Don't forget to timetable CPD

Professional development is important to remain an effective teacher and whole staff training days can bring wider benefits, writes Sean McPartlin

Regardless of past experience, even teachers who are well into the middle years of their careers have a tendency to stockpile work for the time of pupils' exam leave, more in hope than expectation that, this year, some of the non-teaching time that appears to be on offer will materialise and we will be able to catch up with all those things we have been delaying.

In fact, the final weeks of the summer term tend to be among the busiest for staff, including management, who have to oversee the compilation and delivery of the new timetable, the final parents' nights of the session, primarysecondary liaison, plans for any end of session productions and, possibly, some excursions. Reviews of the preceding session need to be finalised and the school development plan must be audited and advanced, whether for the next year or for the next three-or five-year period.

Add to this the interruption to the normal school routine by examinations and it is easy to see how the summer term is seldom the wind down period that is longed for by staff.

One area of planning can be overlooked in the rush to issue the new timetables and class lists, yet it is one of the most important tasks of management to promote. I refer to arrangements for the next session's in-service training opportunities.

The recent spotlight on continuing professional development in TES Scotland only served to underline its worth and the versatility of opportunities and approaches that can be accessed.

Responsible management decrees that CPD be not merely something on offer to staff who wish to avail themselves of it. Though taking up such opportunities is clearly a matter for individual members of staff, the senior managers have a duty to promote such training, to ensure it is at the forefront of staff thinking and, wherever possible, to provide in-house opportunities for whole staff training.

Increasingly, the pace of life in our schools leads to teachers sometimes being reluctant to take on extra work by attending a course. Indeed, there are times when the burden on colleagues imposed by even one day out of school can discourage staff from signing up for training. Evening classes can be as unappetising.

It has to be realised by all teachers - not just those who are newly qualified or seeking promotion - that personal development is the key to remaining an effective teacher and should be as important a part of their yearly planning as lesson plans or departmental priorities. This would apply to ongoing opportunities such as shadowing or observing colleagues and to more formal courses.

Management can encourage CPD uptake by being flexible and innovative in the way they cover for staff or even merely by acknowledging that the better trained the staff are, the better it is for the whole school community. A system for cascading information from in-service courses, as well as a rota to ensure that different departments and individuals have a chance to get involved, can be helpful in this respect.

Most of all, an imaginative provision of whole staff training days in school can have an enormous effect on the school's effectiveness. Such days must come from a careful audit of staff needs and requests. They should be palpably relevant to school and staff priorities and as well organised and effective as the CPD budget will allow. Bringing in outside speakers, the use of high quality materials and careful organisation will cause more work, but can lead to greater success.

Providing such opportunities in school - as long as they are in response to staff needs and not foisted on them - not only cuts down on aggravation in terms of cover arrangements but also can promote a sense of community and allow colleagues from different departments a rare opportunity to exchange views.

One last suggestion. A headteacher who was always at pains on such occasions to provide a decent, and free, lunch for the staff did so as a recognition of their hard work and to allow a chance to relax with their colleagues, he said. If pushed, he would also admit to his perennial fear that if they headed off for a pub lunch, they might not return for the afternoon session.

Sean McPartlin is assistant headteacher at St Margaret's Academy, Livingston

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you