Phil Green is a Teacher Development Coach and Lecturer in initial teacher education at Suffolk New College. He explains why the research project he undertook as part of his Advanced Teacher Status (ATS) journey was such a success, for both himself and his colleagues.
I’ve been coaching and teaching in some capacity since 1999. I first began coaching as an Outward Bound Instructor in Malaysia, before coaching football at a young offenders’ institute. From there I started my real journey within Further Education (FE), working with Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) and Foundation Learning students, working my way up to Programme Coordinator, before finishing as Head of Department for Schools and external programmes.
During this time, I achieved my teaching qualifications and was encouraged to complete my Qualified Teacher Learning Skills (QTLS) status. This gave me the opportunity to become an Advanced Teaching and Learning Coach within the college, alongside my other role.
I moved colleges to pursue a role as Programme Manager of Sport, before becoming an Advanced Teaching and Learning Coach. This led me to my current path of initial teacher education and gave me the opportunity to complete my ATS, which I grabbed with both hands, knowing how QTLS had helped support my development and opened new doors.
Teaching on initial teacher education and being a coach quickly highlighted the importance of being a role model, being recognised and current within my field; I knew that ATS would give me this and more.
Self-reflection and evaluation of my teaching
Being part of something relatively new and groundbreaking was exciting, yet daunting; however, I felt that being able to gain ATS and have Chartered Teacher Status would not only cement my currency and credibility, but motivate and inspire my own trainees. I was once again a student, just like my own trainees who were also working, teaching and balancing their lives and families while studying. This meant that we were all on the same page, which levelled the playing field when it came to teaching and assessment.
It’s fair to say that ATS is a tough but rewarding status – you need to have experience and contact in and out of the classroom in order to progress and achieve it effectively.
Like most students, after some huffing and puffing, I got engulfed in my ATS journey and quickly started to look differently at my teaching, my experience and my development. The continued self-reflection and evaluation of your contribution to your own, others and the organisation’s development, quickly made perfect sense and gave me a real purpose, which I believe was lost a little after many years of teaching and coaching.
I was very lucky to be able to be on the ATS journey with a supportive, knowledgeable and experienced line manager. Together we were able to work through our ATS portfolios together, bouncing ideas of each other and looking at sections and tasks from different angles, which gave us a more rounded portfolio.
Focusing on supporting staff to be an ‘outstanding’ teacher
My research project was linked to a programme we started, to support our ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ teachers. As a college we were going through some tough times, and we as a department felt that most of our support was focused on our underperforming staff. Our good to outstanding staff were being left, which could, we felt, result in those staff unintentionally underperforming – just because you are a good to outstanding teacher doesn’t mean you don’t need support to continually improve, and this was what our programme did.
We invited staff to come along for a six-week programme where identified staff could work through a programme identifying traits and skills that made an outstanding teacher. We as staff would facilitate the programme, but ultimately the staff attending would discuss and share best practice.
Attendance was high throughout the programme and it was clear to see the energy within the room. Comments were made by staff of the importance and positive contribution that the programme, and more importantly, their colleagues across college had on their own teaching. This was evident in the improved observation grades that most staff achieved, or otherwise remained as good/outstanding.
The programme was a success, motivating and re-energising teaching staff on the programme, but also those that weren’t part of the initial programme because they were motivated to improve their teaching to become part of the next cohort. It gave a sense of cross college collaboration and prompted more staff to share best practice and talk about previous and current students to support them more effectively. It re-enforced an already established open door policy to staff, which allowed them to confidently ask more questions, and even more importantly, want to share and try new teaching ideas their peers. This changed and improved the culture of the college to a more all-round supportive approached, rather than just a deficit approach.
Completion of my ATS gave me renewed confidence in my teaching and motivated me to continue my CPD journey, updating and upskilling my teaching as well as my vocational skills. It gave me the confidence to apply for and be successful in joining the SET Practitioner Advisory Group, as well as later on joining SET’s Management Board – two initially daunting groups to be part of, but two of the most welcoming, motivating and rewarding groups to be part of. All members are extremely supportive, knowledgeable and I feel I’m able to feed into the groups to make a difference for me, my students and FE, which is ultimately what ATS is all about.