Developing Liverpool’s teachers and leaders

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Date published 01 February 2024

Last updated 21 March 2024

Foreword from Raksha Pattni, National Partnerships Director

Since 2022, the Ambition Institute team and I have worked closely with the School Improvement Liverpool team and Liverpool City Council (LCC) to provide professional development programmes for 80 of the region’s schools.

The goal of this three-year long partnership is to transform provision for teachers and leaders in Liverpool. This will ensure the city is developing, supporting, and retaining the best teachers and leaders into the future.

As the first of its kind in the country, this ambitious partnership is now impacting on the practice of over 480 educators across different levels. This in turn improves the life outcomes of the thousands of pupils they serve in Liverpool.

I would like to thank the teachers and school leaders for their wholehearted commitment to our three-year programme, and for providing high quality education to the children they serve regardless of their background.

I would also like to thank the team at School Improvement Liverpool for their vision and support towards this partnership to ensure the success we have had to date.

In the following case study, we explore why this collaboration was formed, how it works, and the impact it is already starting to have.

Why was the partnership formed?

Liverpool has above national levels of deprivation and this contributes to the challenges schools face to providing the best outcomes for all children. Outcomes in reading, writing and mathematics are in the bottom 10% in England (Liverpool City Council, 2021).

In its goal to break down these barriers and ensure that long-lasting change happens for young people in the city, Liverpool City Council set out it’s Education Improvement plan, with a focus to recruit, retain, support, and develop high quality teachers and leaders.

At Ambition, we believe great teaching changes lives. The evidence is clear: the quality of teaching makes the biggest difference to what a child achieves. In fact, it has three times more impact than any other factor within a school’s control (RAND, 2019).

For children who have had a tough start in life, it’s even more important. Too many children from disadvantaged backgrounds start school behind their peers.

Working with Liverpool City Council provided a great opportunity to create a partnership with the power to equip educators with the tools they need to tackle the challenges of the region, and in turn improve the life outcomes of pupils in the area.

“It wasn't about us just parachuting in” says Raksha Pattni.

“It was about working very closely with Liverpool City Council to understand the region’s overall position and education landscape, what it was aiming to achieve and what else was happening. Based on this we considered how we can support Liverpool to achieve its Education Improvement Plan.”

“It’s important to us as an organisation that we're really understanding the context, the culture, and what is happening across the region. We want what we’re doing to connect and strengthen.”

Liverpool City Council knows its schools, and Ambition knows its programmes. Together, we can overcome any barriers to learning the teachers or leaders may face.

What does the partnership look like?

Jane Holmes is the Director of Education services at LCC.

The goal of Jane’s team is to provide a universal, sustainable offer of school improvement support to all schools in Liverpool. Therefore, the partnership was based on three core objectives: develop leadership expertise, develop curriculum and teaching knowledge, build sustainable improvement.

In response to these objectives, Ambition tailored a package of our programmes including Future Heads, Instructional Coaching, Teacher Education Fellows, and Transforming Teaching.

On Future Heads, participants build context-specific knowledge to prepare them for headship. As we know, the sector is currently experiencing a retention shortage. The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) recently reported that 51% of school leaders were considering leaving the profession within the next three years (2023).

Therefore, a key aim of this programme is to encourage and inspire participants by providing them with development on knowledge gaps, such as areas like finance and cognitive science. This will in turn give the participants the confidence and support they need to pursue this career path.

One of the participants who did this programme has already been promoted to head of school, with a further two promotions to deputy head. Others have been given additional responsibility to support their continued development towards headship.

In the Instructional Coaching programme, 40 coaches are working across the city to develop pedagogy in schools. Instructional coaching is one the best-evidenced forms of continuous professional development (CPD) and involves an expert teacher helping another teacher to develop their practice with individual classroom-based feedback. This programme will equip the teachers on the frontline with evidence-informed approaches to have maximum impact in the classroom.

45 schools have taken part in Transforming Teaching - a year-long programme designed to improve teaching, staff retention, and support senior leadership teams to make measurable, sustainable change. The programme uses a whole school approach to achieve stable change, supporting School Leaders to recognise gaps in current teaching and learning practice, and building expertise in staff who lead on curriculum development or teacher education.

Eight people were selected for Ambition’s two-year Teacher Education Fellows programme. These fellows will be shown effective methods for teacher education and will coordinate with headteachers across multiple schools to organise CPD. Together, they will contribute towards creating long lasting change within Liverpool, with a clear trajectory to embed a culture of CPD long into the future.

Bespoke design

To help Liverpool City Council overcome some of the challenges faced by the region’s educators, we changed some of our established programmes to best meet their needs.

We created Future Heads as a brand-new programme, designed and delivered in house using tried-and-tested content from other programmes, specifically to address the headteacher retention shortage across the region.

The Council also identified special educational needs and disability (SEND) settings as an area for improvement, where disadvantage exists. Our internal team of experts also developed and redesigned programme content specifically for use in specialist settings.

A mutual priority for Ambition Institute and Liverpool City Council is embedding equality, diversity, inclusion (EDI) in the work we do. That’s why programmes were also adapted to include content on cultivating a school culture and vision, pupil experience and behaviours, and more.

This is already having a notable impression on the Future Heads, with one participant commenting: “I want to audit our school’s policies and curriculum with diversity and intersectionality in mind”.

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Constant feedback cycle

At the core of the programme sits a process of feedback and communication. Jane says a big part of what makes this partnership working is communication, and adapting as we go.

“We are constantly looking and evaluating. Did this work? What changes can we make? And for me that's a very strong ingredient for a partnership to work together because we're constantly checking in with each other to ensure our work is supporting Liverpool” says Jane. “It's not just a contract for us, this is about our mission”.

Liverpool City Council knows its schools, and Ambition knows its programmes. Together, we can overcome any barriers to learning the teachers or leaders may face.

Jane says she is starting to see the impact across the programme participants.

“What’s having the most impact, I think, are the research elements and how hard our educators are having to think and their depth of knowledge about curriculum, about leadership of the curriculum.

“The SLT, the senior leaders and the middle leaders can work together to say ‘we've learned this, now how is this impacting the work we do?”

Looking to the future

Through this powerful partnership, Liverpool City Council and Ambition will continue to work together to support the Education Improvement Plan, so educators across the region can make an even bigger difference to children, especially the most disadvantaged, and enjoy a long and fulfilling career.

Jane says: “In schools, it’s about all the elements coming together so that you get a good, rounded offer of CPD. This improves schools, the experience, and hopefully, the outcomes of young people too”.

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