Welcome to ‘We Are In Beta’

We Are In Beta
Feb 12, 2019 · 7 min read

Hi, I’m Niall Alcock and I’m a former teacher, school leader, school governor and teacher trainer.

Speaking to inspiring teachers and school leaders across the UK over the last 18 months, I’ve seen first hand the sheer amount of resilience, entrepreneurialism, creativity, and passion that is being thrown at the challenges being faced by schools. The more I’ve spoken to these incredible people, the more I’ve realised that they rarely get a platform to share these approaches and we’re all missing out from them.

So, with the support Teach First, the Young Foundation and Super Being Labs we’re creating We Are In Beta. A positive space where we can all learn and grow from each other. We’re doing it through telling positive stories of teachers and senior leaders who are solving big challenges in their schools. Through our stories and interviews, we want to spark conversations about challenges and solutions, and we want to build bridges with parents and policymakers and make education the place we all want it to be.

We’ll be releasing a new podcast every fortnight and you’ll find them in your inbox every other Sunday evening, so do subscribe here

Series 1 of the We Are In Beta podcast.
We’ve already started to release some of these stories through series 1 of our podcast series; it features 12 inspiring school leaders, in conversation with me, discussing their journeys, their thoughts on the solutions to a range of the big issues in education, the questions on their mind and their predictions for the future.

If you’ve missed the podcasts we’ve published so far — you can catch them below:

Rob Carpenter, CEO, Inspire Partnership: Ofsted’s 2019 curriculum focus: the opportunity for schools

Elroy Cahill, Headteacher, Kingsley Academy: How to make live lesson coaching effective in schools

Evelyn Forde, Headteacher, Copthall School: BAME leadership: How do we make it more representative in schools?

Ed Vainker, Executive Headteacher, Reach Academy Feltham: Academic and rigorous or nurturing and cuddly? How to improve progress by investing in relationships with families.

Hannah Wilson, Executive Headteacher, Aureus Primary and Aureus Secondary: How to create a mentally healthy school?

Chris Tomlinson, Regional Director of Harris Secondary: How to keep investing in staff CPD.

Linda Emmett. Headteacher, All Saints Catholic College: Creating a culture of absolute joy on the way out of special measures.

Stephen Munday, Chief Executive of The Cam Academy Trust and the Executive Principal of Comberton Village College, President of the Chartered College of Teaching: Doing the right thing and working together.

Jeremy Hannay- Headteacher, Three Bridges Primary School: Doing away with the Ofsted style of management.

What’s coming up?

From October 2019, we’ll also be releasing Series 2. It takes a deeper look at the big issues. Each episode explores how inspiring school leaders are tackling them by telling their positive, personal and practical stories, capturing the thought of range a of voices — colleagues, parents, and students — along the way.

So, grab a cup of tea and tune into our stories. If you enjoy what we are doing, please can I ask for a favour? Would you be able to spread the word to inspiring teachers and school leaders by sharing this post? Thank you.

Here are some highlights from the conversations we’ve had whilst producing Series 1 of the We Are In Beta podcast:

Ed Vainker (Executive Headteacher at Reach Academy Feltham) has written successful funding bids to provide his teachers extra time and space to develop widely accessible and easy to use curriculum resources, making it easier to teach.

Both of them have built strong links with their local communities, championed their causes and opened up their premises to them to help balance the books. Win. Win. Win.

Clare Rees — Headteacher at Havelock Primary School (Image credit: Havelock Primary School)

Will Smith (Chief Executive at Greenshaw Learning Trust) thinks incredibly hard about recruitment, the people in his trust and how to develop them. When he brings new people into the organisation he makes sure they hold the same values and then asks them who they think they should invite to join their mission.

Rob Carpenter (CEO at Inspire Partnership) has an infectiously philosophical approach to school leadership that means he is always focusing on the core purpose of education — serving children. Oh, and he writes books in his summer holidays.

As a BAME female headteacher, Evelyn Forde has succeeded against the odds to achieve phenomenal outcomes at Copthall School, even after a tricky first headship. She focused on values, staff development and wellbeing. An inspiring person.

Evelyn Forde — Headteacher at Copthall School (Image credit: @Copthall_School)

Jeremy Hannay (Headteacher at Three Bridges Primary School) spends a lot of his time researching other schools, reaching out to them and learning what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. This learning quest has even taken him overseas. More importantly, he returns the favour by opening his doors to visitors to share his school’s practices and generate some much-needed income for the school.

Hannah Wilson (Executive Headteacher at Aureus School), by being outward-facing, values-led and unapologetic about her philosophy, has built a network so strong that she’s been able to recruit teachers 2 years in advance while spending absolutely nothing on recruitment.

Linda Emmett (Headteacher at All Saints Catholic College) has lifted her school out of Special Measures by investing in staff development and creating a culture of joy. In part, through ‘Elfing’, where teachers spend the festive period doing favours for each other all the while trying not to get caught in the act.

Elroy Cahill (School Improvement Associate at Aldridge Education) has been pioneering live lesson coaching using earpieces to support beginning teachers improve their practice and champions valuing and supporting staff above all else.

Jacques Szemalikowski (Headteacher at Hampstead School) has invested in building strong and lasting relationships with other headteachers, which has helped him provide students with second chances through managed moves.

Chris Tomlinson (Regional Director of Harris Secondary Academies) has taken not one, not two, three or four but five schools from Special Measures or Inadequate to Outstanding. I wonder how many others have achieved that and who they are. I would love to meet them and share their stories.

Chris Tomlinson (Regional Director of Harris Secondary Academies) (Image credit: Harris Federation)

Stephen Munday volunteers as the President of The Chartered College of Teaching to raise the status of the profession as well as leading the CAM Academy Trust as their Chief Executive. And he does it with a refreshingly unapologetic, no-nonsense and solutions-focused approach that often calls upon schools to take up the mantle to tackle the big issues together.

These are just a handful of the incredible things that I feel privileged to have learned about that should be celebrated along with all the other success stories we never hear about.

So, make sure you subscribe to our mailing list and tune in every Sunday.

If you want to your school to take part in the upcoming We Are In Beta podcast series, please head here and see if any of the topics we’re exploring in the first We Are In Beta series strike a chord with you and sign up at the link at the end of the page.

Thank you so much,

Founder — We Are In Beta
Twitter: @niallalcock

To learn more about these incredible people check out their profiles below.

We Are In Beta

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‘We’ the education community ‘Are In Beta’ always learning

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