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Developing a cohesive strategy for leading learning inside education?

Deborah Outhwaite

I read Ian Potter’s blog post ‘Can we learn together?’ with interest having spoken to him at Belmas back in the Summer, on some of these issues. As a secondary school teacher who has worked both in schools, in the Sixth Form sector, and now in HE, I am endlessly fascinated by the synergies to be gained from the sectors working together, and have always worked across sectors – training teachers when in schools and teaching at Masters level when I moved across to an HEI.  We used to live in a circle where schools provided universities with undergraduates and these students were then returned to the sector as qualified teachers by universities.  Clearly this is not the world that we live in any more, but the world of Teaching School Alliances and School Direct offers us different opportunities, which in turn can develop different synergies…

I work in a centre that contains both ITE and PGE. Indeed, ITE IS also PGE, with the vast majority now marked at Level 7.  Teaching Masters Level Education to teachers is very much about altering agendas, the language used in Masters Level Education is absolutely imperative in this process.  Enabling teachers across all sectors to communicate effectively with HEI staff by developing a shared language, not university teachers using ‘our’ language and then leaving again… is a critical part of that process.  Teachers are keen to engage with Professional Development that is of high quality and they enjoy accessing digital libraries and seeing this learning process impact upon their classrooms.

To genuinely want all staff to find the space to engage as researchers is challenging, it can mean shifting school priorities

I work on a Collaborative Masters programme that is co-constructed and co-delivered with staff in schools. The staff themselves are all becoming active researchers, and this is encouraged through learning triads across the school.  Knowledge production at school level is extremely valuable, and engaging teachers as researcher’s starts to alter their language and their interests this influences everyone’s agendas…but it is not easy.  To genuinely want all staff to find the space to engage as researchers is challenging, it can mean shifting school priorities, and leadership teams having to put some medium term decisions before short term ones – never an easy task inside our current culture. 

It is also challenging being able to fund a Masters programme that individuals want to take part in, the one we have co-constructed with our partner school (this time) has no twilight slots, no evening ‘death’ slots, and no week-end delivery. It is co-delivered around school priorities (where discussion is at the heart of what these contested processes are) whilst maintaining the ability to develop a joint academic language.  This is what should encourage practitioners to engage with HEIs: a useful sense of what they can learn and how they will want to grow.  But financial pressures in both schools and academia mean that all programmes must cover costs and all partners are considered, so next time our partner school may want the death slots and not to have discussions around the performativity in the system… would we be able to refuse?  

And here, really is the key, actually access to good quality Masters Level provision and constructing a joint language across different areas of the education sector can be done by teachers at all levels, but the Leadership of those decisions: the entering into the contracts around provision from HEIs and enabling the funding of it, can only be done by our education leaders. Knowledge production and synergies will only be gained when education leaders across sectors take risks and support their staff and future generations of students to learn at the same time.