Jo Fletcher-Saxon and Brian Copper are Assistant Principals at Ashton Sixth Form College. They have sent along this taster for their upcoming keynote address at Reimagining Further Education on 27 June 2018 at Birmingham City University:
At Ashton Sixth Form College, everything that we do relates to how well teaching is designed, delivered and received. We actively promote Teaching, Learning and Assessment as our ‘core business’ and we have designed a series of approaches to help ensure every member of staff understands their connection to this, regardless of their role.
Of course, curriculum departments are front line in delivering Teaching and Learning, but we have also constructed support area self-assessment reports to enable those non-teaching teams to also consider the contribution they make to teaching and learning.
We (Brian and Jo) are currently redeveloping an aspect of the college’s professional development approach around research-informed and research-engaged practice, which includes a FE Research Meet conference, and this feels like an exciting move for the college. We are seeking to “bring teachers back in from the cold” (Coffield, 2008) and we will share more about this exciting project with you at the conference.
It’s thrilling to be invited to contribute to #ReimagineFE 2018. We have been asked to share a “warts and all” view of how we, in our roles, strive to keep teaching and learning up front and centre. And so we will! We will share with you our operational roles, our vision and our struggles and the pressures we work with and work through. From boardroom politics to being at the “chalk face”, we’ll tell you how it is.
Here is a flavour of some of the tensions we work with and decisions we are involved in making:
To academise or not? Many of the time consuming conversations within the senior team and with governors about this relate to college finances rather than teaching and learning. It may make limited difference to the students’ day-to-day experiences at the college, but it will save a large amount of VAT which can be used to invest in teaching and learning– as well as put us in a network of educational institutions that can work collaboratively on teaching and learning improvement.
A new VLE? It’s a significant cost set within the context of reductions in funding, so do we invest? What impact does digital pedagogy truly have? We have teaching staff who get outstanding results and make only limited use of the digital teaching and learning resources available. We have staff who are leaders in the use of digital pedagogy and who also get results that beat national averages. So do we invest even further whilst removing small courses and reducing the breadth of our curriculum to balance the books? Sustain or remove Modern Foreign Language A levels or Dance courses?
Keeping teaching and learning up front and centre, continuously developing the institution’s “learning culture”, maximising the professionalism of staff, seeking to thrive in the context of so many external pressures, are our reason for being.
Jo Fletcher-Saxon and Brian Copper are two of the four Assistant Principals at Ashton Sixth Form College. The college is in Greater Manchester and has around 2200 sixth form students on A level and Vocational programmes and enrols around 500 adult and HE students each year, including trainee teachers.
As well as line managing a number of curriculum departments, Brian has responsibility for leading on teaching, learning and assessment strategy and works with the college’s Teaching and Learning team consisting of Teaching and Learning Mentors, the Learning Technologies Manager and the XL (High grades) Manager. Brian chairs the Teaching and Learning Steering Group on which Jo sits along with a number of staff and students. Jo line manages a large vocational area for a proportion of the sixth form students but her main remit is Adult and Higher Education including education degree programmes and initial teacher training for primary, secondary and FE teachers. Jo leads on teaching, learning and assessment strategy for the college’s adult and HE provision and works with Brian to ensure parity in approach and systems where possible.
The T and L team lead on cross college professional development and support. In the last two academic years the team have been heavily involved in both quality improvement and quality assurance.