Honestly? In some cases… absolutely nothing.
I mean, how often as school leaders do we stop and ask, ‘Do we really need this training?’
And how often, after we’ve had it, do we think it was fit for purpose?
Are our choices for CPD rationally thought out? Or just a reaction to something that we think needs to be done?
Twenty years ago, my CPD consisted of the Head handing me a flyer and saying, “Booked you on this…make sure S knows to get your lessons covered.”
This didn’t really change much for 10 years, despite the school being a brilliant school, full of very good leaders.
Until one afternoon, sitting in the pub after a particularly useless course, a couple of us decided things had to change. We had been moaning about how most CPD was a total waste of time and how, when we got back, we would probably have to redo everything we had left for the supply teacher. When we struck upon an idea.
This was about the time schools were beginning to implement PPA and target setting, and we saw this as an opportunity to put together a professional development format that allowed our teachers to request any specific training they felt would match their targets and evaluations.
Nothing new there, you might say. Well, no…but what came next was, and has informed my views on training ever since. Much more than I could ever have anticipated at the time.
What we decided on was a plan involving every adult in the school learning, from scratch, how to play a musical instrument of their choice. The school paid for the lessons (in groups) and there was no dropping out. Each teacher had to set their personal target to play in front of the whole school at end of year. You can hear more about this HERE
I remembered what it was like to be a learner, with all it’s frustrations and excitement
I remembered what it was like when the teacher was annoyed I hadn’t done my homework
I remembered what it was like to suddenly “get” something! And, the pride that came with it!
I started to value my own development more
I applied all of this to my teaching – my lessons became more succinct, more precise, more structured to the children’s needs, not what I wanted them to learn.
So, imagine what this was like in a school where everyone was doing the same?
We decided our previous, random, approach to training was wholly inadequate – neither useful nor fit for purpose – and put our energy instead into developing a new approach.
Now we evaluate all our planned CPD using the following criteria:
1. Does it validate what we are currently doing?
2. (And most importantly) are we learning something new?
3. Is it something that is going to CHANGE our approach?
4. Will it have an impact on the children in our care?
Our new CPD programme is based on some very simple principles:
Training will always be driven by an identifiable need.
This depends on the training.
Either from the school development plan, a subject leader’s action plan, the result of an observation, a book scrutiny or a teacher identifying their personal areas of development.
The type of training we use now depends on the individual, their needs, and the provision we can offer from the staff in our school and those in our cluster. I always prefer to use the skills of those I know, respect, and trust, than to rely on a course advertised by a flyer exhorting the latest “perfect training in this or that”. CPD is not a magic bullet.
I’ll give you an example of how this works:
A teacher is identified needing support to improve their differentiation for higher ability maths students (using lesson observation, planning, and book scrutiny, over time)
Working together, we put together a plan for the teacher to: do some planning with the maths’ coordinator; team teach with me; observe excellent practice from elsewhere in the school or cluster; and look at examples of other teacher’s planning and students’ books.
The teacher spends time embedding this new knowledge into their classroom practice.
Later, there is a review involving rechecking the teacher’s planning, the students’ books, and a follow-up lesson observation.
The teacher and I then evaluate the plan by asking the following questions: Has the coaching and peer support worked? What was the impact of the plan on the teacher’s teaching and the students’ learning? And what can I, and other members of the SLT, do to further improve support and feedback?
It is important to stress this kind of CPD only works in schools that have an open and supportive dialogue between teachers and school leaders. It could never work in a school where teachers live in fear of observation and work scrutiny being about competency rather than professional development.
Now… having said all this, please don’t get me wrong. There are some excellent external providers out there, and we do use them from time to time, for purposes of gathering information and very specific guidance: on new developments in assessment/curriculum; in response to new policies from the DFE; or when we don’t have the expertise within the cluster to provide the kind of support we need. So enjoy your CPD, but always ask…what is going to change or improve as a result of it.