Life as a Teaching School


All Saints Catholic School in Dagenham is a cohort 2 Teaching School. Nigel Gardener discusses how the status has changed school life and explains some of the projects they are now working on

Teaching Schools are schools that take a leading role in the training and professional development of headteachers, teachers and support staff and contribute to the raising of standards through school-to-school support. 

For a school to be recognised as a Teaching School it needs to be considered “outstanding” by Ofsted and achieving the status is no small feat for any school. 

However, when a school is serious about putting in the time, effort and resources required to achieve the status there are many rewards. While achieving the status requires hard work, the end result is incredibly satisfying and hugely beneficial for teachers and students alike.

Getting started

The Teaching Schools initiative began in 2010 with the publication of the White Paper The Importance of Teaching. 

The programme gives outstanding schools the freedom and autonomy to work together with partners such as universities, local authorities, diocese and commercial organisations to deliver high quality professional development and training experiences for staff at all stages in their career. There are additional opportunities for schools to work collaboratively to raise standards and improve outcomes for students.

When applying to become a Teaching School you need to give evidence of successful partnerships, excellent leadership, have a proven track record of school improvement, and the capacity to develop and be innovative.

There were stringent criteria that needed to be met before the All Saints Teaching School Alliance was granted the status. Our Teaching School Alliance is made up of partners including Chelmer Valley High School, Valance Primary School, St Edwards Catholic Primary School, the Diocese of Brentwood, and Barking and Dagenham local authority. Collaboration allows alliances to share good practice, support professional development activities and raise the quality of teaching and learning, thus leading to improved outcomes for students.

When implementing the initiative there are a number of key areas that schools thinking of going for Teaching School status will need to address, these include the following.

Initial teacher training 

We are looking at expanding the provision available to new entrants to the teaching profession, which is indeed an exciting challenge for the alliance. Many will be following the tried and tested PGCE pathway, but new developments allow colleagues to take up the challenge of a School Direct place as well. 

The management of multiple placements and establishing links with a number of higher education institutions throughout London and beyond is, in itself, a major project. 

As the demand for teachers in primary schools grows, a key element in the initiative will be to ensure that sufficient places for trainees are available. 

Leadership development

Education faces the challenge of developing new school leaders. As a Teaching School Alliance we are relishing the opportunity to expand our Middle and Senior Leadership Development Programmes in the short term and have moved towards embracing the new National College Leadership programmes (NPQML, NPQSL and NPQH) since January this year. 

This is a crucial area of development if schools are to contribute to the need to provide heads of department, heads of year, school senior leaders and headteachers in primary and secondary schools. 

This is a particular challenge for Catholic schools – many of whom have had to re-advertise to fill leadership vacancies on a number of occasions. 

Hopefully, by the end of the year we will have established a career progression route for teachers from their initial induction through to senior school leadership.

School-to-school support 

We are working on developing a team of Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs) who will support National Leaders in working to raise standards of learning, teaching and management in alliance schools. This is an exciting development but one which raises many issues of collaboration, funding and ensuring time for the outreach work to be successful without harming the parent schools. We firmly believe that school-to-school support is not about telling others what to do, but coaching them towards their own solutions.


Undoubtedly, well-trained teachers who continue to develop their skills and knowledge can have a lasting impact on the quality of education accessed by learners in schools. We are looking at expanding these professional opportunities with our partner schools – for example, we are building on the phonics training provided by Chelmer Valley High School and working with overseas partners alongside colleagues from the nearby Palmer Catholic Academy in Ilford.

A major focus will be the new Ofsted framework as well as looking at strategies to enhance students’ learning in the classroom.


Alliances are encouraged to engage in action research – looking at what goes on in schools and how good practice can be researched and subsequently shared. 

We have a number of projects running in the coming year that involve working with university partners in the UK and Australia. It is exciting that we are looking to use staff and student researchers, trained and supported by the University of East London and the Cambridge Faculty of Education, to make a contribution to an international study into the moral purpose of school leadership. We have already had a case study published by the London Leadership Strategy looking at succession planning and talent management.

A day in the Life

The Teaching School Alliance offers so many opportunities to be creative and innovative that we are yet to experience a “typical” day. But for any school considering applying for Teaching School status, a typical day may include:

  • Meeting with a school experience applicant who wishes to gain some insight into how schools work prior to applying for a PGCE or School Direct place.

  • Observing colleagues teach – some may be involved in the Outstanding Teacher programme, others may be trainee staff on a school placement. Providing feedback and coaching is a crucial skill.

  • Supporting a trainee teaching assistant on a Level 2 or Level 3 training programme working with SEN and disability students.

  • Planning and delivering CPD for commercial organisations such as Engage Education with a focus on the quality of planning and delivering lessons in the classroom.

  • Running an after-school Middle Leadership (Level 1) session on “Leading in a Diverse System”.

Going forward

As they develop, Teaching Schools working with other schools and universities will help to provide a strong supply of new teachers, develop leaders and the next generation of heads, and support schools in challenging circumstances; a fantastic initiative for any school to be involved in. 

As a school, we have the academic, social and personal wellbeing of our students at the centre of what we do. As we have achieved Teaching School status, we will continue to look at what we can do to be an even better school and support, nurture and benefit our students. 

Our aim is always to ensure that the students in our care have the best life chances and we see our mission as raising aspirations for all.

  • Nigel Gardener is associate deputy head at All Saints Catholic School, an 11 to 18 school with 1,200 students in Dagenham. Visit

CAPTION: Learning together: All Saints’ Catholic School in Dagenham has embraced life as part of a Teaching School Alliance


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