Teachers - the Next Generation

Choosing to be a teacher as a career brings with it major commitments and responsibilities and to make a success of your choice it is vital to make a good start and build strong foundations.  What, therefore, will most help you develop as the best teacher you can be?  What are the key ingredients for success when training to be a teacher?  What should you look for in a strong training provider?

I volunteered to sit on an interview panel the other day, to recruit teachers to the Astra Learning Alliance, a teacher training programme led by Dr Challoner’s Grammar School where I am a Governor.  I was delighted to find it was a strong field with well-prepared candidates and they performed well at interview.  I knew what we were looking for and reflected on things the interviewees said they were looking for too and put them together.  What it is that goes to make a ‘stand out’ training programme, which attracts the best and helps them become the very best?   

The right vision, clear guiding principles – will they work for me?  Schools in our partnership see developing the next generation as part of the core skill set for outstanding schools and the ability to grow your own is a great way of building and sustaining excellence. This means we laid the foundations with care and our schools genuinely want to nurture the best talent, retain them and show we see each new teacher as an essential part of a strong future for our schools.

Are they well organised – do they know what they are doing?  We try to get the basics right: set a clear vision, understand the business risks, get the right governance in place, appoint the right leaders and the right team with clear roles and responsibilities and accountability.  Fine, but our trainees want to be sure we ‘walk the talk’ and deliver in practice: to set the right placements, mentor trainees during their programme and make sure they get the help and support they need.  , Moreover, it is essential to have a systems thinking approach, to go beyond successful training, to track alumni careers and offer continuing support and professional development.  . 

Is it a friendly and helpful place to study?  We want to be a good home for new teachers – to feel they are part of the staff room right away.  We are very motivated to be welcoming, helpful and take care for our trainee teachers, good support complements good challenge and we also offer the opportunities for our trainees to hone their professional skills as first class teachers.

Location, location, location?  Buckinghamshire is close to London – with some of the housing and travelling costs that go with this part of England, but there is also a high quality of life in the Chilterns, only 40 minutes by rail from Central London.  This is a prosperous community with many hard working, motivated and ambitious families.  It is also a great place for professional couples to work – both partners can have rewarding careers within daily travelling time.

What is special about the Astra Learning Alliance that makes it stand out?  The interviewees expected well behaved classes in Astra schools, but all reported much better behaviour in class than they had expected and little or none of the disruptive behaviours they had experienced elsewhere.  This allowed more time to focus on learning and delivery. Astra schools are also innovators or early adopters in learning technology – iPads have been issued as standard for some groups in Years 8 & 9 for over two years - and Years 11, 12, 13 have them already as part of their personal equipment.  This offers many more creative and value added choices in learning plans.

Astra schools cater for a range of ability levels like any other school, but the interviewees said they encountered more high ability children than they had expected and realised they should prepare to stretch and accommodate pupils in the top end of the range in their lesson plans and teaching styles. 

Two other points – one the interviewees realised and one they did not.  They noticed Astra schools have a very strong record on extra curricula activities – with many opportunities outside the classroom, nationally and internationally, to work with pupils on enrichment activities, educational visits, field trips, sports trips, there is plenty of opportunity to grow as a teacher by taking part in enjoyable real world learning activities.

Finally, Astra schools and particularly Dr Challoner’s share a well-developed learning philosophy to develop learning power called Learning@Challoners.  Astra aims to prepare children for life, to create a growth mindset and develop powerful learners.  You are joining a great team, outstanding schools have strong staff rooms and Astra schools offer great role models as colleagues, skilled heads of year and subject leaders, with a shared ethos and commitment to excellence in teaching and learning.

Dr M W Pegg

Vice Chair of Governors, Dr Challoner’s Grammar School