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Workforce development case study: SENDAT

We spoke with Scott Gaskins, School Improvement Lead - Staff Development.

One school, several locations

This is the motto that Scott uses when thinking about staff development and continuing professional development (CPD). Through this mentality, Scott believes that the schools in SENDAT can punch above their weight when it comes to providing staff development opportunities. It is also a model that other multi-academy trusts (MATs) and federations could adopt and benefit from.

One of the ways that SENDAT facilitates staff undertaking CPD is by Scott acting as a roving leader within their schools, covering senior leaders for their own development or so they can support other staff within their setting. This is also how SENDAT can regularly accommodate initial teacher training (ITT) placements and ensure that early career teachers (ECTs) receive high quality, regular mentoring.

Mentoring is a great development opportunity for experienced middle leaders: they can share their knowledge and give time to teachers newly entering the profession. Mentors can be linked across the MAT to work alongside each other, to support other staff. “There is a desire to work together,” says Scott. Looking at relationships in a less traditional way is key as it allows greater variety in how they offer support. Due to the common operational threads across the MAT, movement of staff between settings is easier and support doesn’t have to follow the traditional approach of one mentor, one mentee.

SENDAT has a clear development pathway for all its staff, which takes advantage of multiple training routes, accessing apprenticeships, national professional qualifications (NPQs), trauma informed practice, EduCare, and other bespoke providers. If they can’t find what they need, then they will make it themselves – Scott has helped key people to produce training videos for those niche CPD needs. These can be accessed by all staff through the school website, and benefit ITT trainees, ECTs and even experienced staff dealing with a new situation.

Scott believes that it doesn’t matter what your role is in the MAT: if you want to progress, a route will be found: “We never say no. We say it might be really hard, but it can be done.” This is exemplified in a member of staff who started as a member of the cleaning team, progressed into a teaching assistant role, then to a higher level teaching assistant position and is now undertaking a degree with the eventual aim of becoming a teacher.

Scott values the new suite of NPQs as it allows SENDAT to develop leadership capacity within their MAT, especially in a sector which is continuing to grow and develop. Staff within the MAT have progressed through the NPQs, starting with the NPQ in Leading Teaching to develop their own practise and understanding of teaching and learning, before moving on to the NPQ in Senior Leadership or NPQ in Headship as they take on leadership roles. “It is a key way in which we develop our core offer, growing our own leadership for the opportunities we know are coming.”

However, CPD isn’t just handed out like sweets: either the school or the individual must have an identified need that the CPD will address. If a school has an area for development that NPQ participation would help to overcome, then a suitable member of staff will be approached to undertake the training, with the improvement goal always in mind. Their participation in the qualification will be linked to the school improvement plan, and outcomes are expected and regularly monitored. This accountability ensures that CPD is valued and not just seen as another badge to be acquired.

Scott believes that this whole MAT vision of training and development helps with recruitment and retention, tapping into wellbeing needs and allowing staff to see a long-term future within the MAT.