Since 2013 the conversation within our alliance has really shifted. In the beginning we were asking: how do we collaborate and have genuinely honest and reciprocal relationships with one another? Today, the discussion is now about how we make sure we are having collective impact; how do we engage and involve every member of our community – including parents and pupils; and how do we respond together – through mutual support and sharing our professional and social capital - to the key challenges of our time?
The focus on children, the work of the Kids’ Council, and our understanding of the needs of one another’s schools and responding to these, have been major achievements in the last few years. We now need ‘a front line obsession’, asking how does our work really enhance what happens in classrooms and make a genuine difference to children’s lives and learning experiences. We’re moving closer to this, through our work on research, evidence, and measuring impact – but we need to make sure that the work of Kyra is felt by all, and that means making Kyra’s work relevant to all.
The development day has helped us to clarify all of this. As the writer Meg Wheatley says ‘We prepare for the future by attending to the quality of our relationships today.’ Every professional in Lincolnshire whose work impacts upon children has a place within Kyra and a voice in our work if they wish, and we need to make sure that this is a reality and that the voice of the profession, parents and pupils helps us to prioritise the right projects, support and research so that we make a difference to our children. This collective wisdom and commitment will be so important as we prepare our children for a very uncertain and challenging world, but also a world full of new and abundant opportunities.
I hope you enjoy reading about the day and some of the thinking and reflections we’ve shared.
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1. Kyra Engagement & Development Day A summary of the presentations and discussions from the day.
You can read the following articles from the Journal by following the links:
Kyra Engagement and Development Day ‘Our Future, Our Children’
Colleagues from schools across the Kyra alliance gathered on Friday 5th October 2018 to consider the impact that their work and their involvement with Kyra is having in every classroom, every lesson and for every pupil in their schools.
On what was ‘World Thank a Teacher Day’, Marie-Claire Bretherton – Leader of the Kyra Teaching School Alliance – asked colleagues to use the time together to think deeply about their intentions, not only for the time they had together on the day but also in terms of how they wish the Kyra community to develop during its next phase.
The development day was thoughtfully facilitated by Maggie Farrar – a much-valued associate and friend of the Kyra alliance over the past five years – who emphasised that colleagues’ contributions would be what would make the day a success.
Beginning with clear intentions
Maggie began by asking colleagues to consider their personal intentions for being present at the event and their aims for the day. Feedback from the group demonstrated the importance colleagues placed on having this opportunity to reflect and consider the bigger picture, as well as the value they place on being part of “something bigger” that is really driving change for children and speaks to the values that bring people into teaching in the first place.
Maggie challenged colleagues to consider how they would embody their intentions for the day – and beyond – recognising that whilst we live in a world rich with words, they will never be sufficient and it is what we do – our deeds – that has the most impact.
The guidance published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) earlier this year for schools – to support them in using evidence to implement change – emphasised that whilst a critical phase in implementation is to ‘explore and prepare’, this phase is often completely omitted in schools because of the urgency to get things done and the pressure to rapidly improve pupil outcomes. Maggie emphasised that it was therefore important to get to a place at the end of the day where colleagues could take their collective efforts from the day out into their schools and communities and to ‘explore and prepare’ for change. To this end, colleagues were asked to consider three key questions:
- To what extent does your engagement with Kyra bring greater meaning to your work? How and when does it bring you ‘alive’?
- To what extent does it bring greater meaning to the work of others in your school? How and when does it bring others alive?
- How might you enable more of this for yourself and others?
In considering the third question in particular, and with the mindset of ‘words not deeds’, colleagues around the room made the following statements about how to enable more connection with Kyra for themselves and for others within their schools:
- To demonstrate a real commitment to contribute strategically to create opportunities for others to be involved.
- To know the big picture, know how all the pieces fit together and to empower the whole community to paint the picture for themselves.
- To plan more opportunities for children and staff (at all levels) to become more involved with Kyra.
