Go East! The emergence of the Kyra East Hub

Ever since Kyra was established in 2012, the alliance has always benefited from the involvement and leadership of schools from the East of the county. Schools such as St Helena’s at Willoughby, Toynton All Saints, St Margaret’s at Withern, and Spilsby Primary School to name but a few have made a rich contribution to the development of research, teacher training, leadership development and CPD. It is testament to the commitment to a school-led system and collaboration that exists within Lincolnshire that these leaders and their colleagues often travel substantial distances to maintain their commitment and involvement with Kyra.

Yet, in recent years it has become apparent that the East coast of Lincolnshire faces some unique challenges. Recruitment is a key issue – with the area’s sparsity and distance from a major city providing an additional hurdle in what is already a very testing recruitment climate. Attracting young professionals in particular is not easy. Alongside this there is also a need to create a culture of CPD that doesn’t rely on co-ordination and facilities in Lincoln, with the distance often proving to be a barrier to teachers and leaders with young families or caring commitments. Indeed, in a context where we must be looking to reduce workload and encourage work-life balance, we should be doing more to reduce the time staff spend travelling to access high quality CPD and professional networking.

It is also clear that the area has real potential for forging a school-led system and a need to foster its own culture of school to school support and improvement. Whilst some schools in the area continue to thrive, many also face their challenges. The area sees wide variability in pupil outcomes and backgrounds – with children from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities continuing to struggle in contrast with their peers from better off homes. Part of the solution to this – we believe – is spreading the influence of the best practitioners within the area and encouraging collaboration between schools to find solutions to common challenges.

The area already has a strong tradition of collaboration between schools. However, headteachers are now very motivated and inspired by the emergence of Kyra East – a hub of Kyra which is looking to create a more strategic school-led approach to recruitment, professional development and school to school improvement across more schools in the area. One of those heads is Sue Belton, headteacher at St Helena’s in Willoughby. Sue has been a champion of school partnership and collaboration in the area for some time – and has played a very important role in sustaining the Famous Five partnership between five local primary schools.

Sue believes that the timing is right for Kyra East and that schools in the area need to work in a broader partnership to meet the challenges.  “Recruitment and retention of staff is a huge challenge for all of us” says Sue. “First and foremost we need to create an inspiring vision for working in education here in East Lincolnshire – to inspire more people from the local area to step up to teaching. I really feel that Kyra East can play a big role in that – and it’s important that as a group of schools we identify and set out our ambitions for children and staff across the area. We also need to work together to retain staff – and that not only means working together to create a really inspiring and high quality CPD for our staff, but also encouraging a culture where staff work together across schools to reduce workload and the demands of reinventing the wheel across dozens of schools.”

For Lesley Coulthurst, Headteacher at Toynton All Saints, Kyra East provides an opportunity to replicate the collaborative capital of Kyra Central: “We know how beneficial being part of Kyra is and as headteachers it has made a real difference. However, I want my staff at all levels to access the professional networks and to be able to share best practice and contribute to improvements in other schools. The distance has made that challenging.”

Kyra East has already made some head way. “We have established a group of headteachers who are committed to working together for school improvement” says Sue. “One of our immediate priorities has been to establish professional networks for our SENcos and maths and literacy subject leads- because we want this partnership to have an immediate impact around the sharing of best practice between our middle leaders. For these practitioners, the partnership is already making a difference and we’re seeing much in the way of sharing resources and developing practice thanks to the initial leadership and co-ordination shown by colleagues such as Josh Lane and Stuart Spendlow.” The hub has also established forums for headteachers and governors – again replicating a very successful element of the Kyra Central alliance. Governors in particular have found the opportunity to network extremely beneficial, having traditionally worked in quite an isolated way. Again, this group has found it useful to share areas of concern, to horizon scan for key changes in policy, and to support one another in meeting their statutory duties.

Another key element of Kyra’s work has been the emphasis placed on bringing children together – both through meetings of the Kyra Council (which through learning walks, have often had a powerful school improvement dimension to them) and through the Ignite Games. Both approaches are being replicated within Kyra East, with the Kids’ Council (led by Tracey Cockram, Headteacher at Gipsey Bridge) having already made a visit to the Houses of Parliament in London. Plans for the Kyra East Ignite Games are now well-advanced, under the leadership of Tom Shaw, Year 5 and 6 teacher at St Helena’s.

Sue is clear that a lot of hard work lies ahead. “The success of Kyra East will be about all of us – headteachers, subject leaders, teachers, business managers, governors and others – investing our time and energy into this. Collaboration and the benefits of collaboration aren’t achievable without a strong spirit of generosity on the part of those involved. So we all need to recognise the role we have to play and to show leadership in building the capacity for partnership. We also need to work hard to involve other schools that may not necessarily know how to become involved, and to identify both what their staff can bring in terms of leadership, capacity and learning and what they need from the partnership.”

The Kyra East hub continues to go from strength to strength and we have included some key diary dates later in this edition of the journal. The Kyra East Ignite Games take place in June.

The schools who form Kyra East are:

  • Spilsby Primary School
  • The Edward Richardson Primary School (Tetford)
  • Mareham Primary School
  • Bucknall Primary School
  • Withern St Maragret’s Primary School
  • Frithville Primary School
  • New York Primary School
  • Grimoldby Primary School
  • Kirkby On Bain Primary School
  • Gipsey Bridge Primary School
  • St Helena’s Church of England Primary
  • Toynton All Saints Primary School


Hear more from Sue and Lesley at the Kyra TSA youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCygsbkC8zRkOfkobipVD08whttps://youtu.be/XlOUM_TKpKg