29/9/2022 0 Comments
Director of West Country Training School Alliance,
Jen Knowles presents a palpable excitement and commitment to her role and all the more so this academic year with SWIFT’s expansion of the Appropriate Body Service and Early Career Framework she is working full-time in the role.
1. How long has West Country Training School Alliance (WCTSA) been a SWIFT partner?
Since its inception as SWIFT (South West Institute for Teaching) - officially from April 2021, before the fully fledged programmes got underway from September that year. Although it is fair to say that we were involved in prior strategic planning with Colyton Grammar School in its early stages as a Teaching School Hub through conversations with SWIFT Director, Martin Smith.
It is certainly great to be on board working in partnership as SWIFT and I continue to be enthused and excited about us working together.
2. What are the benefits to West Country Training School Alliance as a SWIFT partner?
First and foremost, having a strategic say in the professional development for our schools is a huge benefit as opposed to a top-down approach. I value the way that all the SWIFT partners, including WCTSA, can have input in developing the Universal Programme of continuing professional development and other training programmes.
I also value the way we work towards common goals in partnership with national leads and providers. For example, working with Teach First, English Hubs, Research Schools, Schools Trust in building positive working relationships on a national and local level and it is great to be leading the popular WalkThrus programme for SWIFT working in partnership with national speaker, Tom Sherrington.
As a SWIFT partner, we take an active role in certain areas of the Teaching School Hub delivery, including the Appropriate Body Service for Colyton Teaching School Hub.
Engaging in early exploratory work in choosing our national partner for the Early Career Framework delivery and the support and development was also beneficial.
Building on our work as a legacy Teaching School Alliance in networking with leads and teachers through our Professional Communities network is both beneficial and enjoyable.
Ultimately our work with SWIFT enhances the positive profile for West Country and validates the two-way process of our established alliance of schools whom we continue to support, combined with our hands-on role as a SWIFT partner.
It is definitely more effective working together for a wider reach across the region - and beyond, in working together as two Teaching School Hubs united as SWIFT, offering a range of courses.
3. What are the benefits to you personally as Director of WCTSA?
I relish my very varied role and I look forward to doing it every day – I am passionate about the process of professional development from supporting trainee teachers to Headteachers, as a perfect exemplification of the Golden Thread.
I also appreciate Martin’s proactiveness in continuing to upskill, push and upgrade us for our own professional development as SWIFT Directors. For example, the Kingsbridge Research School Theory of Change training was instructive for my work as a Director. Within the SWIFT team, there is an incredible amount of expertise and I feel very grateful working and learning from fellow like-minded professionals every day.
4. What are your goals and aspirations for this academic year working with SWIFT?
As a lead partner for the Appropriate Body Service (for Colyton), I am keen to build on the success of last academic year - and to continue to strengthen our support for Early Career Teachers at what is a really integral time in their career in terms of the support that they need.
I aspire to continue our networking with schools and to be open and visible as a SWIFT partner in continuing to strengthen and support teachers with high-quality professional development opportunities.
The new WalkThrus initiative will continue apace and it is great to be working with a large number of schools on the launch, supporting them to implement coaching programmes based on the Walkthrus in their schools.
Similarly, I want to continue to expand our Professional Communities using the feedback from our members to drive the input that we provide for teachers so that it is personalised to their needs. For example, last year, the common consensus in one of our communities was that they really wanted some CPD on subject specific Ofsted deep dives and we were able to facilitate this for them and it was in turn very positively evaluated. We have some very exciting new Professional Communities, such as Food which are providing opportunities for professionals who might otherwise be working individually or in very small teams to collaborate with other professionals across the region.
5. What are your longer-term expectations of working within the Teaching School Hub programme?
A big question!
Obviously, I want WCTSA to reach out to more schools and to continue to strengthen our relationships with existing schools which is so important within the Teaching School Hub model. We aspire to continue to provide further opportunities for schools and teachers across the Golden Thread building on the feedback that we receive to ensure that everyone gets exposure and access to the best evidence informed practice and support.
Striving to be even better.
We thank Jen for her reflections and we also very much value working with her and WCTSA.
Interview by Jude Owens, PA to the SWIFT Executive Team