Teach First

How the Innovation Series can take you from spotting a problem in education to pioneering a solution

Tabitha Lincoln, a current participant in the Innovation Series, shares her insights into what this unique 10-month programme has offered her, and how it has been instrumental in helping her develop a solution to the problem of teacher wellbeing; one that she noticed through her time spent in the classroom:

How did you find out about the Series?

I found out about the Innovation Series whilst I was researching social enterprises. I came across links on the Teach First website to various different social enterprises that Teach First had supported in their development. I found many of these organisations really inspiring and realised that some of them had come to exist through the Innovation Series.

 
What motivated you to apply?

Having worked as a secondary classroom teacher for the past 11 years, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of feeling well-supported by school structures and the wider staff community, in order to be a confident and motivated practitioner in the classroom. I was interested in exploring the factors that enable staff and students to thrive. I observed that increasingly teachers are working in highly demanding environments, which often leave them feeling demoralised and stressed. I wanted to explore how their wellbeing could be supported more effectively and in turn increase positive relationships, learning experiences and outcomes for students.

 
What is your project about?

The Listening Collective project aims to enable senior leaders and teachers to find a collective voice on how to best nurture and support the wellbeing and morale of front line staff in schools. The project aims to build a body of research around best practice with teachers and senior leaders, exploring how schools can most effectively value, engage and nurture their staff to reach their professional potential. The pilot has been developed with senior leaders and teachers from three primary schools. Research and examples of best practice will be shared with the pilot schools as a flexible advisory framework of tools and strategies. This allows school leaders and teachers to  access current research, share good practice with other schools, build communities of support and implement alternative ways of working with staff in order to maximise their potential. It will enable teachers to feel both invested in and highly confident in the classroom. This will improve teacher-student relationships, student well-being and attainment.

 
What were your highlights of the Series?

The highlights of the Innovation Series have been the Innovation Weekend, which gave me the opportunity to share my research on the issue and explore multiple solutions to the problem with other participants. It has been a fantastic platform to develop skills in research, problem solving, leadership and project management. The mentoring has been very useful in supporting me to pilot my project. It has also been fantastic to have the chance to build a network of education sector professionals.

 
Could you tell us about your journey since attending the Series?

Through pursuing this research on teacher wellbeing during the series, it has enabled me to develop a broader understanding of the challenges facing leaders and teachers in schools, enabling me to generate new perspectives and opportunities for growth in how schools can effectively maximise the potential of their staff. The focus groups I have facilitated through the pilot have emphasised to me the significance of creating positive social support structures for staff, and that these and the day-to-day organisational design of the school can have a fundamental impact on the attitudes and achievements of both staff and students. I am now working with the pilot primary schools to explore with senior leaders and teachers how the examples of good practice can further be embedded and shared between schools

 
How would you describe the Series in 3 words?

Motivating. Challenging. Opportunity.

Applications for this year’s Innovation Series are now open! If you are frustrated with educational inequality in the UK and have identified a problem you wish to solve, you will be supported to generate new ideas to solve it and pilot the best ideas to determine if it makes a difference. You can apply as an individual or a team, and the series is open to second-year Leadership Development Programme participants, ambassadors, and those who are completely new to Teach First’s work. If this sounds like your next step, do submit your application before 28 July.