Treena Philpotts

Treena Philpotts is Director of Nottinghamshire Torch SCITT, winners of the NASBTT Innovative Practice of the Year Award 2019

Winning NASBTT’s Innovative Practice of the Year Award 2019 in July was a great honour, recognising our work developing a wide range of learning-focused opportunities for our trainee teachers. It was also a privilege to be asked to discuss this further at the NASBTT Annual Conference last month: we were delighted to do so.

We know that having the opportunity to visit a full range of educational settings is critical for teachers to develop their own philosophies, values and pedagogical approaches. We continue to see innovative practice within schools: teachers themselves never stop learning and it is vital to develop this ethos in the Initial Teacher Training (ITT) phase as these are our future school leaders.

So, what is our story? Since gaining accreditation in 2014, and now with around 60 trainees, our SCITT is growing whilst becoming increasingly established as a highly successful institute training amazing teachers. I have had the opportunity to shape and develop its structure with a fabulous small team of people and we are very proud of the impact our SCITT has had on the regional workforce to date. When I look back on the first years of operation, there was so much to learn and, like many people in my position, I constantly had the Initial Teacher Education (ITE) compliance handbook attached to my arm! What has not changed is a fundamental focus on the training the best teachers to have the best impact on young people.

We are who we are because of the experiences we have had. I believe the impact of Torch SCITT’s experiential learning approach is evident in the training year but it is over time that the impact really happens. Experiences matter, and combined with seeing things through a different lens, this makes anything possible.

It is possible, in my professional view, to:

  • Create teachers who are reflective practitioners and have a broader ‘powerful knowledge’ to make informed choices about what, who and where they teach and the ethos they may wish to have;
  • Nurture new teachers into the profession with a deeper understanding of the variety of different schools/ethos/catchment;
  • See education through a ‘different’ lens;
  • Understand that educational change is something to explore, welcome and encourage;
  • Develop an ethos in training whereby new teachers can bring fresh, new teaching methods…the ‘anything is possible’ mentality.

The key to enabling the above to happen is giving teachers cultural capital. How can we advance their skills/knowledge/abilities to see education beyond their own placements in ITT? How can we create a ‘broad and extensive’ curriculum for them? Where will trainees tap into prior experiences in their future roles as leaders? After all, these are our educational decision-makers of the future and they need that more ‘global’ understanding of education in order to shape that wide experience for pupils. With all the will and talent ripe for development in ITT, if you do not develop that philosophy now, when will it happen?

Our trainees receive training ‘away days’. These cover a broad range of educational settings including Primary, Secondary, Post-16 and Early Years settings within the SCITT partnership: free schools, special schools/alternative education and forest schools are all part of the range on offer. By the end of their first term, trainees have visited at least eight different schools just as part of ‘normal’ training, which enables them to develop an in-depth view of different educational practice as they develop into reflective practitioners. When I think back to my own training 20 years ago, I had two school placements; they were neighbouring schools with very similar catchments. I never considered working in alternative provision or special education.

It is interesting to listen to the trainees develop a very different way of looking at things. They know good (and not so good) schools come in all different areas, sizes and philosophies. But developing a trainee who can look at an entirely different cultural educational system and make sense of it is why we go to Finland on a fully funded week-long visit to Jyvaskyla Teacher Training School. Consistently performing highly in the PISA tables, Finland has a very interesting and contrasting educational system which trainees can compare with the UK.

When we look at ‘impact’, we Brits still get hung up on data – and I am no exception. We need it to tell us we are doing a good job. We have high employment rates within our partnership schools (approximately 70%) and almost 100% of our trainees secure NQT posts. Trainees are making good choices about the schools in which they secure posts: at least 90% are still within the profession after four years, with many seeking promotional opportunities after a few years of teaching.

But over the last five years we have increasingly seen highly open-minded, influential teachers who stay in teaching. My theory is they secure the right post for them as well-informed trainees-NQT, so they match up well with these first posts, but also that they are not afraid to ‘fly the nest’ and want to make an impact in another institute. They are motivated to work in schools which find it hard to recruit, such as Special Schools, Pupil Referral Units and schools in special measures. They want to make a difference.

Trainees value the chance to see more school settings. Finland is a pull for many (not all) but the impact is more to do with developing teachers who never stop looking and learning and taking a few risks. The challenge is to replicate the SCITT way in other aspects of inter-school training. School vision and change comes about from having the skills and ingenuity to think differently…which comes from seeing more to be able to see the same differently.

Treena Philpotts is Director of Nottinghamshire Torch SCITT, winners of the NASBTT Innovative Practice of the Year Award 2019

Provider: Nottingham Torch SCITT

Twitter: @TorchSCITT


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