The Priory Witham Academy is a mixed, all-through school and sixth form in Lincolnshire. It is part of The Priory Federation of Academies Trust which is made up of eleven schools, seven of which are secondary, and five of which are primary. In this article, Amy Tallentire, Primary Headteacher at Priory Witham Academy, explains how she has ensured that teacher development is a central priority at primary level, and how being a member of the wider multi academy trust has supported the professional development across the school since September 2017. In addition, two members of staff from Priory Witham primary share their own personal CPD journeys since joining the school.
Amy Tallentire; Maximising the Impact of CPD Opportunities at All Levels
“The Priory Witham Academy is part of a multi academy trust, which is the Priory Federation of Academies. We were one of the initial federation of academies, so Witham has been a member since 2008. Up until 2017, we were the only primary school in our trust; however, as of September 2017, Ling Moor Academy became the first primary school to come on board with us. In the past year we’ve grown even more as a MAT, and we now have five primary schools within the trust, so it has been an exciting time for us! We now have four other primary schools to work alongside, and this has already had a huge positive impact for us, especially in terms of supporting teacher development and providing CPD provision.
Our whole MAT is a learning community that values learning for all staff at all levels, and that really helps us as an individual school to prioritise CPD, because we know we have that wider support network. Our approach to CPD is really underpinned by our values, which unite all the schools within the trust. They are curiosity, generosity, wisdom, passion, and courage, and I think each of those values has a vital part to play, not only in the work we do with the children, but also in how we approach CPD and continue to develop as a staff team. In my opinion, our values are all necessary ingredients for successfully engaging in continued professional development as individuals, and as a multi academy trust as a whole!
One of the benefits of being a developing MAT is that, as a group of schools, we are able to look for shared opportunities for CPD and work together, especially now that we have more primary schools within the Trust. A good example of this is that one of our Trust priorities is coaching, so all of the primary Headteachers have been able to take part in joint CPD sessions on coaching. The vision is that, as a result, the coaching model can be gradually disseminated throughout each school, so that a real culture of excellent coaching runs through the Trust as a whole.
Working together with the other schools in the MAT has also allowed us to look for common threads within our development plans. For example, we’ve been able to start a project with Ling Moor Primary, where we are both taking part in ‘Talk for Writing’ training. As well as being able to share the cost of that CPD, we’ve also been able to run an inset day together, and have identified a leadership team within each school who can drive the development of the Talk for Writing programme. Those leadership teams will have the opportunity to work together over the next couple of years to really develop Talk for Writing as an approach within the two schools. It’s a very exciting opportunity for us to be able to work together on projects like this.
Working together within the MAT has also allowed us to develop specialist subject teams, which has enabled the sharing of good practice between the primary schools in specific subject areas and phases. For example, the Science leaders from each of the primary schools in the MAT regularly get together as a group to share expertise, resources, assessment tools, and best practice. They have also done some shared planning together, and are preparing for British Science Week 2019 as a group too. Being able to collaborate like this is extremely valuable for everyone involved, and I’m sure there will be further opportunities like this to come!
Of course, there’s always a balance to be had, and each individual school has to take on board the advice and suggestions that come from shared CPD, especially CPD delivered by external consultants, in the way that they feel will work best in their own school context. Therefore, as well as working together as a MAT to support teachers’ professional development, we are careful to ask the question ‘how is that going to work best for our school, and in our own individual context?’. We are very much aware that, while there are many benefits to approaching staff development collaboratively, CPD also needs to be tailored and adapted to meet the specific needs of each of our individual academies too.”