‘Capturing Winter’ – Exciting Photo Competition

Following on from the success of our ‘Covid Lockdown Photographic Competition’ we have decided to run another competition but this time with ‘Capturing Winter’ as the theme.

Winter can be such a magical season, it can also be a cold hard season too. It is a season which divides opinion, for many it is their favourite time of year.  We want to see how our children can capture this season through their eyes.

Is it ….

  • The frost on the ground?
  • Snow covered landscapes?
  • Cold winter walks with your family or friends?
  • Fun outdoor activities?
  • Cosy evenings by the fire with hot chocolate?
  • The early sunsets or very dark mornings & evenings!
  • Decorating the house and putting up the christmas tree?
  • Spending time with family and friends?

How to enter: 

  1. Have fun taking photos
  2. Choose your best photo
  3. Save your photo with a title that includes your school name, your name and year group
  4. Email your photo to ccritchley@bfet.uk or ask a teacher to do this
  5. Please note only one photo per student to be submitted please

The competition closes at 12 noon on Wednesday 8th December.  Our three winners will each receive a £10 Amazon Voucher and their photos will be published on our website and social media feed.  

Please ensure that any photographs submitted that feature children, families etc have the relevant permissions to allow us to feature on our websites/social media.

Good luck everyone!

Introducing Bright Futures SCITT

School-Centred Initial Teacher Training marks the start of the teacher development journey for many and, therefore, it is central to and firmly embedded into both Bright Futures Educational Trust and our Teaching School Hubs for Trafford & Salford and Manchester & Stockport.

We are delighted to announce that our SCITT will now be known as Bright Futures SCITT. The team will continue to ensure that it is an amazing SCITT at the forefront of teacher development, but just with a new name!

Eleanor Davidson, Deputy Director of Teaching School Hub (SCITT Director) at Bright Futures, said: “For more than a decade, we have a proven track record of providing outstanding teacher training. Bright Futures SCITT has so much to offer trainees looking for a school-based route into teaching. We work in collaboration with a partnership of over 90 primary schools, secondary schools and early years settings, colleges and universities across Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

“From day one, our schools, trainers, mentors and support team are invested in the development, training and future employment of all trainees and we look forward to welcoming our new cohort come September.”

We believe that every child deserves the very best start in life; and that is why we are committed to training teachers who can provide the next generation with the best chance of developing happy, successful futures. Have you got what it takes? If you want to inspire the next generation, train to become a teacher with us. Get in touch today, visit: Bright Futures SCITT

Collaboration Works – Summer Edition

Lisa Fathers nominated to join the prestigious GMLP Executive Group – Greater Manchester’s Strategic Education Network

Director of Development and Teaching School Hubs, Lisa Fathers, has been elected by her peers to join the Greater Manchester Learning Partnership (GMLP) Executive Group as a Board member.

The GMLP Executive Board members are charged with organising and managing the work of the Board and representing them at both local and sub-regional level.

Members of the Executive are supported by an independent Chair and sit on both the Greater Manchester Education and Employability Board and The North West School Improvement Board. Several members of the Executive, including Lisa, also represent Education on the Greater Manchester Reform Board which is chaired by Mayor, Andy Burnham.

Lisa said of her appointment: “To have the opportunity to represent all of our Greater Manchester Teaching School Hubs at this level is both an honour and a privilege. I am delighted to have been elected for this role by my peers who have been so supportive through the years and especially now as we navigate the exciting changes in teacher development and the roll out of the new Teaching School Hubs.

“Joining the GMLP Executive Group as a Board member provides me with a great platform to represent all of the amazing Teaching School Hubs in the area. I look forward to collaborating with them in this new capacity and meeting the aims of the GMLP and its initiatives to produce the best possible outcomes for the children and young people of Greater Manchester.”

The Teaching Schools Hubs which Lisa will represent are:

  • Bright Futures Teaching School Hub Trafford & Salford
  • Bright Futures Teaching School Hub Manchester & Stockport
  • Generate Teaching School Hub Wigan
  • Star Academy Teaching School for Bolton, Bury and Rochdale
  • The Blue Coat School for Oldham

GMLP was established in 2016 when it was set up to enable teaching schools to work collaboratively with local authorities and system leaders for the benefit of all young learners in the area. The work of the Partnership is guided by the Executive Group. The Partnership meets every half term with individual groups meeting more regularly and local partnerships in each of the 10 Greater Manchester local authority areas. Click here to find out more.

