We'll keep on training, no matter what
We recognise that staff are our greatest resource and that we cannot raise achievement without excellent teachers who stay the course. Our staff turnover used to be very high and it was difficult to attract the best teachers to our inclusive inner-city comprehensive. But our efforts have been successful and turnover is much reduced.
These days, we have large numbers of high-quality applicants even for shortage subjects, and we have been able to train many local people as teachers. The graduate teacher programme, particularly, has helped us harness previously untapped local talent.
For a variety of reasons (having been to the "wrong" university, racist attitudes etc), our borough used to have a large number of unemployed graduates. So, in partnership with our local university, we set about training many of them as teachers. Now our staff profile is more reflective of the community than the norm, and black and minority teachers equate to almost 50 per cent of the teaching force. Also, retention rates are much better because more staff live locally, are settled and likely to stay longer.
We make sure we invest in the professional development of all staff and we provide training for colleagues in other schools, which benefits both them and us through shared good practice.
Being a training school is an integral part of our ethos and mission. But now that training schools are to be part of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, I fear that re-designation will not be straightforward. New rules will apply, stipulating that we have to meet performance indicators such as 60 per cent of pupils gaining five top-grade GCSEs including English and maths, or be judged "outstanding" by Ofsted. Neither of these apply to us, so we are likely to lose our training school status. And other schools across the country are in the same position.
While we aim to be an outstanding school and hit the high targets we set for ourselves, we are still on a journey towards those aims; we aren't there yet. But this doesn't mean we can't work collaboratively and effectively with other schools and individuals as part of our training school remit. Indeed, I know that schools on a journey similar to ours appreciate the frank and open discussions we are able to have as equal partners in the school improvement agenda.
Sadly, many of the new models of leadership support are based on the idea that only those judged as excellent, according to a narrow range of outcomes, can take part. I believe this is short-sighted and does not allow for diversity and choice. It assumes that those who have excelled in certain contexts can support, advise and train others in schools with a much wider range of barriers to learning. But successful suburban schools are not always best placed to train teachers who may go on to work in schools such as ours. Many of our schools are challenging and our teachers and support staff need to be fully equipped to work in them.
We know that our training school activities have had a real impact on pupil achievement and the personal development of staff. The trouble is we may not be able to tick the right boxes to retain our training-school status. The good news is that - training school or not - we will continue to invest in our staff and deliver high-quality training and continuing professional development for all.
Kenny Frederick, Headteacher of George Green's Community School, Tower Hamlets, east London.