- To inspire and engage the front line so they know that they make all the difference, that they are part of something bigger and that they can learn and grow every day.
- To commit to prioritise opportunities for all to engage.
- People are empowered to explore by nurturing and developing our talent across the collaboration.
- Bringing like-minded people together to create that ‘energy’ and ‘buzz’.
"whilst we live in a world rich with words; they will never be sufficient and it is what we do - our deeds - that has the most impact."
Reflecting on the path towards deeper partnership
The second session of the day explored the five phases of change for Kyra, through a selection of personal reflections from leaders across the Kyra community.
Vicky Johnson – Headteacher at Monks Abbey Primary School since 2007 – reflected on Kyra’s early years, with Monks Abbey having joined Kyra at its conception in 2012. Vicky’s initial connections with other local headteachers had initially been helpful but fairly informal, whereas Vicky felt the school needed to be part of something more formal. Involvement with a QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) project on how to create a thematic approach to developing the curriculum enabled not just the adults in schools to get involved, but also created opportunities for pupils to be engaged. The application to form a teaching school alliance was led by Cathie Paine – then executive headteacher at Mount Street Academy, Lincoln Carlton Academy and Saxilby Church of England Primary School – and involved a range of partners, all with the aim of achieving more together for the benefit of all children across the local area. This application was accepted and Kyra was ‘born’ in 2012.
Watch Vicky Johnson’s video here
Colleagues around the room felt this phase reflected a need for more support for leaders and schools in the local area; the opportunity to achieve more together for and on behalf of all children; and also reflected the changing landscape for schools and the wider education system at the time Kyra was established.
The next phase of Kyra’s evolution was discussed by Lesley Coulthurst – Headteacher at Toynton All Saints Primary School, and Kyra East Alliance Leader. Lesley reflected on the formation of what she refers to as the “fantastic five” of local schools to Toynton All Saints working together, and the value of that initial partnership. A visit from Marie-Claire – who was by then leading Kyra – to discuss issues around succession planning and talent spotting, and Lesley’s attendance at Kyra’s visioning day in February 2014 inspired Lesley with the potential for Toynton to be part of something bigger. The school formally joined Kyra soon after the visioning day. Since then, Kyra East has been developed, led by Lesley, to provide a vital hub for many of the more isolated rural and coastal primary schools of east Lincolnshire.
Watch Lesley Coulthurst’s video here:
Colleagues felt this phase of Kyra’s evolution demonstrated an emerging boldness and a deeper commitment to one another’s success. The alliance seemed to be starting to be more formalized and purposeful, with greater clarity around its inspirational mission and core values of inclusion, reciprocity, and active participation.
A partnership built on professional capital
The third phase for Kyra was reviewed by Ian Tyas – Headteacher at Ingham Primary School. Ian’s school joined Kyra during the summer term of 2014, along with a group of schools that were already working in close partnership. Ian commented that the schools chose to join because they could see that Kyra was an organisation with real integrity, with values that run through everything it does “like a stick of rock”. Ian and his fellow headteachers in the existing partnership could see that joining Kyra would provide them with wider opportunities to collaborate and improve practice. Ian spoke enthusiastically about Kyra’s work on peer review, which has not only provided an opportunity to discuss and share practice and improve all schools involved, but has helped to really develop the conversation about impact.
Colleagues felt that this phase of Kyra’s development reflected increased rigour and transparency, with an increased focus on the purpose of the alliance, a growth in trust between members and the ability to look forward.
Watch Ian Tyas’s Video here:
Where we are today?