Launch of Greater Manchester’s Specialist Leaders for Careers Education

The Alliance for Learning (part of Bright Futures Educational Trust) and Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) are partnering to create the first network of Specialist Leaders for Careers Education of its kind across the region.   

Funded by GMCA and the Careers and Enterprise Company Careers Hub, the new Specialist Leaders will be recruited, trained, and deployed in Greater Manchester schools and colleges. They will work with senior leaders to improve the quality and provision of Careers Education, ensuring that all young people leave school inspired, ready for their life ahead and equipped for work and lifelong learning.

The launch follows the successful establishment of the GM Careers Hub and Enterprise Adviser Network, a network involving Greater Manchester schools, colleges, employers, and partners, which has given young people specialist industry knowledge and experience to help them to decide on realistic career goals and how best to achieve them. Students have had the chance to interact with employers by listening to guest speakers, going on workplace visits, or working on live projects with employers, with careers education is embedded into the curriculum. The creation of these ten Specialist Leaders for Careers Education, will create more dedicated support for schools and colleges and will ensure more young people benefit from world class careers education and opportunities.

Lisa Fathers of Bright Futures Educational Trust, says: “This is an exciting, innovative project which will utilise the school-to-school support system already embedded into the landscape but take the provision for young people to another level, empowering them in a way to really plan for their futures with the best support possible. Our ambition is to achieve a self-sustaining school/college-led Community of Practice, strong leadership will be key to success and we are confident that this is the first step towards achieving this ambition.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of GM, added: “This is a fantastic project which illustrates the commitment Greater Manchester’s education leaders have to getting our young people back on track and working towards successful and satisfying careers when they leave full time education. In Greater Manchester we want to ensure that all students have high quality careers education and advice – and of course that the skills and knowledge developed can support the Greater Manchester economy.”

Success in the early years setting for one of our male trainee graduates

We are thrilled to hear about the success of one of our former trainees, Jamie Allman, who is now an Early Years Teacher and Manager at the Pre-School Centre at the University of Cumbria.

You can listen to Jamie talk about his positive experience with the Alliance for Learning, including the wealth of knowledge he was able to thrive on, and what a difference training for Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) made to both him and his long-term career in teaching.

Jamie spoke with Rebecca Skinner and Becky Poulter Jewson from Thriving Language, which works to explore how children learn, communicate and engage in their world, with the aim of raising the profile of males in the early years’ workforce.

Sharing good practice and encouraging other male practitioners to join the profession is important to Jamie and he now delivers an early years training session to current trainees, two of whom are set to join our EYTS programme next year. 

According to the most recent data, men make up just 3% of early years staff in England and this figure has hardly changed in the last 20 years.

In 2019, a project was set up by the government to encourage more men to work in both nurseries and early years. A number of benefits have been put forward to support this, including:

  • Having positive male role models in education at all ages of child development
  • Challenging stereotypes linked to the teaching profession
  • Creating a more diverse workforce with a larger recruitment pool

We hope that initiatives such as these will have an impact and contribute to a rise in the number of males employed in the early years setting and we are pleased to have been able to play a part in Jamie’s journey.

Blog: Exciting times in Teacher Development

Blog written by Lisa Fathers, Director of Development, Partnerships and Teaching School Hubs (Bright Futures Executive Team)

Without a doubt home schooling has given parents a valuable insight into the challenges of teaching and a little bit more widespread appreciation of the skills and knowledge required! After the last year with little or no real school holidays due to Covid related pressures it seems there is a renewed thanks for the role of teachers and the fact that schools are absolutely at the centre of communities.

At Bright Futures Teaching School Hubs we want to celebrate and shout about the important role that teachers play in society. We also want to put teacher wellbeing front and centre of all our work. We know one way to support teachers is to invest in high quality professional development and we welcome the significant reforms in professional development nationally. Together, these reforms will help teachers and school leaders in every phase, subject and context feel more confident, clearly supported and in control of their careers. They will establish strong professional development cultures both within individual schools and across the country, elevating the quality of teaching and ultimately improving pupil outcomes. The Teacher development reforms are by career phase and will create a ‘golden thread’ of high-quality evidence underpinning the support, training and development available through the entirety of a teacher’s career. You can read more about this in the DFE information here : Teacher development narrative FINALFORTSH.docx.pdf

We know Teachers are the foundation of the education system – there are no great schools without great teachers. The quality of teaching is the single most important in-school factor for improving pupil outcomes, it is that simple.

