“If we stand still, we are already going backwards”
A new academic year brings with it a new approach to professional learning. As leader of Teaching, Learning and CPD I always feel slight pressure and a big responsibility at this time of the year, pressure in the sense that, am I offering a model that will meet the needs of all staff within our school? Our new approach to professional development is built on staff voice alongside an acute awareness of teaching and learning through rigorous triangulation, you can read more about our new model for T&L here. Of course, it’s inevitable that throughout the year this approach will need to be tweaked and modified, after all, if we stand still, we are already going backwards, but the key for me is to have a model that is fluid, changing with the rhythm of the school and not become a rigid one.
Sustainable and Informed
It’s crucial that any professional learning/CPD model supports the ongoing professional development needs of all staff, whilst representing value for money, this is simply common sense. However, the bigger question is how can this model truly support the ever-changing professional learning needs day by day, week by week and term by term to further sustained improvement? A three-point approach, encompassing whole school, faculty/subject specific and individual needs, which are not mutually exclusive can support all strands of a schools development. More crucially, it is important this is underpinned by an ethos of reflection. Understanding and identifying development needs are fundamental to maintaining a sustained model of improvement, one way to achieve this is through a teaching and learning model of triangulation.
“Understanding and identifying development needs are fundamental to maintaining a sustained model of improvement”
Credits – it’s time to spend, spend, spend…
Windows of opportunity. With so many elements of CPD on offer for all staff at all levels of career development; from ITT, NQT’s through to the leadership team, over-prescription via a rigid box ticking culture could be detrimental to the professional development and morale of staff as a whole. People need to have autonomy in the selection of their professional learning and wider developmental opportunities, therefore this has to come from a true culture of reflection, not one of a line manager continually dictating the direction of travel. It’s all about credits, where all staff have an unlimited ‘budget’ and can spend as many credits as they’d like on their development, cashing them in at their convenience. There is a minimum expectation, built into the time budget that can be correlated to contractual hours, for example teaching staff:
- FTE 0.1 = 1 window/1 credit
- FTE 0.2 = 1 window/1 credit
- FTE 0.3 = 2 windows/2 credits
- FTE 0.4 = 2 windows/2 credits
- FTE 0.5 = 3 windows/3 credits
- FTE 0.6 = 4 windows/4 credits
- FTE 0.7 = 4 windows/4 credits
- FTE 0.8 = 5 windows/5 credits
- FTE 0.9 = 5 windows/5 credits
- FTE 1 = 6 windows/6 credits
Credits can be ‘cashed in’ against all forms of training and development, such as learning windows, online reading/courses, after-school informal sharing of practice, internal and external teach-meets, coaching observations and the list goes on. I believe that setting a fixed programme for the academic year is perhaps somewhat limiting, not only for individuals where attendance could be problematic, for example if they are running extra curricular clubs, have child care issues etc. Instead a rolling term approach is far more inclusive for everybody, whereby each term professional learning windows are informed by the previous terms teaching and learning triangulation of ungraded lesson observations, book looks, student voice and of course data. Professional learning windows also offer choice and variation, here are our windows for the first half term of the new academic year:
“Professional learning windows offer choice and variation”
Action research. Promoting a culture of teachers as researchers is very much at the forefront of our thinking and is gaining momentum globally too. We support and encourage all staff to embark upon research within their own classrooms and more widely within our school. And rightly so, however, there is a misconception that all research has to be accredited, it does not. We offer the opportunity to research informally, through case study development with a bursary of £500 to fund it, this is used for the sole purpose of the project, for example to pay cover costs or purchase resources. Action research can also be undertaken more formally through Masters and Doctorate programmes of study. Personally I think it’s important for a school to help fund this research and work on a service level agreement with staff and a local university which is proportionate to their annual salary. Every summer this work culminates in an annual research conference for staff to share their work with colleagues and other education professionals from across the region.
All too often a faculty/department will have specific developmental needs that may not necessarily be identified straight away or they may not be offered valuable time to undertake developmental activities at all. This is a significant area of professional development that can sometimes be overlooked. Encouraging autonomy and supporting middle leaders to lead needs to be common place in every school, one tool that enables this to happen through reflection and inform leadership decisions is the faculty self-evaluation (FSEF) In essence, it does exactly what it says on the tin, feeding into the whole school SEF and development plan. The front page of the FSEF outlines the areas of strength and areas to move teaching forward from ungraded lesson observations, as a result providing statistical information supportive by a narrative to justify the drive and direction of CPD. Collaboration is crucial here, it may be for example, that a faculty which has a particular strength consistently in a certain aspect of teaching and learning runs bespoke training and provides on-going support for other faculties who do not. This week all staff received our Professional Learning brochure, in it the wealth of opportunities for all are outlined. You can download a .doc version here: The Professional Learning booklet I love a good metaphor and I felt the Octopus provided just that; always growing, with suckers that can hold onto key knowledge and the fact that they are among the most extraordinary creatures in the ocean. They can blend into the background, morph into the shape of other beasts, and even regrow limbs lopped off by predators (I let you decide who they might be!)
“Encouraging autonomy and supporting middle leaders to lead needs to be common place in every school”