It's hard enough to raise the standard of teaching in just one school - ask any head teacher. But what if you're responsible for improving the teaching provided to 8 million students by half a million teachers in 23,000 schools?
It's the job of the General Teaching Council (GTC) to advise on teaching and to regulate and raise its standard in England, and the Teacher Learning Academy (TLA) is an initiative to help schools and teachers strive towards excellence. It's a national system for public and professional recognition of a teacher's development.
Any teacher working in a state school must register with the GTC. The Council acts as the voice of the teaching profession. But it has limited power to charge for its services, so the scope of the TLA scheme was looking severely hampered.
Hay Group helped GTC solve this dilemma by developing an open system model. The GTC would license the TLA badge to a network of companies, local authorities and entrepreneurial schools. They could bring skills and processes to the venture that the GTC lacked - and in return, each of them would have the power to charge a set fee to provide the infrastructure, training, accreditation and moderation.
That left GTC with the straightforward role of regulating the system under its brand and remit, against a strict set of standards and accountabilities.
This was more than a simple outsourcing deal, since many of the partners could be schools, teachers and educational establishments themselves. Schools could act as trainers to other schools, while trained teachers could act as assessors and moderators. All of which added to a sense that this was a solution 'by teachers, for teachers'.
Hay Group's first step was to understand and clarify the GTC's vision, principles and values. Its consultants then explored how other organisations, such as the General Medical Council, the Chartered Management Institute, universities and business schools, set about meeting similar challenges - how they stimulated and shaped professional development.
With the GTC's leadership team, Hay developed a series of diverse scenarios, before evaluating the pros and cons of each. Once a preferred option had been selected, a more detailed outline was developed and tested through interviews and focus groups. The model was fine-tuned and a business plan created around it.
Once this radical plan was approved by the 64-member governing council of the GTC, Hay trained the leadership team in key project and programme management skills. A procurement process was created to select the two partners who would be needed to help deliver the new model, and Hay remains involved in the programme as an adviser. Its consultants sit on the financial council to help determine pricing, and also on the GTC's communication steering group.
Ahead of schedule, the TLA is already closing in on its 10,000-teacher target. Managing 10,000 submissions a year in-house (assuming it would have been possible) would have cost the GTC about £3.3m a year. But under this open system model, ongoing costs to the GTC have been slashed to £500,000 or so a year.
'Hay Group's close support on this project meant we could scale the TLA in a rapid but sustainable way,' says Sarah Stephens, GTC director of policy. 'We needed their creativity, perspective and rigour.'
The GTC was struggling to get the Teacher Learning Academy, an initiative to promote professional development among state-school teachers, rolled out across England. Hay's solution was to set up a licensing arrangement through which the Council could achieve scale, defray costs and tap the skills of its partners. The radical open-system model devised by Hay will allow the GTC to meet its 10,000-teacher target - and at a cost of £500,000 a year rather than £3.3m.
- Hold on to the original vision and values: projects can be a roller-coaster ride;
- Display your passion for the project by going beyond the letter of the contract where necessary;
- Convince doubters of the project's 'currency' - they won't buy in until they understand how it benefits them and those around them.