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Growing Great People

March 2023 Written by Alexis Rickus Director Institute of Education, Community Academies Trust

When faced with the challenge of coming up with a new approach to performance management, the answer was to throw it away completely and start afresh.

Being asked to prove yourself constantly in order to progress up the pay scale only served to disincentivise the individual and to increase workload. Community Academies Trust (CAT) CEO, Philip Hamilton OBE, wanted to do something more radical and tasked our Institute of Education (IoE) to come up with a new solution, with pay divorced from performance; a system that would become a key driver not only for employee development and school improvement, but also for recruitment, retention, and wellbeing. After much research and consultation with the Heads of the schools across our trust, we became aware of educational consultant, Chris Moyse, and how he had successfully introduced a coaching approach to people development. Chris had coined the phrase "improve not prove”, one that resonated with what we were trying to achieve. Our next step was to contact Chris who we quickly discovered was on exactly the same page as us. Chris was a huge support and helped us to launch "Growing Great People” (GGP) across our own trust.

"If this was going to work, it had to be effective across the different communities within our schools. Even the Governors in our schools are involved in the process." GGP is a new direction for the Community Academies Trust and is designed to challenge thinking, promote deep reflection, collaboration and to bring about a commitment to manageable change for the better. We view all teachers, leaders and support staff across our trust, as our greatest asset and we want to help and support them to become the very best version of themselves they can be. This of course benefits our students by providing them with the best possible provision we can, but what is just as important is that we also want to ensure that all our colleagues feel able to make the next steps in their career, and that we create a culture within our trust that encourages them to stay and grow with us.

Our approach uses the GROW model of coaching where colleagues set and monitor their own goals at the start of the year, based on self-reflection. Setting goals for themselves helps them to become more motivated to drive their own professional development. Every colleague has their own professional growth plan and has regular "check-ins” with their coach. Every colleague acts as both a coach and a coachee and has the opportunity to reflect on the progress of their goals throughout the year.

We developed handbooks with resources to help our schools ease into the new process and exemplars of what a goal might look like depending on whether you were a teacher, leader or a member of the support staff team. If this was going to work, it had to be effective across the different communities within our schools. Even the Governors in our schools are involved in the process.

Frequent check-ins are important, and we recommend short catch ups (this needn’t be a full on meeting but can be as simple as an encounter in the corridor to check everything is going okay). Feedback is also critical to the process as it enables reflection on successes, strengths and helps to plan the next steps for establishing further growth. As long as colleagues continue to meet their relevant professional standards and engage in the process of professional growth, pay progression is automatic to the top of the pay range and not linked to any mechanism of traditional ‘performance management’. We expect colleagues to progress up the pay range annually as the norm.

To support the GGP Toolkit, and as part of the launch, we delivered training sessions for every school on how GGP would work, the expectations and sessions on the GROW model on how to coach. With 18 schools, you can appreciate that was no mean feat, but it’s always great to have an excuse to go and visit colleagues across our trust.

Having launched GGP in the summer term last year, informally and at the start of this academic year formally, early indications show that being asked to "improve and not to prove” is fostering a culture of collaboration and promoting continuous improvement. We want our schools to be places where teachers and learners are excited to create their own learning and development journeys and where our colleagues are empowered to develop their own growth.

This article, written by Alexis Rickus, appeared 17 March in the Confederation of School Trust's Blog "Trust:"

About Alexis Rickus

Alexis is the Director Institute of Education for the Community Academies Trust. The Institute of Education is the centre for professional development, school improvement and teacher training for the Community Academies Trust. Alexis has held several senior leadership roles in education. Her particular areas of expertise are improving the quality of teaching and staff professional growth and development.

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