Hannah Collins is Vice Principal of Trinity Academy Leeds, a brave and ambitious new school that is passionate about providing a world-class education for all its students. Hannah has worked in schools across West Yorkshire over the past twenty years and is a staunch believer in investing in quality CPD for teachers at all levels.
Unusually for our profession, no one in my family has a teaching background. My Dad left school at 14 to help support his impoverished parents. As the youngest of four, growing up in Stoke in the 80s, I was only too aware of the financial burden my parents endured. Every item of clothing was handed down; charity shops and car boots were treasure troves. My mum still puts a square of kitchen towel on the radiator to be reused after wiping a wet surface. Although money was scarce, we were a word rich family. Books were everywhere. Well-thumbed books with instructive, illuminating, sometimes baffling marginalia were on every surface. When I was 8 years old, my Dad bought me a saxophone for £10 at a barn sale because he took a dislike to another bidder. His eyes, my Dad explained, were not kind. A trip to London included queuing for 4 hours to pick up £2 tickets for Phantom of the Opera – during the queue my Dad spoke to literally dozens of strangers, leaving each one slightly richer for the encounter. We were asset poor but rich in experiences, conversations and most of all unbridled enthusiasm, love and an unshakeable confidence that we could do anything we wanted. ‘Children are born’ my Dad was fond of saying, ‘with limitless potential.’ I feel it is my duty to harness and nurture this potential.
My brother and I were the first in our family to go to university and it was during my studies that I realised I wanted to share my love of literature with young minds and help to foster curious, empathetic individuals. Books have always been, to paraphrase Dr Bishop, ‘windows, mirrors and sliding doors,’ we could not afford to travel abroad, but I travelled the world, as a child, through the written word. I have always taught in areas of high deprivation, fired up by a desire to ignite that limitless potential. I have witnessed first-hand the impact of effective teaching on children and their communities. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds gain an extra year’s worth of learning under very effective teachers. (Sutton Trust 2011). I entered leadership to affect change on a larger scale and it is the privilege of a lifetime to lead on CPD at Trinity Academy Leeds. Trinity Academy Leeds is located in an area plagued by social injustice that has historically blighted the aspirations and life chances of young people within this specific area. We are located within one of the most deprived wards in the country (IDACI decile 1, top 10% 2019). Almost 70% of our cohort are in receipt of pupil premium funding, the national average is 19%. As an academy, we never conflate high deprivation with low aspiration, quite the opposite in fact. Our students are character-rich. We teach them how to stand tall, confidently address adults and to always be the best version of themselves. Our goal is simple: to provide a world-class education for every student in our care to ensure they go on to not just take their rightful place at the table but, as Walcott beautifully expressed it, to ‘feast on their lives.’ An ethic of excellence runs through everything we do and our staff body are united in this goal.
The teaching profession has not always been afforded the recognition it deserves, and I was delighted to read of the Chartered College of Teaching’s desire to raise the status of our profession and equip teachers with the knowledge and research to be truly evidence informed. At Trinity Academy Leeds, we believe the best teachers are lifelong learners. To support and empower our staff, we enrolled all our teachers on the Certificate of Evidence-Informed Practice. A bold move perhaps in a time of ever shrinking budgets but investing in teachers will result in the best outcomes for our learners. In the new year, we will complete the debate task looking closely at the efficacy of cognitive science in the classroom. As Myatt explains, we are challenge seeking species, we like to think hard and challenge ourselves. Completing this certificate together ensures a sense of collaboration, of teamship, of being truly mission aligned. Our brilliant teachers create booklets and lessons underpinned by cognitive science. We also explicitly teach metacognition to our students and this debate task will help to refine and hone our thinking and practice. Crucially, we have set aside directed time in the school day to support teachers to study, learn and debate together. Many teachers have already expressed their gratitude for having access to the brilliant resources provided by the Chartered College of
Teachers at TAL are cultural architects, educational reformers rewriting the narrative for the young people they serve. We are unashamedly academic whilst resolute in cultivating emotional intelligence. We know our wonderful students will achieve the top grades and accept places at prestigious colleges and universities but we are equally confident that they will become good friends, secure, happy parents and responsible, kind citizens. As individuals, all teachers are leaders in their own classrooms and this certificate enables them to be truly evidence informed, applying practice to the greatest effect. As an academy, we will support any teacher who wishes to continue their Chartered Journey to achieve Chartered Teacher status. To teach at TAL is to be part of a transformational journey of improvement; we never sit still and world-class CPD is at the heart of this.
To enter the teaching profession is to begin a life-long learning journey. Our understanding of how we learn is constantly improving and so it is vital that we, as educators, keep up with the latest research amending our methods as we do so. I use the analogy of doctors upskilling, as medical research improves. People may argue that teaching is not life or death but for children, poor educational outcomes lead to lower life expectancy, higher rates of crime and lower household income. I argue that it absolutely is a matter of life and death for the most disadvantaged in our society and I ask our teachers if not you, then who? If not now, then when? A world-class education transforms lives and the best way to ensure a world-class education is to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills needed.
The Certificate of Evidence-Informed Practice focuses on the importance and the impact of high-quality research and will help teachers to bridge the gap between evidence and practice. I would recommend this qualification to teachers at all levels, as it reminds you to be wary of silver bullets and to constantly question and agitate as we learn. Each member of staff will complete a written assessment on the merits of cognitive science, linked closely to their own context. These will feed into TEACH, our in-house mastery research journal, which will become a powerful tool for our new staff. To return to my late, great Dad, he told me frequently that ‘life is not a rehearsal’, our children only get one shot at education – let’s ensure they experience a world-class curriculum from world-class educators.