The chance for schools in this funding crippled profession to offer 20 places for training must have seemed like a dream. We ask a few of the successful candidates to reflect on what they gained from the experience and how it impacted on their teaching lives. So what has happened to our cohort? What has been the impact? Did we achieve what we had hoped for?
Launched in 2018, the scheme offered 20 fully funded teacher training qualifications to primary or secondary state schools overseen by Buckinghamshire County Council, the equivalent of over £100,000 investment in the form of a PGCE or Masters in Educational Leadership. With Buckinghamshire schools languishing in the bottom 10% of funding per pupil according to the DfE, the Buckingham Scholarship initiative was greeted with widespread positivity and was seen as a welcome boost that counteracted the falling funding for the county. Even local MP John Bercow was pleased, “The University is already a leading light in teacher training, and this new Scholarship Scheme shows them putting their money where their mouth is, investing heavily back into the sector to the benefit of our local schools.”
Political and popular interest aside, a scheme like this needs to get noticed and have influence on the students that attend Buckingham schools. How did the Scholarship move from great idea to practical implementation within the classroom? Well, like many opportunities, it takes a positive leader to share or encourage what is possible with their staff and colleagues. In almost all cases of the scholarship, a headteacher shared the information directly and nominated or supported a potential candidate. “(The scholarship) was advertised via email to all staff and in our staff daily bulletin. I then applied for the scholarship with the support of my head as I have just begun a position in leadership.” Clearly a sign post for leaders out there to encourage and promote opportunities for their staff that don’t come with a price tag. We’re not talking about gift-horses, but the chance to be in the lucky 20 would create positive ripples throughout the school and the impact would not be limited to an individual member of staff.
Whether a non-teacher within education looking to retrain, or an existing teaching looking to develop for a particular leadership role, the Scholarship has given these colleagues a chance to flourish and develop. “The Scholarship meant that I could train to be a teacher earlier, and it meant no pressure for my school to provide funds, so they could support me in different ways.” And for a profession that is struggling to focus on how best to look after and simultaneously develop staff, this kind of professional training is going to become the lifeblood for schools in dire need of high quality teachers. It is clear that schools want their staff to feel supported, well trained and engaged in professional development, but how and at what cost? The cost of training and CPD within education varies and so does the quality, so when asking yourself where to invest time and money, it is important for schools to make sensible decisions.
It is not without a downside, and an awareness of the funding issues surrounding schools is clear amongst our scholarship alum. “My major concern with education is the lack of funding for state schools in affluent areas. I work at the 12th least funded school in the country and consequently parents provide many resources for students and make donations to the school.” The difference that funding for such a high quality training opportunity is marked in a time when headteachers have to provide opportunities for good staff to stay and progress in a very competitive and strained employment market.
The reasons for headteachers and teachers to apply for the Buckingham Scholarship seem obvious, but what impact has it really had on our cohort? How does the additional work and stress of educational training balance with an already full workload? “Beginning the Masters really allowed me to reflect on my own leadership style and apply what I have learnt to my current job role. I am currently an Associate Assistant Head for Data and obtaining this qualification will help me apply for an Assistant Head position.” It is as simple as that. Taking an opportunity to develop existing skills with view to promotion or extending your own professional repertoire could be one reason. Alternatively, it could be a door opening to some opportunity that you might never have had. “It has meant that I can train to teach without putting myself into student debt, which would have had an impact on my family and children.” A reality amongst teaching or non-teaching with families who might not consider they have the wherewithal to retrain or develop their skills in increasingly time-poor lives. If one colleague has the chance to develop via the Scholarship, then the recommendation to colleagues and friends over the next years can create a ripple that could change the education of young people across the county.
One year on, the reasons for applying and hoping for success on the Buckingham Scholarship are clear and without question. But beyond that, the reasons for an individual teacher to apply must be paramount. What would you want to do with this opportunity? How would it benefit you and the school? How might your participation impact your classroom? “I work in an SEN school, teaching in this school is rewarding everyday! It is amazing to watch the children progress, particularly in their communication and independence. The scholarship provided this opportunity.” The idea that an already committed staff member can retrain with a PGCE and engage with her students and the school on another level seems like a real professional goal we can aspire to as leaders of staff and students alike.
In another Scholarship Alum’s words: “Even though being in leadership is rewarding and I like being part of the decisions to allow change in the school, the most satisfaction comes from when a student has a light bulb moment and they understand the chemistry. It’s also very rewarding when students excel in achieving their potential and going on to study degree courses they aspire to.“ A familiar and wholly wonderful view of teaching that many recognise, and many sometimes lose sight of within the workload heavy and stressful day-to-day of schools. Whether you’re a school leader, a teaching colleague, or someone considering retraining, the opportunities offered by the University of Buckingham Scholarship are many, and will continue to support our students in schools across the county. We’ll return to our cohort throughout the year and ask them to reflect on how the continued training has impacted them, and how the chance to have fully-funded professional development has helped them over the subsequent terms and years.
For further information and to request an application form for the scholarship scheme please go to https://www.buckingham.ac.uk/education/scholarship-scheme