELL project. I attended a webinar where the Great Teaching Toolkit was being discussed, and something clicked – I thought that it was something would be really beneficial to our school and context. CPD has been a really huge part of our journey from special measures to becoming a good school. If you want to become a good school, you have to out the time and the money into the people you work with. We’re really firm believers in that.
Over the last two years, we’ve really invested in bespoke, targeted and relevant CPD. What this means, is that not everyone in the school is focussing on the same thing, because we all have different priorities – we all teach different classes and different students. So when I heard about the Great Teaching Toolkit, I thought that was a really great way of giving our teachers the opportunity to engage in this bespoke CPD that’s really relevant to them.
How have you implemented the GTT at Netherhall School?
I know some other schools, who we work quite closely with, have identified a whole-school focus, such as Questioning. However, we have over 60 teaching staff, so that approach wouldn’t work for us. The Great Teaching Toolkit allows all of our staff to identify an area of professional development that is relevant to them, they can choose an element from the Model for Great Teaching that will make a difference to them in their practice.
I’m a huge advocate for letting people have freedom over when they engage with CPD, and I think that’s one of the things that the Great Teaching Toolkit does really well – it gives freedom for colleagues to engage in with it when it suits them, because we all have different priorities. All of our staff currently have 20 hours of directed time focused on CPD, and that’s increasing next year as we have been able to find an extra 5 hours to help staff find the time to engage with the Toolkit.
How have you been using the student surveys?
Personally, I have been working an Element 4.4 (Interacting) and used the element level survey with one of my classes. I thought the questions were fabulous and really clear – the language in the surveys was really accessible to the students, which allowed me to then focus on the inquiry question itself. I had an 80% response rate, and from the responses around 25% identified that they didn’t understand the feedback that they got from me. This gave me an opportunity to reflect and think why that was, was it the language that I was using, or the way that I deliver feedback? The feedback surprised me slightly, but that’s a good thing, because an inquiry question should be full of surprises and lead you into a different direction.
What are your next steps?
We are increasing the number of GTT licences at our school next year as the feedback from staff engaging with the Toolkit this year has been fantastic. You can see the correlation between the early career framework and the Great Teaching Toolkit. It all works together, and I think that is what schools need – they need something that joins all the dots up, not something that is completely separate. The student feedback tool has been a really useful aspect of the Toolkit – when you are working on a professional inquiry question, you want it to be making a difference to the students, and asking them is the way you make a difference.
If you would like to speak to one of the team about how you might implement the Toolkit at your school or college, simply fill out this form, and one of the team will be in touch!