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Collaborating across a Trust


How using IRIS Connect has impacted collaboration across TKAT:

  • Helped them to overcome geographical limitations of 41 academies spread out over 8 local authorities
  • Enabled peer-coaching between teachers 80 miles apart
  • Empowered the development and sharing of resources across the Trust
  • Enhanced their NQT induction programme
  • Increased teacher confidence
  • Improved participation in research and development
  • Allowed for effortless dissemination of R&D findings

Rachel Tizard had already witnessed the power of IRIS Connect when she took on the role of Director of Learning at TKAT (The Kemnal Academies Trust) in June 2014.3_0_tkat-chosen-rgb

“I was already convinced by the potential of IRIS Connect’s unique video technology, both for improving individual teachers’ performance and as a tool for changing a school culture; creating an atmosphere of trust through coaching and feedback,” describes Rachel.”In my current role, I am in a fantastic position to support schools to implement IRIS Connect to drive up the quality of teaching and learning and overall school improvement.


“But the most exciting aspect of introducing IRIS Connect to our academies was, and still is, the prospect of schools collaborating across the Trust through peer-coaching and the creation of Groups.”


Getting the schools on-board

TKAT is currently the largest Multi Academy Trust (MAT) in the South East.  They have a policy of earned autonomy with a few non-negotiables. Rachel explains: “As a Trust, we work by supporting schools to make decisions that are best for them and best suit the context in which they operate. This means that I promote the benefits of the technology and then schools choose if and when they get on-board with it.”

Once the schools decided to come on-board, Rachel’s plan was to adapt and use IRIS Connect’s own Teaching is Learning guidance programme, to create a few pathfinder schools. So far, about a quarter of TKAT schools have implemented IRIS Connect in their classrooms, and this number is rising.

Already some very exciting work is beginning to emerge around school-to-school support, such as inducting NQTs and the use of video technology to complement Lesson Study.

Primary pupils


Using Groups to overcome geography and collaborate more easily

TKAT’s 41 academies are spread out over 8 local authorities across the South East of England. “I very much see IRIS Connect as a solution to the challenge of the geography of TKAT,” says Rachel.

Ore Village Primary Academy is a school on a journey from being in Special Measures at the point of conversion two years ago. They have linked up with Seal Primary Academy in Selsey, to trial a unique approach to school-to-school support.”


“The two schools have created cross-school Groups in the IRIS Connect platform that allow peer-coaching between teachers of the same year groups across the two schools, which are 80 miles apart.”


In Thanet, Newlands Primary School is using IRIS Connect to record CPD sessions within their school and sharing them across a number of other schools, to provide stimulus for Joint Practice Development follow ups. They have created a school Group where they share a wide variety of resources for all staff to access easily.

Rachel also explains how Cleeve Park School in Sidcup are using IRIS Connect to enhance the effectiveness of their NQT Induction programme: “As a TKAT Teaching School Alliance Strategic Partner school, they are carefully evaluating the impact of this and using Groups to roll out a model programme throughout the Trust, supporting those academies who wish to implement it.”

Part of this programme involves using IRIS Connect to support Lesson Study in order for NQTs to use classroom-based research as part of their development. This is an exciting new process and will feed directly into TKAT’s newly established R&D network led by Debden Park High School, one of their two lead Teaching Schools in the TKAT Teaching School Alliance.


The Impact

According to a variety of data sources, TKAT is not only one of the most improved MATs in the UK, but also one of the highest performing. Of 12 Ofsted inspections since January 2015,  9 have been judged as good or better and 75% of all inspections since January 2015 have increased to good or better.

Secondary pupils66% of our academies are good or better now and although the national average is 73% it is important to note that 75% of our academies were Requires Improvement or in Special Measures on conversion.

