The Kaizen Network is a supportive network set up some years ago by a group of likeminded headteachers who were frustrated by the top down model of networking being promoted at the time through government and local authorities. We shared similar passions and beliefs around education and were keen to work in a collaborative way to bring about the best opportunities for our schools. The network has enabled us to work on a number of areas including the development of pupil voice, parental engagement, use of new technologies and the sharing of good practice and ideas. We have organised shared training days, brought in key note speakers to shared conferences and linked up with partners around the world. The children meet with their peers in partner schools to share their learning and they video conference with partner school in Australia. This week we all collapsed our usual staff meetings to enable the Kaizen teacher forums to take place. These forums enable staff from our different year groups to meet with their peers in our partner schools to share areas of common concern, talk through new ideas and share practice and resources in a collegiate and supportive atmosphere. The current arrangement sees YR and Y1, Y2 and Y3, Y4 and Y5 and Y6 meet as four separate groups. This week it was fantastic to have a Y7 teacher from a local high school come along and look at children’s writing with the Y6 teachers and share how APP is rolled out in her school.
The forums rotate around the schools in the network so staff are also able to visit different settings and see how other schools and classrooms are organised differently to their own. It’s a powerful model of professional development, non threatening and encouraging with no top down remit. Staff are asked to find areas of common interest as a starting point and the forums then develop and take their own course. The next stage in the forums will be visiting each others classrooms during a working day. Possibly teaching together, maybe observing each other in an informal but helpful way, whatever staff come back and say they want to happen – our role as headteachers is to facilitate that. In today’s shifting educational landscape the network is more relevant and important to us than ever and we fully embrace and exemplify the school to school support model – but I don’t think any of us would have done things differently anyway.