If politics is showbiz is for ugly people, what is education? It crossed my mind when I attended the two year birthday party of the at Teacher Development Trust, (David Weston's charity aimed at improving the way we approach professional development in the UK) at the Member's Dining Room of the House of Commons, no less. As Billy Connolly said, when walking onto the stage of the Royal Albert Hall, 'I've played some f##ing toilets in my time, let me tell you.' I feel you,brother.
The invitation said 'Tea,' so maybe I shouldn't have been surprised when that's exactly what the bar served. I kept looking around for the hinged wall, behind which the inner circle were bathing in Krug. No amount of cornice fondling could find the latch. No doubt five feet away behind a two way mirror Kenneth Clark was shot gunning shots of amaretto and injecting vodka into his eyeball, laughing at us.
It was like attending one of Gatsby's parties (sorry, that's 20th Century American literature- ask your Grandad what that means). Oh look there's Sam Freedman doing the Foxtrot with dear old David James! etc. It was a grand room to work, and work it people did. I saw Jonathan Simons of Policy Exchange perform an outrageous five yard mingle, without even blinking, the stone cold killer. I soaked Laura McInerney's eye-blistering yellow jacket with an elbow, a waitress, a tray of water, and nobody melted. Carl Hendricks and I discussed researchED, diversity in education, and the new Pope elected at Wellington College (maybe you saw the white smoke?). David James told me something I couldn't repeat, Ann Mroz held court as per, and it was all very Hello! for people in education.
If you haven't heard of the Teacher Development Trust, I advise you to stop sharing pictures of Tony Blair taking selfies in Iraq, and gamble a stamp on them. In a world where CPD means Crap Paid for by your Department, they're the real deal. They launched to address the very real problem of how schools source and find training for staff. Normally, word of mouth is very important to schools, as are those thick envelopes you find in your pigeon hole stuffed with optimistic one-sheet hustles called 'How to blow an Ofsted Inspector just the way he likes it, yeah, like that.' I can only imagine they sleep with the aid of ketamine.
So, two today. Toddling. Nice place to blow out the candles. Their annual report wisely identifies eight steps to making the world a better place.
1. Fund the creation of a national database of practice
2. Strengthen the role of teaching school alliances to broker support
3. Promote the most effective forms of professional practice.
4. Contribute towards an incubator organisation to prepare the ground for a new Royal Collegeof Teaching
5. Discuss and fund new career levels: Associate/ Member/Fellow
6. Used the DfE to facilitate system-led improvement in professional learning.
7. Give teachers an entitlement to professional development
8. Increase funding into research into effective professional development.
A lot to do, and much there to agree with, with some caveats. Are you a school (in which case, how are you even holding this? Mind. Blown.)? Do you hold a budget? David Weston wants to give you the 'biggest tool' (I think that's what he said). More importantly, he wants you to treat CPD seriously, rather than as an afterthought, a box-ticking exercise, or a form of fleeting sabbatical, a day off from year nine cannibalising themselves. Schools don't know how to even find the best training, and that's tragic. Ofsted accountability have driven schools towards the most craven and narrow vision of what professional development actually looks like. And that's a terribly sad thing to happen to a profession that burns with expertise and talent.
You could do a lot worse and get involved with the TDT; they work with the National Teacher Network, a lattice of schools all involved in mutual support, campaign for change, and they operate a 'Good CPD Guide' or as they describe it, 'Trip Advisor for CPD', so presumably you can attend a conference and leave a blistering review of how warm the fruit juice was or something. It's a Hell of a lot better than waiting for an envelope to land on your mat.