Helen Barker - Head of Teaching School and School Improvement for Kyra – discussed the most recent phase for Kyra, running from 2015 to the present day. Helen reflected that the last three years have been a period of great change for Kyra, incorporating huge growth in the number of schools joining the alliance – from 23 to 57 during this time – and including the establishment of Kyra East, with over 20 schools. This has meant that Kyra has had to start to operate more like a business, including being able to generate additional funding, whilst also needing to stay true to its ‘DNA’. Helen described the incredible work of colleagues in persuading 300 schools from within and beyond Kyra to join the Education Endowment Foundation’s project looking at the impact of teaching assistants; as well as the designation of the Kyra Research School in October 2016 - one of the first five in the country. The Kyra community is now nationally recognised as a leader of learning and Helen reflected that it is the role of the alliance to forge links that make the Kyra community stronger than the sum of its parts, and that therefore Kyra should be an integral part of the life of all of the schools within the alliance.
Reflecting on Helen’s comments, colleagues felt this most recent phase of Kyra’s evolution could be summed up as being about growth and capacity building, embedding and sustainability, collective pride in the organisation, and a determination to keep the momentum and the values of Kyra at the heart of all its activities.
Marie-Claire also commented that Kyra has always been a pioneer, looking not just to each other across the partnership, but beyond to the wider education system and to other sectors. The formation of Lincolnshire Teaching Schools Together (LTT) and the emergence of the Lincolnshire Learning Partnership (LLP) both demonstrate a collective desire across the region to harness the benefits of collaboration and strengthen this partnership approach.
The next era and the future of Kyra
The next (fifth) phase of development for Kyra was the subject of the third and final session of the day, with colleagues reflecting on those elements of the previous phases which they felt should be held on to at all costs. During this session colleagues considered some of the key characteristics of the highest performing education systems around the world – including Singapore, Ontario (Canada) and Finland – to consider four main themes that will need to inform this next phase for Kyra:
- People – investing in ourselves and our community.
- Culture – creating a better future and living our values.
- Wisdom – knowing ourselves, being enquiry and research focused.
- Barriers – what might get in the way of realising the potential of the Kyra community? How might we address these issues?
Maggie reminded colleagues that these discussions would be just the beginning; the starting point for opening up some initial thoughts to the wider Kyra community. This discussion in table groups led to the following core elements being highlighted:
- Further develop opportunities for pupils across all Kyra schools to get involved.
- Develop opportunities for parents and carers to both receive support from and give support to their schools.
- Empower all staff to participate and benefit from being part of Kyra.
- Work to shift ‘mindsets’ from being receivers of support from Kyra, to being investors in Kyra, for the benefit of ourselves and others.
- Be more prepared to put our heads “above the parapet” when it comes to both spotting and sharing the talent within and across our schools, so that more children can benefit from excellent and inspirational classroom practice.
- Recognise that we have a responsibility to all schools within the partnership, including those which currently do not have the capacity and resources to actively engage – these are the schools, leaders, staff and pupils who most needour support.
- Always be mindful to maintain quality in all we do.
- Work to cut out the jargon and simplify our vocabulary, in order to better engage with our wider school communities and increase understanding of Kyra’s vision, mission and values.
- Take responsibility for building the capacity to support continuous improvement across all our schools.
- Keep doing more, and even better, for schools, staff, parents and pupils across our Kyra schools and beyond.
- Continue to be ‘ambitious for children’.
In drawing the day to a close, Maggie encouraged colleagues to reflect on these core elements as they returned to their schools, and to consider what they would both say and do to help start the wider discussion across the Kyra community that will inform the next phase of its development. This will be driven by a working group, formed by volunteers from each of the table discussions during this final session, who will ensure that these guiding principles are reviewed and developed by engaging all schools across the alliance.
In summary, an intense, thought-provoking day for representatives across Kyra schools, which gave rise to a number of key outcomes to underpin an even stronger and more deeply sustainable partnership:
- Identification of some core elements and principles to create the foundations for the next phase for Kyra.
- A real commitment from all involved to be ‘champions’ of this next phase when returning to their schools and communities.
- The establishment of a core working group of leaders from across Kyra who will take responsibility for driving the development and implementation of this next phase for the Kyra community.