How are you organising training for the first few days of term?
In many cases, the first few days of September will not be straight back to teaching but instead, back to 1,2 or even 3 days of INSET (in-service training). As I enter my 20th year at the chalk face, I can reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly of INSET days.
A History lesson for readers newer to the profession, reminds us that these days originated in 1988. One of many changes brought in by the esteemed Mr Baker (Baker days). The purpose of these days were to allow teachers to:
‘Catch up with work and also have the opportunity to train for any new technology or new ways of doing things within the school’ (TES, 1997)
30 years on from their inception, it seems we haven’t moved in our perception and expectations of these days, with the last phrase ringing in the ears of every senior leader across the country: ‘New ways of doing things within schools’.
As a counterpoint, let us consider the Professional development (CPD) standards for schools (2016):
- Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.
- Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.
- Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge.
- Professional development programmes should be sustained over time.
- Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership.
So, here are a few suggestions for INSET days to mirror the best ones out there and to refocus on what makes good professional development. They do not necessarily have to involve technology or new ways of doing things.
- New strategies – You do not have to launch a new policy/strategy/initiative on the first day of term. Teachers may thank you if you don’t!
- Priorities – Be clear on your priorities and over-communicate them. If they haven’t changed by all means emphasise them, refresh them but keep going!
- Popular thinking – Just because a particular book or idea is popular, it doesn’t mean you have to make it your school’s focus for the year. You can just read it and ask others to do the same, if it fits with your priorities then by all means adopt.
- Keynote speaker – External support and challenge can be useful, so an external speaker can be beneficial. Make sure that the content of what is being said is relevant to your school and your priorities. See whether the expert has a proven track record of improvement.
- In-house expertise – Empower your own staff to lead sections. It is good to see senior and middle leaders lead CPD and bring their experience and expertise, but it is also beneficial to hear from teachers about how this looks in their classrooms.
- Reduce workload – Try announcing some things that you are stopping because there is no evidence that they are effective.
- Evidence-led practice – Use evidence, but remember that everything works somewhere and nothing works everywhere. Don’t just adopt the next educational fad by using it indiscriminately and inappropriately.
- Collaboration – This is important, so try where possible to include everyone. I have seen teaching assistants and pastoral staff taken out of INSET as it is ‘not relevant’. If CPD is covering the ‘core business’ of the school, then it should be relevant to everyone (contracts/flexible working allowing).
- Teams – Allow teachers time to work in departments and on their own. Not everything needs to be whole school.
- Finish early – This will ensure that everyone is fresh for the first day back.
- Evaluate and embed – Sustain the impetus from INSET, revisit priorities throughout the year and evaluate the effectiveness.
Training days can be wonderful, useful, affirming and motivating days. I hope your school’s INSET is all of these.