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Recruitment and retention in our profession is at a critical point. The data confirms what we know from our own schools and colleges: the pipeline for talent, the kind of talent that will help us give the very best to our young people, is running low. And when they do join, those bright young leaders of the future who are committed, well-qualified and keen to learn, too often are quitting the profession after an all-too-brief time in the classroom.
And yet, around the country, there are leaders who are bucking this trend; academy, school and college senior leaders who have devised innovative, sometimes risk-taking – models for tackling recruitment in the first place and encouraging more of their early career staff to continue in the profession into the medium and longer terms.
At our seminar at ASCL's annual conference, we will be exploring some of these approaches and hearing from senior leaders who have succeeded with some of these approaches.
We'll explore, too, how talent management and succession planning need not be seen as an additional initiative or burden but can build on existing staff development and performance review processes.
At BlueSky, we've also been researching the role that lesson observations play in both of these areas through our report, Quiet Uprising, which draws together findings from our survey of 204 state and independent schools with other sources of research and intelligence and we'll be discussing this with Steve Rollett, Curriculum and Inspection Specialist of ASCL, at a separate event at the conference.
The report examines the findings of a survey of primary and secondary schools into how they use lesson observations and other methods of assessing and developing teachers. Some the practice highlighted is truly innovative and has encouraged schools to revise and, in some cases, rethink the purpose of observations, the approach to them and the people involved.
The issue of whether the traditional observation format is fit for purpose has been questioned now for some time. They happen in every school around the country but are we sure that they are achieving what they need to, capturing the good practice as well as the poor?
They should be an opportunity for teachers to refine their professional skills through feedback and to share their own good practice with others so that it spreads around the system. But, in some cases at least, they create more stress than insight, as well as adding to teachers' workload.
In fact, one of the key findings from our research was that the last two years have seen changes in the way two-thirds of the schools in the survey are conducting lesson observations.
More than 40% of schools reported doing fewer formal observations than previously and more than half (59%) have also abandoned grading or use it only rarely. Many schools, for example, are shifting from observations graded by a senior member of staff to more peer and collaborative systems which enable colleagues to observe each other, creating opportunities for practice development on all sides.
Other innovations include involvement of critical friends, such as governors, in lesson observations, bringing in NQTs to observe as part of their training, community approaches with multiple colleagues taking part.
One of the most interesting, overarching findings to emerge from the research was that two broad, separate strands emerged in terms of purpose of observations: teacher CPD and quality assurance. Some schools are starting to shape observation programmes separately to address these specific purposes.
Whatever the changes introduced, however, involving staff in the discussions in order to garner their ideas as well as their support, remains vital.
You can also find out more about BlueSky and meet the team at stands 3 and 34 at the conference.
Hope to see you there!