Large crowd at SI

“Do the simple things well...”

An interview with Reuben Moore on Summer Institute 2017.

“Do the simple things well...”

Reuben Moore, Teach First's Director of Leadership, answers questions about the Summer Institute and the new Leadership Development Programme, and offers some words of wisdom for those currently embarking on it.

Summer Institute (SI) is now in full swing. Many who are involved with the event say it’s one of their favourite times of year. What do you enjoy most about SI?

There are a whole host of things I enjoy. Welcoming new colleagues to the profession. First and foremost to see a new group of committed people keen to learn and dedicated to work in schools that need them most. Their keenness to get it right for their pupils and also the acknowledgement of what they want to learn from tutors, facilitators and their schools is great. I also really love that positive feeling of network that then deepens to form a network committed to the vision. Finally I love it because we spend considerable time planning for participants, and it is great to actually meet them and work alongside them. 

Over the past year, Teach First and our university partners have been working collaboratively to design and implement the new Leadership Development Programme. What’s been the biggest challenge?

Doing something that has never been done before either by Teach First or the universities is a challenge. There is no exact model you can look to and apply it. However what you need to do is have clear outcomes for what you want to achieve and a close yet challenging partnership internally and externally with universities to find the best ways to resolve those challenges. We first sat down with universities to plan exactly a year ago. Through two very hot days we discussed and agreed the high level framework of the PGDE. We had prepared well and knew it would be a challenge. However there was a real sense of joint endeavour and an acknowledgement across Teach First and the universities that these challenges were shared ones and therefore the solution needed to be found by us all.  Since that time we have continued with that spirit of joint endeavour and transparency as well as unwavering commitment to quality which has helped us through the other inevitable bumps in the road. It has led us to launching the new programme successfully, with initial data showing that planning is a coming out as an area of confidence for participants. This is wonderful to see as that was one of the gatekeeper skills that we wished to really focus on in the early stages.

What makes the new programme a sector-leading Initial Teacher Training programme?

This is a tricky one! Firstly a point that we all know but worth reiterating. We talk about sector leading a lot; my view is we need to be sector leading because all pupils especially those in schools that serve low income communities deserve the absolute best. This means their teachers need the best development that the world can offer. I think there are a few things that we do to make it sector leading. Firstly the way that it is sequenced especially across two years. High performing jurisdictions around the world acknowledge the importance of theory and practice but also how those two aspects need to develop over time. Therefore having two years to develop those aspects well is something we know will have benefits.

Leading on from this you can make better choices about what content should go where. We can focus the Summer Institute on preparations for September, as we know other aspects can and should be developed after novice teachers have some time to teach and reflect upon that. 

The third element is the curriculum itself and how it develops research-informed teachers and leaders. Finally, it is the people surrounding the participants. The Participant Development Lead role is a new one for the organisation but it builds on our experience and expertise. Some of the highest performing jurisdictions are beginning to think very deeply about what qualities a teacher educator should have and we can begin to think this through also alongside our university and school partners.

What are the main differences with the new programme that you’re most excited about?

I have alluded to some already above but I am also really interested in making the assignments that participants undertake even more relevant to the work that participants do in classrooms. For example the first assignment that participants undertake is really about why they teach in a certain way. Experienced teachers know this automatically, yet novices have to think deeply about this which make planning a very long process to ensure pupils make great progress. If novice teachers simply copy others without knowing why, they may find let down that their pupils did not benefit from a technique that works in another classroom in the school or another part of the country. Therefore the assignment supports participants to consider which techniques to use to teach their pupils and the research base that underpins them, and this will mean better choices and more thoughtful (and quicker) planning.

What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?

I am looking forward to the partnership with universities deepening even further through the co-creation of subsequent modules and our work together to ensure that the Leadership Development Programme meets the needs of participants and their pupils in the best way possible. Having watched yet another round of great WA4s on Saturday I can see both the challenge that exists in our system and also many of the ingredients for it to be addressed.

And finally, our new 2017 cohort are at the very beginning their journey to complete the Leadership Development Programme and achieve the new ‘PGDE’ teaching qualification? Do you have any words of wisdom for them?

Sounds weird, but my rugby coach used to say “Do the simple things well and kick for the corners.” What this means is that we should practice routines until they become habits. This means that we have the time to look up and solve the more difficult problems on a rugby pitch that require thought and judgement. With our 2017s I would say the same thing. Try to practice now so that routines with pupils become habits quickly, this gives you the space to think through the ‘challenging’ issue of helping pupils make great progress instead of dealing with fidget spinners!

The other thing I would say is to take care of yourselves and each other. Working in schools can be really exciting and also challenging. It is a rollercoaster, more so than many environments. With this variable nature the demands on you will ebb and flow so it’s important to know yourself, when you need support and also be on hand for others.

Finally make a list every week of one or a few things that went well (no matter how big or small). It is a great reminder and brings some balance to your thinking when things are more difficult.

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