Investing in our Teachers

In his latest blog post, our Deputy Head discusses one of the most rewarding and important aspects of his role – supporting colleagues with their continuing professional development (CPD).

17 November 2023

Please click on the names in bold for detailed teacher profiles.

Classroom teaching has always been my favourite aspect of working in schools, but I also love working with other teachers. I thrive off variety and the wide range of talent and personalities in Downe House’s staff room certainly provides that.

As a trainee teacher in a large comprehensive, I had a very busy timetable, and it was very rare for another teacher to join my lessons. Much of the time, it wasn’t very clear to me how well I was teaching.

That was over twenty years ago. The profession is now much more open and accountable, and I believe teachers feel much better supported.

At Downe House, we aim to provide the most comprehensive CPD programme in the sector for our teachers. We know that if they feel supported, valued, challenged and trusted, they will be motivated and will perform to their optimum level.

Recruiting talented new teachers is a priority for Downe House. We offer a range of options for graduates who wish to complete their teacher training. We are delighted that several colleagues, including Isla McLachlan, have entered the profession via Downe House, trained with us and then received internal promotion to additional roles.

Downe attracts talented teachers and many of them dedicate much or all their professional lives with us. It is imperative, however, that all teachers – irrespective of their length of service – continue to learn, develop and grow.

Matt Hall joined Downe in 2017 as an experienced teacher and we have supported him through an MA in Education alongside his role as Head of Religious Studies. Sarah Barnard and Marya Akhtar, who joined in Downe in 2005 and 2006 respectively, are examples of colleagues who have progressed on to management roles during their time at Downe.

It is particularly important for our colleagues to feel supported as they join Downe House. All our new joiners are asked to complete around 10 hours of online training before they start, even if they are an experienced teacher. This is so they feel familiar with the ethos of the school, its internal systems, and our expectations. It also ensures that their first weeks at Downe are smooth and enjoyable – and it means they can focus on building a rapport with their pupils as quickly as possible.

Downe is also unusual in that it provides an exceptionally full CPD programme throughout the year. Each of the three academic terms begins with an INSET day (prior to the girls’ arrival) in which we come together as a staff body to focus on an aspect of our work. This term, for example, we received expert, practical training on the cognitive science of revision so that we are better equipped to help our pupils prepare for their exams.

Teachers also have two hours of protected time each week throughout term time to learn or develop in some way. This term, we have received training from a range of specialists on topics as diverse as working with deaf pupils and teaching neurodiverse children.

We often use our protected time to share our own best practice. Each term we have a focus on one aspect of our teaching. This term, our focus is scaffolding (defined as moving pupils progressively toward stronger understanding and, ultimately, greater independence). Several colleagues have showcased their approach to scaffolding and all of us have been asked to reflect on how we can improve our own practice.

Downe is unique in having partnerships with a wide range of leading schools across the globe. This provides outstanding opportunities for teachers to complete our international exchange programme. Two recent examples are Jo West, our Head of English and Sophie Appleton-Wyeth, teacher of Learning Skills; they recently visited out partner schools in (respectively) Australia and Sweden, returning with a host of ideas and experiences to share. We enjoy hosting teachers from our partner schools, too, and we benefit greatly from their expertise and fresh perspectives.

Another distinctive aspect of Downe’s investment in staff is our Centre for Learning and Research, which uses cutting-edge educational research to help our teachers improve the outcomes of our pupils. It publishes a termly education journal, The Enquiry, in which colleagues share ideas and experiences – an invaluable resource for teachers at Downe and beyond.

We regularly give teachers the opportunity to complete training courses with leading training providers such as HMC, BSA and GSA. However, we also deliver our own bespoke training, and have recently partnered with Bradfield College and Winchester College to provide a programme for Aspiring Middle Leaders who wish to develop their careers and network with other professionals in leading schools.

My decision to train as a teacher at the age of 30 years was one of the best I ever made. I am grateful for the wide range of opportunities that the profession has given me, and I am now pleased to have the chance to present fellow colleagues with similar opportunities.

Mattew Godfrey smiles at camera


Mr Matt Godfrey

Read more of our Deputy Head's blog posts

A flexible and modern approach – Full Boarding | Flexi Boarding | Day Pupil – what’s your Downe House journey?
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