Announced in the Schools White Paper, ‘The Importance of Teaching’ in 2010, the designation of Teaching Schools was part of the coalition government’s drive to give schools more freedom and to enable headteachers to take increasing responsibility for managing the education system. A strategy which has become known as the ‘school-led self-improving system’.
In 2010 there were few schools in Oxfordshire that met the Teaching School designation criteria, and those that met the criteria didn’t have the capacity to take on the responsibilities of being a Teaching School.
In 2011 a number of schools began meeting with representatives of Oxfordshire County Council to create a local strategy for school improvement led by schools. This embryonic organisation became known as Education Excellence Oxfordshire (EEO).
In July 2012 there was a meeting organised by The Cherwell School, to which OCC, HEI and school representatives were invited to discuss a Teaching School application strategy for Oxfordshire. During the meeting it was agreed that of the potential application routes available the most appropriate for Oxfordshire was that of a Multiple Teaching Schools Alliance. Three schools agreed to collaborate on a single Oxfordshire application for Teaching School Status – The Cherwell School, King Alfred’s Academy and Frank Wise School, supported by the following Strategic Partners: Oxford Brookes University, University of Oxford, University of Reading, Appleton Primary, Bartholomew School, Cheney School, Chipping Norton School, Dashwood Banbury Academy, Didcot Girls School, Gillotts School, Gosford Hill School, Ladygrove Park Primary School, Lord Williams’s School, Matthew Arnold School, Rush Common School, St Birinus School, St Ebbe’s Primary School, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, The Warriner School, Wallingford School, Watlington Primary School and Windmill Primary School.
In September 2012 representatives from the three schools met and wrote an application together. The application was submitted on behalf of the 3 Lead schools, Strategic Partner schools, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford, Reading and Oxford Brookes Universities and the National Education Trust.
In March 2013 we heard that the application had been successful and the Oxfordshire Teaching Schools Alliance was born. OTSA engaged a consultant to facilitate the initial development of the Alliance until school based staff in each Lead School were put into place in September 2013.
In September 2013 King Alfred’s began operating as an Appropriate Body for NQT Induction.
In October 2013 Bartholomew School applied to the NCTL and in March 2014 were designated as a Single Teaching School Alliance, as part of the OTSA network.
In July 2014 The Cherwell School’s application to become a SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) was successful.
In October 2015 the original 3 lead schools applied to the NCTL for ‘separation’ to enable them to be funded individually. At the same time The Ace Centre and Grandpont Nursery applied to the NCTL to become Lead Teaching Schools as part of the OTSA Network. In March 2015 it was confirmed that these applications had all been successful.
In September 2015 the 6 Lead Teaching Schools began working together under the umbrella of OTSA – a network and partnership of Teaching Schools.
In October 2015, 3 primary schools, Windmill, Chilton and Woodstock, applied to the NCTL to become Teaching Schools as part of OTSA. All three were designated in March 2016.
In July 2016 Thomas Reade Primary School applied to become a Teaching School as part of OTSA. Their application was successful and they were designated in November 2016.
In July 2016, the headteacher of Grandpont Nursery resigned her post as headteacher, and consequently the school was ‘de-designated’ and their Teaching School status rescinded by the NCTL.
OTSA currently comprises of 9 lead schools (1 nursery, 4 primary, 3 secondary and 1 special), 33 Strategic Partner schools and 128 Partner schools. In total approximately 300 schools are engaging with OTSA in one or more area of teaching school activity.
OTSA was founded on the shared belief that schools and settings have a moral responsibility to work together for the benefit of all children and young people. Within every school and setting there
is invaluable expertise, outstanding practice and examples of great leadership, but all schools and settings also have areas that need development. OTSA believes that by working together to identify
and develop areas of expertise, and then sharing them, we will be able to develop a system for self-sustaining school and setting improvement.
OTSA is a partnership of schools and settings, with the membership status reviewed on an annual basis.
Membership of OTSA is open and free of charge to every state school and setting in Oxfordshire (including nursery, primary, secondary, special, maintained, academy and free schools) who commit to this shared ethos.
The OTSA Lead Schools believe that they will be able to achieve more and have a greater impact on children and young peoples’ lives through collaboration rather than competition. Therefore each lead school specialises in leading particular strands of Teaching School work across the whole county. This is in contrast to a Teaching School model where an area will have a number of different Teaching School alliances who are working on Initial Teacher Training, Professional Development and School to School Support, often in competition with each other. The OTSA ethos and approach has been shared with Teaching School Council, NCTL, DfE and HMI representatives and has been recognised as an effective way of working and model of good practice.
OTSA Lead Schools do not benefit financially from any funding generated through OTSA activity. All income is pooled and re-distributed to fund work across the activity strands for the benefit of Oxfordshire Schools. At the same time, OTSA Lead and Strategic Partner schools are not expected to subsidise the work of the Teaching Schools Alliance, and therefore all OTSA activities are costed so as to compensate schools for their role in leading aspects of OTSA work.
It is the OTSA Board’s position that any Oxfordshire state school applying to become a Lead Teaching School should be encouraged and supported to join the OTSA Partnership as a Lead School and the headteacher as an OTSA Board Member, under the terms of the OTSA Constitution. Should an Oxfordshire school choose to apply as a ‘stand-alone’ Teaching School they will be invited to discuss their decision with the Board to give them the opportunity to raise any issues about why they might not wish to be a Lead School as part of OTSA. If talks fail to resolve differences then there may be a mutually accepted separate status. However, it is the view of the Board that given the explicit commitment of OTSA to serve the whole of Oxfordshire, ‘stand-alone’ Teaching School status is incompatible with the ethos of OTSA, and the self-improving school led system as a whole. Therefore, the OTSA Board cannot support ‘stand-alone’ Teaching School applications.