Teaching Leaders scheme catches eye of team Obama

4th December 2009 at 00:00
Brits invited to Washington to explain how to develop department heads

From report cards to Teach First and the charter schools that inspired academies, a steady stream of ideas from across the Atlantic have been transforming education in England for the best part of a decade.

But now the tide is starting to turn, with Barack Obama's administration enthusiastic about a new homegrown British scheme.

Teaching Leaders, which aims to develop the capacity of middle leaders in England's secondary schools, has been operating for just over a year but is already said to be on track to improve GCSE results.

Next week, the Brits behind the programme will travel to Washington DC, where they have been invited to meet a senior team from the President's education department, who are keen to see if they can adapt Teaching Leaders.

Sharath Jeevan, Teaching Leaders director, said: "We are really flattered because in the UK we have taken some great ideas from the States, such as Teach First. So it is great to be able to redress the balance of payments."

Teaching Leaders was introduced to fill the gap between Teach First and Future Leaders, the two US-inspired schemes already operating over here.

Instead of focusing on classroom teachers and school leaders, it is aimed at heads of department and heads of year - the middle leaders who could be the engine of school improvement because of their ability to influence large numbers of pupils and staff.

The team from President Obama's federal department of education has also helped to organise a summit to discuss the idea next week with representatives from US school districts, charter school providers and charitiable education funders such as the Gates Foundation.

In England the scheme used a rigorous selection process to pick 30 participants from 23 "complex urban" secondaries in 2008. They receive intensive training in the evenings, summer holidays and weekends and have been allocated personal coaches and mentors.

Every participant has to select a group of between 50-100 under-performing pupils whose results they aim to improve over a two-year period.

Early evidence is that they are already having an impact, with pupils on course to outperform expectations by an average of one GCSE grade each.

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