You will know about the national roll-out of the Early Career Framework ( ECF). The ECF entitles early career teachers in the first two years of their career access to thorough support and mentoring during their induction. It is one of the most significant reforms to the teaching profession in a generation, aimed at providing extensive , evidence-based development that will produce better-trained teachers who are more likely to stay in the profession. Support for Early Career Teachers is being extended from one year to two years. Protected time in their second year will be supported by additional funding – providing them with an extra 5% non-teaching time in their second year.

The second lot of exciting updates are the huge changes to the National Professional Qualifications. Three new specialist qualifications will allow middle leaders and senior teachers opportunities to develop further specialist expertise. The remaining leadership qualifications for senior leaders, Headteachers and Executive Leaders are also being refreshed and updated making them more relevant for those who lead our schools.  

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This golden thread will be accessed through the new infrastructure of Teaching School Hubs.

Teaching School Hubs will partner with DfE approved Lead Providers to deliver training. Teaching School Hubs will be the backbone of the delivery mechanism and will be essential to the success of these reforms. The 87 Teaching School Hubs are school-led centres of excellence in professional development run by the country’s best MATS and schools.  Each Hub serves a designated area of the country, ensuring every school has easy access to support. Schools should work with their local hub and Local Authorities are of course supporting this national agenda and working closely with Hubs too.

Sir Kevan Collins points out, the ongoing professional development of teachers is “undoubtedly the best catch up offer” we have to respond to Covid.

Eleanor Davidson one of the Bright Futures Deputy Hub Directors responsible for ITT & ECF across our Hubs said “ the ECF has the power to shift thinking, transform the experiences for our newest entrants to the profession and secure success building on the ITT core content seamlessly”.  

This is about a long, sustainable impact, it is not a quick fix, we need to take a bigger picture view here and these changes will only have real impact if the school led system and other colleagues in localities embrace the changes, support the changes and work with Teaching School Hubs  to ensure sustainable, professional development that builds long-term success.

Blog: A growing Trust needs to grow it’s own Marketing and Communications Team

Blog by Lisa Fathers – Director of Development, Partnerships & Teaching School Hubs

One of my roles at Bright Futures Educational Trust is the strategic lead for marketing and communications. Whilst we were a smaller, developing Trust, we engaged the help of a communications consultancy. Glove Consulting have helped us grow our internal capacity to set up the strategic communications structure needed to allow us to invest in this area of growth. There is so much that we want to do in addition to the wide range of marketing and communication activities already in place.

Marketing is often seen as ‘fluffy’ and sometimes, important concepts like ‘brand identity’ and consistency of ‘the small stuff’ is often brushed aside in schools and Multi Academy Trusts. This is often the case until things are not going well and then marketing becomes higher profile within the organisation. Sadly, this can often be too late. When numbers have declined, reputation isn’t strong, or simply you haven’t been promoting yourself, it can take a few years to change and this can have a significant impact to the school and critically its finances. However, I believe that just like when managing student behaviour, nailing the small things allow the big things to happen, and that marketing is just as important as any other function such as finance and HR.

How effective is your school’s marketing? Like many things, marketing has changed dramatically in the last few years, the last year especially! Social media and digital technology has created new ways to reach parents, partners, stakeholders. It is unlikely that a parent has enrolled their child at a school because of a brilliant ‘tweet’, but, parents are not immune to consistent messaging or the most amazing Instagram post, especially with images of happy, engaged children. Commercial marketing does not map over to schools in quite the same way it does in the commercial world. For schools, the ‘sales funnel’ is long, involved and complex, after all, this is the future of a child that is at stake, it is an emotive decision. An important part of this funnel is face time with the Headteacher and other staff at the school which makes this market unique. Word of mouth and the reputation of a school are also critical. There are also other complexities including; the area, pupil outcomes, the emotional connections to a school, other local schools, religion, the relationship between partner primary schools, and the list goes on. In the commercial world you can be pulled away from one product to another but when selecting a school parents tend to remain committed and not want to move their child. That said, there is much that education can learn from the commercial sector. Nearly everything we do comes back to marketing and communications. Marketing is much more complex and involved than shiny, glossy brochures and press releases, this is just one tiny part.

