James Coleman

James Coleman, Director of Initial Teacher Training, Anton Andover Alliance

Being a teacher was a job I dreamt about since I was a young child. I always loved the responsibility of helping others, going home and feeling like I made a difference in whatever it was I did.

Ask the majority of teachers why they do what they do, and you’ll most likely get very similar answers. The ‘light bulb moments’ are enough to counteract some of the other more strenuous areas of the job. The problem is, not everyone feels that way.

Not everyone inherently wants to teach because they are incredibly passionate about changing lives… and there is absolutely no problem with that. The issue is that our profession too often doesn’t account for these people.

Too often it relies on the passion, drive and commitment of a small selection of society who have had a burning passion to teach and would never want to do anything else. We don’t do enough to ensure that those who are maybe considering teaching and could impact on groups of children for years to come are then persuaded it is worth the leap of faith. That’s where we come in, the world of Initial Teacher Training (ITT).

Ask any ITT provider in the country how recruitment is looking and you are likely to be painted a fairly grim picture of falling applicant numbers and an ongoing struggle to get people through the door. Yes, a lot of that is out of our control and there is only so much that one provider or alliance can do. We all know that throwing money at an advert on a bus or a very impressive billboard in your local town is not going to make much of a difference to your recruitment drive.

If advertising has been proven not to work, then what can we do to ensure we are grabbing people’s attention? This was the question we asked ourselves and the answer was simple: people talk. Word-of-mouth can make or break any business but in one where someone pays £9,000 to be a part of it, it’s even more important.

Our aim is a simple one. Everything we do needs to be high impact and meaningful. If it isn’t either of these things, do we really need to be part of the programme? Weekly meetings – high impact and meaningful. It stays. Three ring binders of individual lesson plans without any coherence between them. Laborious and little impact. It goes. Feeling empowered to make the decisions you know will work for your trainees and stripping things back to the basics has had the biggest impact not only our recruitment but on the wellbeing of our trainees.

Our fear was that we would be watering down the quality by doing less. Would the fact we don’t make every trainee formally write down the reflections on a form each week mean the trainees won’t be reflective? Would we struggle to prove our trainees were making progress?

Well, we are now fast approaching the end of our first year with our new system and barring any last-minute blips, the trainees are performing just as well, if not better than in previous years. We have 100% completion rate for the first time and trainees’ termly feedback suggests that wellbeing has improved significantly.

We are obviously thrilled that the changes we have made are having a positive impact but it is only one year. We will need to keep moving and growing to ensure we continue to meet the needs of our trainees and this is now our default position.

How do WE bend and shift to ensure we meet the needs of our trainees, rather than stubbornly sticking to the ‘well, this is how it is’ attitude? There will be things that work and things that don’t. Through working collaboratively with other providers and the wonderful work of NASBTT, we genuinely feel empowered to make the decisions we know will benefit our context.

Having the bravery and conviction to focus on the areas of your provision that really matter and more importantly, remove the things that don’t, can have a hugely positive impact on your provision and ensure that trainees to get their NQT year excited, rather than exhausted.

Provider details: Anton Andover Alliance

Website: www.teachaaa.co.uk/

Twitter: @AntonAndoverTSA

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