I am hoping to continually improve the quality of teaching and learning over time to ensure that our children have constant access to inspirational learning experiences,” explains Rachel. “TKAT’s vision is ‘Inspiring Learners, Changing Lives’ and our ultimate aim is to ensure we drive educational standards through the provision of outstanding teaching, leadership and learning for all. I am also hoping to continue to improve collaboration between schools and strengthen the impact of our Teaching School Alliance across our 41 academies.”

As school budgets tighten, it is becoming increasingly difficult for CPD leaders to justify sending staff out of school on courses, especially since research has proven that this is not a very effective form of professional development.

According to Rachel: “In order for schools to be able to continue to provide high quality CPD for their staff and so improve teacher profiles and student outcomes, they need to work together, collaborating and participating in forms of Joint Practice Development based on learning in the classroom.”


“The use of IRIS Connect will support our newly-formed R&D network and enhance schools’ abilities to create classroom and evidence-based CPD.”


She continues: “Teachers using IRIS Connect have reported an increase in confidence as they can have high quality professional dialogue with a colleague, based on evidence from their classroom, in a safe and non-threatening environment. Establishing protocols around the use of IRIS Connect in each school has been essential to create this level of trust between colleagues.

Our academies that have already adopted IRIS Connect are able to contribute to our Trust in a unique way. They are able to participate in evidence-based research and development and play an active role in disseminating findings. As well as share their excellent practice through conferences and meetings with other teachers and leaders across TKAT.”


“We are confident that effectively embedding IRIS Connect in a significant proportion of our schools is contributing to the rapid improvement of our Trust overall.”


The Future

When asked about the future of IRIS Connect across TKAT, Rachel says: “IRIS Connect is an innovative technological solution, enabling schools to collaborate and network beyond their regional boundaries, as demonstrated by Ore Village and Seal Primary. But adoption of IRIS Connect remains a choice for our academies and as the early adopter schools continue to improve across the board we hope that the majority will come on board too, at a later date.

Ultimately, IRIS Connect could be a fantastic tool for TKAT to use as part of our teaching school alliance offer, which includes ITT. This could be a unique selling point of our SCITT in the future if we were able to offer trainees the ability to use IRIS Connect as part of their training in schools.”


Find out more:

IRIS Connect platform

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. As well as share easily with each other to make collaboration simple, organised and effective.

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What some of the academies say:

Ore Village Primary Academy

“It gives us the opportunity to tap into coaching expertise anywhere in the country, or even the world. As a school in a deprived area geographically removed from many of our partner schools in the TKAT network, it allows us to benefit from those schools and vice versa, as if they were only a block away. A number of our teachers have chosen to use IRIS Connect to develop their practice by linking up with coaching partners in another TKAT school, 80 miles away.”

Ian McCrae, Headteacher

Newlands Primary School

“Following on from this, as a school, we are now aiming to build a collection of recordings within the IRIS Connect platform as a resource for staff. New staff that join the school will be able to see what ‘Talk for Writing’ and discrete SPaG lessons look like. It will also allow us to share best practice for Read Write Inc. sessions, especially as it can take some time between teachers and TAs joining the school and receiving the Read Write Inc. training. As these recordings will focus on the content of the lesson and how it is delivered, it is another way to remove the initial concerns of teachers being reluctant to share recordings of themselves teaching their class.”

David Bailey, Deputy Headteacher

Seal Primary Academy

“We rolled out IRIS Connect last academic year; first with a pilot group and then across the school (in accordance with IRIS Connect’s own Teaching is Learning programme). It is now embedded and the main component of our CPD, with teachers coaching each other in pairs to achieve a self-defined objective for improving teaching and learning in their classroom.

This year, we have set up a school-2-school support project with Ore Village Academy. This project is now up-and-running with teachers working in coaching pairs, sharing their self-defined objectives and videos in the same way as within our school. We have set up mini (2-person) cross-school Groups to ensure these videos are completely private. As a next step, the lead teachers in both schools will pilot the live in-ear coaching.”

Martin Shaw, Deputy Headteacher


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