Matt Rodda, summit rapporteur, reports from the afternoon session at Best in Class.
The challenge of improving leadership, together with how to learn from international best practice was raised as Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw and the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher made their contributions to Best in Class, a social mobility summit organised by the Sutton Trust in partnership with the Carnegie Corporation of New York
Sir Michael made a strong contribution to the afternoon panel session, which was chaired by Barry Sheerman MP.
He said something was clearly going wrong in secondary schools and strong leadership was needed to improve the sector. He said that while many primaries were improving secondaries were in a different position.
There had been significant improvements to secondary schools in London yet this had not been achieved across the whole country and he highlighted the difficulties of improving results in some secondaries in the Midlands and North of England.
Sir Michael said that in his view many of the problems were linked to a lack of clarity from Senior Leadership Teams and that this was being passed on to heads of departments and teachers.
Other panellists included Reuben Moore, Director of Leadership at Teach First, Martin Tune, head teacher of Bonner Primary in Tower Hamlets and Norman Atkins, Co-founder and President of Relay Graduate Education.
The other contributions highlighted the challenges of attracting and retaining graduates in the modern labour market, including the importance of flexibility, such as being prepared to accept that former Teach First teachers might leave and then return to teaching mid-career.
Andreas Schleicher addressed the question of how schools tried to improve social mobility in countries across the OECD.
While there were similarities and some common trends it was clear that action could be taken to help schools have more impact in this important aspect of their work.
Some East Asian Countries had achieved a greater degree of improvement among disadvantaged students. In Shanghai, for example, some of the most disadvantaged pupils were achieving more at 15 than advantaged students in England.
He called on policy makers to learn from what had been achieved in Asia and also to look at differences within a range of OECD members, as it was clear that there were real variations between different countries on a range of aspects of different work in schools.
The final panel session of the afternoon discussed how best to develop teachers in the most challenging schools.
Professor Rob Coe, of Durham University, started by saying he believed that improving the quality of teachers was the most important issue. He added that there was already enough research to inform policy making and that the difficulty lay in improving CPD.
Charles Chew, Principal Master Teacher at the Academy of Singapore Teachers, described how the country’s master teacher programme worked and how professionals worked with one another to share and develop best practice.
Teachers who were working on the programme were codifying practice and publishing this for colleagues. Master Teachers were subject content and pedagogical leaders who worked with other teachers in the same subject.
A perspective from an English academy chain was given by Susie Weaver, Principal of Wallscourt Farm Academy in Bristol. Susie described how staff were encouraged to observe colleagues and offer feedback on a regular basis and that this had become part of working at the academy’s approach to CPD.
Developing this culture had been helped by having a new building which made team teaching and informal observation easier, but she said it would be possible to do this in an established school building.
Tony Jackson, Vice President of the US NGO Asia Society, explained how visits to Asian schools had helped leaders in the US education system see how CPD was delivered in a different way to some American schools.
He contrasted the emphasis on sustained constructive engagement in Asia with episodes of learning in the US which tended to be focused on teachers learning particular skills. Teacher CPD also tended to be weaker in the more disadvantaged areas in the United States.
The summit finished with a brief summary given by Lee Elliot Major, Chief Executive of the Sutton Trust.
Read Matt’s report from the morning of the summit here