Teachers are continually learning, growing and developing, so that we can have an evidence-informed understanding of what works best.
Whether we are studying for a postgraduate qualification, participating in practitioner research in action, or engaging in a virtual edu-conference, teachers are committed to honing our knowledge and skills so that we can be the best professionals we can be.
Despite the media perception of Inset days, teachers and school staff know that well-planned in-service training days are actually fantastic professional development opportunities, which positively affect our pupils – which is, ultimately, why we're here.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that school staff were outraged at the idea that an Inset day at the end of a challenging term could be planned in just a week. School leaders need adequate time to carefully craft relevant, engaging and practical learning opportunities for their teams of staff.
Why you can't plan Inset days last-minute
Here are just a few reasons why Inset days are not a last-minute quick fix.
1. They are part of an overall strategic plan
Inset days need to be considered as part of a strategic plan. The aim is to inspire all staff to work collaboratively, making positive change throughout the school.
They provide the perfect opportunity to bring the whole school community together, either online or in Covid-secure ways, so that the priorities of the school can be shared and a clear plan of action identified.
2. It means the loss of a carefully planned Inset day
Inset days are an extremely valuable resource and should never be considered as a quick fix. Squeezing in a last-minute Inset day at the end of one of the most challenging terms ever experienced would mean losing a purposefully planned Inset day next year.
Exhausted teachers, who have worked tirelessly in challenging circumstances this term, need to see that Inset days have clear objectives that will support their classroom practice. Proper time needs to be allocated to considering innovative strategies that will benefit our pupils.
3. Inset days don’t stand alone
Inset days work best when designed alongside a supplementary programme of training and development. Time is needed for teachers to implement the ideas and initiatives generated during an Inset day, and it is important for staff to have time for reflective practice.
There is considerable merit in scheduling time for professional conversations, so that good practice can be shared. After all, there is no better resource in education than the skills, experience and wisdom of other members of staff.
4. Even self-directed CPD requires time and planning
While Inset days generally focus on the aims and objectives of the school development plan, it is important to build in opportunities for teachers to engage in self-directed CPD, relating to their own areas of personal interests.
Teachers give so much of themselves to their learners, so it is important that they have opportunities to invest in their own professional development. But when you are given some rare time to focus on your own personal areas of interest, you want to be able to do it properly. The last thing you want to do is to have to speed-plan something half-baked at the last minute.
5. Don’t teachers deserve some actual time off?
Of course, there is an alternative solution, which the government appears not even to have considered.
This term, we have covered lessons for our colleagues who have been self-isolating. We have undertaken additional duties to keep our bubbles safe, and we have worked into the night just so that we can keep on top of the day job.
So wouldn’t it be great if teachers could have an actual, real day off, in lieu of all the unpaid overtime accrued?
We could use the time to attend that optician’s appointment we keep receiving reminders about or take the time to visit the bank while the queues are fairly short. We could even spend the time doing our Christmas shopping guilt-free. Surely we’ve earned that, at the very least.
So, bah, humbug to a last-minute Inset day. Why not acknowledge – no, really acknowledge – the work we’ve done this term, and let us wear our Christmas jumpers and festive earrings at home in peace.
Sarah Mullin is a deputy headteacher and doctor of education student. She is the curator of “What They Didn’t Teach Me on My PGCE”, and the founder of #EduTeacherTips, a YouTube channel for teachers, by teachers. She tweets @MrsSarahMullin