It is important that we review the 4 (or 7) Ps of Marketing. In this case, the Product, Promotion and Place (Price not impacting us). We know that the Product is critical. How good is the good, how do we perform, what wrap around support do we provide, do we provide an after school club? All of these create the product that we offer. Promotion, how well do we promote our school? Do we promote it consistently and to the right people at the right time. Of course the Place is harder for us to change. The physical location of our school is critical to many parents but not something we can change. We could though highlight the easy cycle routes, the ample car parking, the quiet roads that we are located on.

Communications count! If you were to rank the most important factors for parents when selecting a school, you might choose examination results then perhaps facilities. Recent research (September 2020) from the Youth Sport Trust, found that wellbeing and happiness is much more important now. Wellbeing and location being the most important factors for parents choosing a school. Key findings showed that 65% of parents said wellbeing was important when deciding on a secondary school, with 63% of parents choosing a primary school saying wellbeing was an important factor. 68% of parents agreed that they would like to see more information on what schools were doing to support the wellbeing of pupils and 70% said it should be easier to find this out. This helps us focus on this important factor and how we could gain a competitive advantage. We can easily share what we are doing in schools for the wellbeing of our pupils through a range of communication channels. You can read more here.

The BBC highlighted the importance of parents looking at more that school league tables. In December 2019, they reported ‘The tables show how well a particular year group of pupils at a given school has performed in test or exams. But they will not tell you anything about the extra-curricula activities on offer such as sport and drama or details about a school’s pastoral care system”. The BBC further highlight that there is no substitute for visiting a school you are interested in and talking to teacher, parents and current pupils. You can read more here.

The above clearly shows the importance of having a communications plan with a range of channels. It is not enough to put the information on the website, parents need to be confident with every interaction that they have. How well is their enquiry dealt with, how informative is the open event or digital event?

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels offer an important channel of promotion. Every single post is a piece of your micro-promotion. Sharing regular content, whether it is pictures on Instagram, or short videos on Twitter, serves as both communication and promotion. This is all underpinned by other tactical activities including parent mail etc. Managing concerns provides yet another opportunity to turn a customer (parent) round and influence ‘word of mouth’ marketing.

How effective is your school marketing? A few pointers to help you reflect on that question: One of the things that is so hard about marketing is demonstrating the impact. We often hear in schools ‘if you can’t measure it, it isn’t happening’. You need to know which marketing activities are generating the most effective return, this can be tricky but most schools ask new parents where they heard about the school and can use this information to help inform planning. This should go a stage further. Schools should be asking current parents why they chose the school for their child and why those parents that showed an interest in the school didn’t choose the school for their child. This level of understanding will help you focus on the right areas and ensure you address the critical areas. When you are confident that you deliver well, you can then share this externally so it becomes part of the decision making process.

At Bright Futures, we use a range analytics to track engagement. We understand how well our websites perform, what pages are visited most and where we lose people. We know the best time to post our messages on social media and what content is the most engaging. When we send digital communications we can see how many are opened and how many click throughs we have. If we place an advert, we create a new landing page on the website so we can see how successful the paid for advert has been. I’m sure we can a more rigorous job with all of this and I know our creation of an internal post will help us have the capacity to do more and be even better. Our new role ‘Marketing & Communications Manager’ will help each individually school as well as our Teaching School Hubs and the trust as a whole.

What is it about your school that enables parental choice, and what factors are the deciders? Crucially, do you focus on these at different points during the ‘sales funnel’? For schools, successful marketing is about doing small things consistently well. It is EVERY e-mail you send to parents, it’s the quality and warmth that is given to responding to parental issues, or complaints, it is consistency of message…..It is all critical to quality marketing and communications.

Managing stress in a pandemic

Blog by Lisa Fathers, Director of Development, Partnerships and Teaching School Hubs

Its National Stress Awareness month and whilst a bit of stress is normal and the adrenaline that goes with it can help us to achieve great things, having to deal with too much stress on an every-day level can have an adverse effect on your health and wellbeing.

Stress is a major problem today and everyone reacts differently to it, but too much stress can lead to longer term mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Mental ill health costs UK employers £34.9 billion each year according to Mental Health First Aid England.*

We know schools are busy places, with everyone trying to do their best, but this year the demands of supporting staff, parents, and children, together with ensuring that schools meet Covid-19 safety guidelines, have contributed to increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression. As we see some normality returning this brings with it additional worries too. infections rise and lockdowns are imposed.   

