The Future of Inter-School Collaboration

Wakefield City Academies Trust

With IRIS Connect, Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) have increased their capacity to provide high quality support to the growing number of teachers and schools in the Trust. The system has enabled them to overcome the time and cost constraints of collaboration over distance, whilst providing more personalised, meaningful development opportunities for staff.

The Wakefield Approach

Wakefield City Academy is at the core of the thriving WCAT. The Trust comprises both secondary and primary academies spread over 3 local authorities in the Yorkshire and Humber regions.

Wakefield City Academy itself is a National Teaching School with a large teaching school alliance and has been graded as Outstanding in its last three Ofsted inspections. They adopted IRIS Connect to deliver meaningful and personalised professional development to every teacher in the alliance.

“With large numbers of staff with diverse and sometimes extensive needs, our main focus for Teaching and Learning support is providing timely and accurate examples of best practice,” explains Matthew McDonald, Director of Learning and Teaching at WCAT. “Also offering staff the opportunity to view and reflect on their current performance and, if they wish, get remote feedback on their lessons. With the recently updated IRIS Connect platform we can create groups of staff by subjects or by career stage, generating a culture of sharing within and between our schools.”

Sharing Best Practice

Their first step as a trust was to create a WCAT lesson library which currently contains a bank of lessons across subject areas, key stages and of varying standard, that teachers have willingly shared. Each lesson video has planning and feedback attached for the teachers across the Trust to view. The library allows them to observe “best practice” and also those lessons that are requiring improvement. Matthew describes;

I recently heard from a school in Scarborough, who are becoming part of our trust, asking for some lessons to help their staff see what good teaching looks like, so I sent a request to the rest of our schools and they now have 13 lessons that have been shared with them modelling what good teaching looks like.

The Future of Inter-School Collaboration with Wakefield City Acadmies Trust

Alan Yellup, Executive Head of Wakefield City Academy and Chief Executive Officer of WCAT adds:

We’re not a trust who simply sends in consultants to diagnose the problems, because often schools have a grasp of the issues. What we try to do is provide immediate support. Expansion of the Trust has brought an increase in demand for lesson observations which has been solved by the use of IRIS Connect. It creates a learning community under one roof.

When used in a supportive environment it is one of the most influential innovations for teaching and learning in recent years. It takes you into the classroom without altering the climate and is a fabulous tool for spreading good practice.

Schools can share lessons over distance, helping to create some fantastic links between departments. Individuals within the Trust can choose to share practice both with colleagues in their school and in other schools for one-to-one support. The remote observation function has also allowed teachers, with the correct permissions, to watch live lessons remotely from anywhere.

Impact – Time, Budget and Quality

IRIS Connect has already played a key part in Wakefield Regional Teaching School Alliance, led by Wakefield City Academy. “IRIS Connect was used to help develop whole school inset in the primary school pyramid” explains Alan. “That’s the beauty of IRIS Connect, the teachers don’t have to leave the school site so there’s no expensive travel costs and no discontinuity of contact with the children. Our primary schools have really embraced it.”

It’s been a wonderfully effective tool for raising standards in one tenth of the time it would take to send people out on expensive courses.

The Future of Inter-School Collaboration with Wakefield City Acadmies Trust

“Through IRIS Connect I have had some amazing Year 6 lessons shared with me all the way from the Isle of Wight which is over 233 miles away from Wakefield,” says Matt. “IRIS Connect gives us the ability to create a huge network of support not just for the Academy Trust that I work for but for teachers up and down the country. I myself have shared lessons with various teachers across the UK and the ease in which it can be done is outstanding.”

He continues: “I hope some day that IRIS Connect users can ask for lessons to support their staff and that they will be able to get them from similar schools with amazing practice.” “It’s had a huge impact on budget as well,” explains Rob Allsopp, Regional Director of Education for WCAT. “Buying “exemplar lesson” resources is very expensive, so too is the time spent travelling between schools to work with individual teachers, so it’s saved us money as well. It’s given us great capacity to support teachers within our trust.”

Moving Forward

Alan has a vision that all academies within the Trust will become Outstanding, but he doesn’t want to stop there.

My ultimate vision is that we go beyond Outstanding. We have this notion that world class teaching is always somewhere else, like Finland or America, but I’ve travelled extensively and believe there’s some world class practice happening in this country. I think IRIS Connect is a perfect tool to help us on our journey.

It’s also a brilliant tool for bringing people together and sharing experiences, whether they are difficulties or wonderfully innovative solutions to problems. It’s the ideal tool for collaboration. If we can share with people anywhere in the country then why not globally? For anyone committed to driving up standards and improving teaching and learning; I recommend IRIS Connect.

What is IRIS Connect?

The Future of Inter-School Collaboration with IRIS Connect
IRIS Connect is a secure, personalised place for teachers to record, analyse and reflect on their practice.

Teachers can take control and arrange their own professional learning experiences and resources.

Professional Learning Platform


Wakefield City Academies Trust



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