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Ditch gurus for bespoke in-house training

The financial strain on education authorities has beneficial side- effects for CPD, according to some experts in continuing professional development.

They believe cutbacks are forcing schools and councils to ditch educational gurus whose messages quickly evaporate, and concentrate instead on in-house training better suited to the collegiate ethos of A Curriculum for Excellence.

"We've gone from a relatively affluent situation where people were able to access a wide range of opportunities to one where people have to think long and hard about what they're doing," said Margaret Alcorn, national CPD co-ordinator.

Mrs Alcorn conceded that she might appear "Pollyanna-ish" about authorities' difficulties, but stressed there was a risk that their financial woes could provide "alibis for failure". Cutbacks and curricular change were parallel issues: while schools would suffer, it was still possible for ACfE to prosper, with CPD playing a crucial role.

Mrs Alcorn said she and her colleagues had long been making the case that in-house, inexpensive development provided longer-lasting benefits than sending teachers on courses. Now the financial climate was accelerating the move towards a model which encouraged teachers to talk to each other, rather than paying large sums for the wisdom of high-profile experts.

Jim Keegans, another member of the national continuing professional development team, believes a culture change has taken place. Only three or four years ago, he said, people typically went away on courses and it was difficult to see what difference they made. Now CPD was about "best value" - which largely translated as in-house, sustainable training.

"We're in a good place and we have the opportunity to move into an even better place because of the wonderful and limitless capacity of our teaching force," said Mrs Alcorn.

George Smuga, professional adviser to the Scottish Government, recognised that curricular reform had created a tension for teachers which amounted to: "I've got freedom, but tell me what to do with it."

He made clear that the answer to this problem lay with schools: they would be central to "real transformational change".

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