Building Blocks for Success

Through the London Schools Excellence Fund (LSEF) and Subject Knowledge Hubs, we've seen how effective hubs can be in supporting teachers across the capital.

Our six building blocks for success highlight the key learning outcomes and options to consider if you're looking to run your own hub.

1. Let teachers take the lead

The most successful hubs place teachers at their heart, ensuring they drive, shape and lead activity. Conducting a needs assessment at the start of a project focuses hub activity to address key challenges faced by teachers, for example, isolation within a subject department. Collecting regular participant feedback and quantifiable pupil data also helps monitor outcomes, allowing you to adjust your approach if necessary.

Collaboration, sharing and problem solving between peers has been central to the success of many hubs. Developing trusting relationships between peers may require an initial investment of time and resources from the hub lead. Teachers also develop stronger relationships when the purpose of collaboration is clearly defined and aligned with their own personal training needs – be sure to do this from the start. Many hubs use a ‘lead teacher’ model, which empowers teachers to support and mentor their peers. Not all teachers will be confident enough to take a lead role and some may require additional training or support; however a strong sense of ownership creates goodwill and commitment for everyone involved.

2. Get senior leaders on board

The importance of getting full senior leadership support has been a theme across many hubs. There have been various methods of doing this, including encouraging headteachers to sign a memorandum of understanding. This outlines what their school is committing to through the project and encourages understanding of the project from the start. Having this signed agreement in place can be especially important when it comes to allowing participant teachers time out of the classroom. Encouraging senior leadership attendance at certain hub events such as best practice days has also proven successful for hubs. It allows headteachers to see the project in action and witness its benefits to their staff first hand. Having a school’s senior leadership team on board and invested in a hub has also proven crucial in instances of staff change. If a participant teacher leaves their school, a strong relationship with its leadership team can ensure that their engagement continues and new participants are put forward.

3. Plan for sustainability

Planning for sustainability is fundamental and the sooner started, the better. Sustainability doesn’t look the same for everyone, so it’s important to have a realistic picture of the scale and type of activity you’re looking to achieve over time. You can then consider what time, resources and leadership will be required to make this happen and crucially, how much it will cost.

Don't underestimate the management and administrative resources needed to keep a hub going. Thinking about staff turnover and attrition should also form part of sustainability planning. Do you have a strategy in place for teachers leaving participating schools? Furthermore, do you have a plan in place for any staffing changes within your own organisation? Over reliance on one or two individuals can be detrimental to your planning, particularly if expertise and commitment isn’t shared across the wider team. Doing a SWOT analysis is a good tip here. The most successful hubs show a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats that they need to plan for. They have also considered different funding models to support long-term success. 

4. Build your network

Successful hubs provide a network, allowing participants to be part of something bigger and share knowledge and resources across organisations. Networking events can be a powerful tool. They provide teachers with fantastic opportunities to meet and learn from each other, helping to stop teachers feeling isolated. Being part of a network also opens up the wider educational landscape for teachers, allowing access to external support and subject-specific expertise through partners like universities, business or professional bodies.

The role of the lead organisation and partners is vital . It’s important that the lead organisation has the resources and know-how to support the network. It will need to consider how the hub will communicate – both internally and externally. Many hubs have built up a successful social media presence, or established regular newsletters. Relationships between teachers are more likely to be developed when lead organisations set aside sufficient resources at the outset to reduce barriers to participation. This might include agreeing to provide a venue, pro-actively arranging meetings and following up on agreed actions at appropriate times.

5. Plan your activity

Successful hubs offer well-planned and well-delivered activities. Many hubs combine subject knowledge training with general pedagogical theory and practical skills. Unsurprisingly, this kind of activity is most effective when tailored to meet the needs of individual participants. This could involve following a group training session with one-to-one mentoring support to help teachers apply learning to their own school context.

Some of the most effective hubs make use of relevant experts from within the education system – for example, subject champions in schools, higher education institutions and academic societies. These experts can deliver aspects of training, or act as mentors or coaches to participants. Hubs find one of the most effective ways to change teachers’ practice is for experts to demonstrate the effectiveness of their suggested approach; for example, they may co-deliver a lesson. If experts aren’t from a teaching background, it’s important that their support is accessible to teachers, and in line with the National Curriculum. It’s also important to acknowledge that different types of expertise may be needed to support an all-round improvement in teacher performance. Some hubs find it works to run cross phase activity to promote collaboration between primary and secondary schools. It may also be necessary to consider differentiation and how you will support teachers to cater for pupils of different abilities. 

6. Share resources

Producing and sharing useful resources is a key feature of many successful hubs. We know that teachers are short of time and navigating the wide range of resources available and identifying those of good quality is a challenge. Hubs enable teachers to share the best resources. This is time saving for teachers, enabling them to pool their knowledge and resources.

Browse resources

If you're considering running a hub, you may find some of the resources below useful. They include:

  • Sustainability and Impact Plan template (as used by the hubs)

For more information contact: [email protected]