How should schools go about organising teacher professional development?
Spending per pupil is to fall 6.5% by 2019-20, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). In unprecedented times, we find our schools facing financial cuts which equate to £3Bn, give or take a few pounds. Schools in England are facing the first real-terms cuts to their funding since the mid-1990s! (BBC and Telegraph)
Looking forward, schools will need to be very creative when it comes to staff professional development. With reducing budgets and increasing contact time, it is becoming increasingly difficult for headteachers to make CPD top of the priority. Below, I offer some serious suggestions for schools to consider.
10. Training Days
The INSET (IN-SErvice Training) for teachers is the traditional ‘5 days per-year’ most schools adopt. Teachers are accustomed to the ‘flash in a pan’ training event which adds little impact. Thousands of schools are so used to the following model:
- Day 1 – September – welcome back, say hello to colleagues and clear out your cupboards.
- Day 2 – September – have a few meetings and sort your timetable out before the students arrive tomorrow!
- Day 3 – January – the first day back after the Christmas break. Often everyone is too knackered and hungover to do anything meaningful, so often an external speaker is booked to take up the hard strain, or staff are ‘set a task’ and distributed into groups/rooms around the school and asked to return ‘documentation’ to prove you have been working.
- Day 4 – April – often the first day after Easter to allow teachers to plan and/or moderate assessments. Traditionally this would have been coursework, but with modular examinations slowly dying a death, there is less need to offer this slot as a ‘day off’ to mark coursework and moderate with colleagues.
- Day 5 – Summer term – to allow staff time to enjoy the sunshine and ‘plan for the year ahead’. Colleagues who are departing either visit their new schools or at left by the wayside as incoming colleagues meet their new teams and a new ‘vision and priorities’ document is established. If you’re lucky enough to have a few £s, you may even be asked to attend a weekend conference in a hotel. There are often mixed reactions to this request.
Why not give your INSET model a total re-vamp?
Often created to keep staff 3 or 4 hours after the end of the day to work together on various priorities. The underlying reason is simply to finish the school term earlier than planned. Again, depending on the training set/asked, they can be useful, but I’d argue that staff will be very tired after a long day in the classroom.
If you do need to keep staff in school until 7 or 8pm, what creative ways can you engage them to help reduce their workload, whilst also motivating them to be engaged with theirs and the school’s development priorities? And for goodness sake, feed them …
8. Long-Term CPD
Research suggests that “duration and rhythm of effective CPD support requires a longer-term focus.”
Create a shift in the culture of professional learning and help staff recognise a model their learning. Do this by having informal conversations with each other about teaching. Designing a transparent menu that is differentiated and planned can be one huge step forward for any school. Setting this into the calendar and protecting this at all costs makes CPD a priority, even if it is 30 minutes after school, once a month. Download my CPD menu here.
7. Enquiry-Led CPD
Why is it becoming the ‘norm’ for teachers to lap-up professional development in their own time? Instead of teacher’s seeking their own weekend escapades via social media, or appraisal designating what a teacher ‘must do’, why do we not ask all staff to ‘answer their own research question‘ and report this to the rest of the staff in their school later that year? The evidence would speak for itself. The teacher and the school would be better off and more engaged … Let schools make our teachers research-rich.
6. Wednesday CPD
Do you remember the time you were at university? Every Wednesday, lectures would end early and sports fixtures were the be-all-and-end-all of the campus. Imagine applying that model in school? Well, we did. For the past 3 years, we have sent students home early and designed a CPD programme to allow staff to have more times in departments and/or together in CPD sessions. Read past examples and download the resources here.
5. Re-Think How?
Senior teachers who are in charge of professional development should rethink how they go about leading CPD for all staff. With reducing budgets and CPD being more than ‘going on a course’, schools need to be creative and look in-house for solutions. Have a think about appointing a teaching and learning team, or an extended leadership team to help build capacity and train, lead and support staff development. The priorities for all schools should be to:
- Move away from a ‘one-size fits all’ approach so individual needs are carefully considered.
- Align professional development processes, content and activities
- Design effective professional development so that both subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogy are considered
- Ensure CPD is associated with certain activities such as explicit discussions
- Offer external input from providers/specialists to challenge orthodoxies within a school and provide diverse perspectives
- Empower teachers through collaboration and peer learning
- Offer internal leadership to help defining staff opportunities and embed cultural change.
TeachMeets are organised freely, in teachers’ spare time. They are not-for-profit and are designed to bring teachers together, to have a voice and to share classroom ideas. Increasingly, this happy-go-lucky model is being adapted into schools, where all staff must attend. The organiser often hopes to recreate the atmosphere ‘they experienced’ at another TeachMeet, forgetting that staff ‘wanted to be there’ rather than being forced to be there. The format works, but context is everything. Try my TeachMeet Plan to consider all the various factors you require to get one setup.
3. Teachers Talking
You could try something totally different and get teachers talking about teaching? Take them out of their usual environment – invest a little cash into a venue – and observe colleagues feeling invigorated and energised. Try A New Horizon and read the 13 steps you need to take to make it work. Download some templates here.
2. Speed Dating CPD
Speed-dating is a training format where teachers can rapidly exchange dialogue, moving from one space to another to share teaching and learning ideas. It works and teachers love it! Read ‘how to set it up‘ and a case study from St. James School in Exeter. It’s certainly ‘no‘ gimmick …
1. Try Someone You Know?
We all know that one-off INSET is a flash in the pan!
More and more schools are looking toward cheap and reliable methods for professional development with key groups of staff leading content over a series of dates. If that’s your school priority for NQTs, those new to middle and/or senior leadership, or perhaps you want to kickstart coaching as an alternative to the traditional observation methods for teaching, why not get in touch with @TeacherToolkit to see what Ross Morrison McGill can offer you and your school? After all, it’s someone you know and trust very well. Just take a look at what everyone has to say?