30/11/2022 0 Comments
“It’s about allowing teachers to be lifelong learners, which in turn, allows students to be lifelong learners.”
Recently promoted to the leadership role of Acting Deputy Headteacher (for Quality of Education) at The Park Community School in Barnstaple, North Devon; Aimee Mills builds on nine years as an Assistant Headteacher, two of which were in West London before moving to Devon. With her past experience of a big educational community and sharing good practice, Aimee is pleased to be actively involved as one of SWIFT’s member schools.
1. Please can you provide an overview of how you and The Park Community School are involved in the SWIFT partnership?
Firstly, the Early Career Framework (ECF) programme in which I am currently a Delivery Lead for Years 1 and 2 Early Career Teachers (ECTs) across the region. It is great to be part of the delivery of this flagship Department for Education statutory programme and we have a Year 2 ECT teacher here at The Park School, so we are hugely part of the programme. I am even in the process of training up our ECF Co-ordinator to (hopefully) be a Delivery Lead next year.
Secondly, we benefit from the SWIFT Continuing Professional Development programme. Highlights for me include the Summer Leadership and Literacy Conferences and also this school year, I am involved in leading the new North Devon Professional Community leadership group. It is exciting! As part of this network, I am really keen to develop school-to-school support as the way forward working with at least five local North Devon schools.
Thirdly, the National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). 14% (13) of our teaching staff are currently enrolled on an NPQ – including myself! I am undertaking the NPQH, and we have staff on the NPQSL, NPQLT, NPQLBC, and the NPQLTD programmes.
This is excellent professional development for our current and future school leaders.
Our staff have also been involved in Professional Communities (PC) and currently in the Geography and History PCs; which are invaluable subject networks. We have also enrolled on some of the Maths CPD sessions, which have been great for our staff development and the learning experience of our pupils.
I like to think it is a well-rounded partnership as The Park School is part of the Tarka Trust – a key SWIFT delivery partner - as the secondary school, alongside seven primary schools (our main feeders), all benefitting from the SWIFT CPD opportunities. In fact, I was invited to get involved in the ECF by Tarka Trust Deputy CEO, Andy Ogden.
So, I am delighted to say that The Park School has taken opportunity of ALL of SWIFT’s membership offer.
Finally, as Colyton and Kingsbridge Teaching School Hubs working together, I know that SWIFT acts as an effective facilitator and is part of the levelling up within the region.
As a rural school, professional development options can be limited in terms of travelling beyond the South West to London and elsewhere with a significant impact on school budgets and staff time.
Hence, SWIFT is playing a key role in providing professional support.
When I worked in London, we had 14 schools within a six-mile radius. Here in North Devon, we have six miles between each school.
2. How is The Park School benefitting from working with SWIFT?
As noted above, really.
Our role in delivering the Early Career Framework programme, including our own participating staff; is proving to align the rest of the staff with our core CPD.
When our ECTs progress through the programme it ensures a continuity of learning and supports career development of our staff, which underpins the work of our school.
As so many of our staff are taking part in the CPD on offer, particularly the NPQ programmes, we have managed to create a coherent development path right from the start of a teacher's career through to Middle Leader and Senior Leadership level. The opportunities SWIFT have provided has meant that our staff are encouraged to take on additional responsibilities and to further their careers.
3. What are the main benefits for you professionally?
For me, I like to think that my involvement with SWIFT and engagement in the NPQH has helped me in part to get my promotion! So, for me, my career progression and enhancing my leadership skills.
For example, my attendance at the SWIFT Summer Conference in July was pivotal and sharpened my view of our school vision and school improvement plan.
Keynote speaker Diana Osagie was inspirational. I learned a lot from her in the time that she spoke and I liked her clarity and (as she promised) I read her book in an hour after the event!
4. How do you see this partnership developing in the future?
The main thing is our ITT programme and we are looking forward to working with SWIFT in their new role as a SCITT.
I used to run the North Devon TSA secondary ITT programme, but now that this has ceased to exist the number of trainees, we have has regrettably taken a hit, impacting significantly on recruitment. In the past we have employed so many of our qualified trainees and we are missing them.
We also look forward to networking school-to-school through the North Devon Professional Community as an opportunity to share events, speakers, conferences and local networks.
Thinking about the geography of our region, The Park School could be used as a central location for the North Devon group and we would like to explore this further.
5. What words of wisdom would you share with other schools?
Seize as many opportunities from the SWIFT partnership as your school setting allows.
Make time and invest.
I encourage schools that they get more from the SWIFT membership than they pay.
Here at The Park School, we find that it builds buy-in to the school culture for staff and as a non-specialist leading on a specialist area, SWIFT provides opportunities to learn (and I like learning).
For instance, I took our Head of English to the SWIFT Literacy Conference and we both listened to lots of different speakers and then collaborated afterwards on whole school foci.
SWIFT membership opens doors to opportunities that being isolated in North Devon that have not always been there before.
We thank Aimee for her insights into SWIFT membership and thank her for her enthusiastic contributions to our programmes.
Interview by Jude Owens, PA to the SWIFT Executive Team