As our way of living, working and socialising changes dramatically, how do we cope with the feelings of stress and anxiety that brings?

Coping with stress in a healthy way such as developing resilience is one way to help manage stress as it can help you turn adversity into advantage and a threat into an opportunity. Stress and difficult times hit us all at periods throughout our lives, but it’s how you deal with those that makes a difference to our stress levels. Resilient people tend to have a more optimistic outlook and can often deal with stress more effectively.

Taking steps to also reduce and cope with stress is crucial. The most important thing you can do when you are stressed or anxious is to make sure you are continuing to look after yourself. Make time to relax when you need to and learn to say no to requests that are too much for you.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training is so important to ensure staff have the appropriate training to put effective stress reduction strategies into place and to intervene earlier and more effectively when colleagues or students are struggling. Being able to have an open discussion about wellbeing is vital to building a supportive culture and helping people to reach out. 

Through my work with the Greater Manchester Mentally Healthy Schools and Colleges Project – a collaboration between Alliance for Learning Teaching School, Place2Be, children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust, and 42nd Street, MHFA training commissioned by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, has enabled teachers and support staff to spot signs of poor mental health and intervene early. 

Here are my top tips for stress reduction and building resilience: 

Notice how full your “stress container” is

We need to be able to recognise when things are building up to a critical level so we can employ some coping mechanisms. All too often we don’t pay enough attention to ourselves. The analogy of a “stress bucket” is also good to share with students- ask them what is in theirs- it’s a good way of finding out information you might be unaware of.

Begin self-care at home

Make sure you get enough sleep. This is essential! We all need different amounts. It’s a good idea to avoid screens (phones, tablets, and laptops) and exercise just before bed, but everyone is different, and you know what works for you. Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments as self-esteem plays a key role in coping with stress and resilience.

Take mini breaks in work

This is easier said than done in schools, but constantly sitting down really isn’t good for physical or mental health. Get up, walk around and have a stretch to keep the blood moving. Even if you exercise regularly, prolonged sitting is not good for the heart. Rather than emailing a colleague, go and have a conversation- connect and chat!

Try meditation and deep breathing techniques

Mindfulness has its origins in ancient Buddhism and encourages us to be ‘present’ in our own lives when we are distracted by our thoughts or worries. Taking five minutes to close your eyes and focus on breathing is incredibly powerful. Slow, deep breathing taking longer breaths out, increases the oxygen in the blood, creating more energy in the body and improving mental clarity.

Reduce caffeine and get active

We all know that caffeine is a stimulant and can be addictive, but excessive consumption is also linked to many chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and headaches? Exercise is the BEST medicine. I run nearly every morning. It helps my mood and wakes me up and on days I don’t do it, I don’t feel as positive. Simply moving improves your mood. Doctors suggest getting active as part of any recovery plan – be that for mental or physical health.

Look ahead

It’s sometimes hard to focus on the future when you’re bogged down with the day-to-day. Think about what potentially stress-inducing events could be on the horizon.  How can you reduce their negative impact on you? When faced with a new challenge, make a quick list of how you could solve it. Who can help you do this?

Choose your attitude

A positive outlook on life and work can reduce stress – you have a choice whether to view complexity as fun and see problems as challenges to be enjoyed. We all have a choice how we ‘frame’ events, relationships and tasks. Workplace conflict does happen, but do try to be empathetic and remember, we never know what is really going on for someone. It is helpful if we try to assume that people are coming from a place of genuine kindness and trying to do the right thing.

Accept change

Learning how to be flexible and knowing what is in your control and what is not can help you learn new skills, adapt more easily and be better equipped to deal with a crisis.

Try something new

Is there an activity that you’ve always wanted to try? Activities such as singing and laughing release endorphins, the ‘feel good’ chemicals in your brain, helping it to reset from periods of stress. Whether it’s singing to your favourite song in the car or joining a new choir, the benefits are proven.

Switch off

We might be in a culture of working evenings and some of the weekend, but is that self-inflicted or an expectation? Challenge your thinking and take time off. You have the autonomy to manage your own work life balance. In the past I have become exhausted by placing unrealistic expectations on myself. I’m more sensible these days and family comes first. I love my job, but I know in order to do it well I need to stay healthy and energised.

Alliance for Learning
Cavendish Road, Bowdon
Altrincham WA14 2NL
Proud to part of the Bright Futures Education Trust