The government’s latest effort to tackle student underperformance is to be welcomed.
It is based on two sound principles: that the quality of teaching is the only thing that really makes a difference to pupil achievement; and that teachers learn best from each other.
It is also pleasing to see it is being piloted in the North West. Given George Osborne’s announcements about creating an economic Northern Hub, perhaps this is another signal that the government is becoming less London-centric.
Of course this strategy is indebted to Tim Brighouse’s vision for the capital’s schools. The unparalleled success of the London Challenge transformed a massively underachieving region into one of the highest achieving in the world.
The subsequent challenges in Birmingham and Manchester followed this model of intensive school-to-school support.
The main advantage of these city challenges was the relative ease of access through geographical proximity and good transport links. This meant that teachers and Headteachers were able to support those schools whilst remaining employed at their own.
Taking the model to less accessible places is a challenge in itself and the NTS solution is to incentivise exceptional teachers to take jobs in those schools.
The potential pitfall is that, if the intended recruitment of 1500 “best teachers and middle leaders” is successful then it will create 1500 vacancies in their former schools. Who will fill those vacancies? Will it mean a watering down of the educational provision in those schools if, by definition, their best teachers leave?
Over two years ago we approached the DFE with a similar proposition but this time aimed at trainee teachers. Could they be talent-spotted and, as Newly Qualified Teachers, be employed part time at a good school and part-time at a challenging school?
We offered various scenarios as to how this could be achieved and the kind of incentives which would attract our best trainee teachers.
The main advantages of such a scheme is that these people are an addition to the workforce (such a scheme would incentivise more people to train) and are more likely to be able to re-locate.
What they lack in experience, they make up for in energy and enthusiasm. With the right training and mentoring (which could begin in their final term of training) they can be in the vanguard of school improvement.
Teach First has already proved the positive impact inexperienced but well supported teachers can make.
Unlike Teach First this scheme is more open, aimed at those wishing to have long careers in the profession and more cost effective.
It is a model for growth and improvement and it is sustainable. We hope the DFE will look again at his.