This afternoon I attended a “World-Class Teaching Profession consultation event” run by the DfE and I learned something very useful indeed that could be crucial for any role that a possible, maybe never, ‘College for Teaching’ might have. Those who attended this event were charged with the task of unpicking a variety of questions about Continuing Professional Development (CPD), Teaching Schools, a bit about a College for Teaching and how to ensure ‘great teaching’ takes place in classrooms up and down this sceptre’d isle, this earth of majesty, this England…
Now, Methinks I am a prophet new inspired but there is a crucial difference between Continuing Professional Development and Inservice Training (Inset). Inset is what a school deems it useful for you to have, whilst CPD is for a trusted professional, it is what you deem is useful for your own professional needs. Armed with this knowledge one can see that CPD has an important role to play in any teacher’s career and that this role is neglected in so many schools. Why? Because these schools are confusing their institutional needs with their teachers’ needs.
A school should have no say over what a teacher’s CPD needs are, this is the core of a contract between the institution and a trusted professional. In return the teacher should realise that the School has every right to use Inset to direct their perceived institutional needs. This begs the question: does your school allow much or any CPD and how much CPD have you had throughout your career?
When I began in teaching CPD was the norm, the school subsidised me to attend courses that were either subject specific or more general but developed me as a practitioner without any need for immediate impact on pupils results. I also visited and worked in a variety of countries, paid for by the school, all the time I was developing my practice and becoming a better and more accomplished teacher. Since then, with CPD budgets cut back, the need for schools to concentrate on the bottom line has led to a decline in this type of professional enrichment. Is this a business attitude? Rather than nurturing a reflective practitioner schools now, quite rightly, concentrate on the bottom line and us horses go on courses to drive up test scores. What is lost?
Here, then, could be a role for a College of Teaching (CoT) The CoT should allocate Government money to each and every teacher to allow them to decide their own CPD needs. In the long term this could include sabbaticals, Masters degrees and such like as well as membership of professional subject associations. The CoT could recommend and enable teachers to access CPD that was of sufficient quality as well as take feedback from teachers as to what is out there. This will enable teachers to build a career beyond being tied to the whims of their current school. In the case of bad management, or a school which has taken an exception to a member of staff for whatever reason that member of staff would have the right, regardless of what the school thinks, to access CPD under their own volition.
Schools could help by providing damn good Inset and also by providing time for teachers to collaborate together in school in order to improve professionally within the institution as well as encourage staff to develop their own expertise and enthusiasms with the school’s blessing. This would involve management that invested in its teachers beyond the current obsession with ‘it only counts if it impacts on the pupils’. This obsession has led to staff needs being neglected at the altar of student outcomes. Paradoxically I think better student outcomes might be achieved by ensuring staff are nurtured and, yes, loved.
Teaching Schools should not be used as the main provider of CPD, they should stick to their role as providers of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and if there are crossover uses for this for Inset then schools might use this service too and teachers might decide to use some of their allocated money pot to spend on courses or other services from these providers.
How much will this cost? How long is a piece of string? I’ve no idea. How much would it cost if we invested £500 per teacher per year? Each teacher could spend, or save this until the next year. Perhaps it can be for teachers who have reached a ‘milestone,’ say, 5 years of teaching… I wonder how much teachers already spend of their own cash for this sort of enrichment? Could some of the amount currently spent by schools be used, could other sources of cash be found, could teachers subsidise it from their wages? Is it pie in the sky? That depends, if you want to trust teachers and you want a reason for a college of teaching to exist this seems a useful way forward. Along with the carrot, could be the stick: re-validation, teachers who show they are developing their practice through CPD may be re-validated every 3-5 years or so, with quality being the benchmark rather than quantity.
But if you don’t trust teachers then, for God’s sake stop talking about CPD and just say it’s all about Inset… And teachers, of watery Neptune, now bound in with shame, can’t ever develop beyond the needs of the school in which they work.