“CPD? Nobody has enough time for that!”
Ask any teacher: "What’s the main thing stopping you from learning more?" Nine out of 10 will say time.
And, of course, they’re right. Time is more valuable than the last biscuit left in the staffroom. How can teachers take control of their CPD when they’re so stretched? Learning differentiation strategies through mime, or sitting through the same PowerPoint presentation as last year is not what anyone needs, let alone wants after a busy day.
When teachers spend time on CPD it needs to be the best CPD. Yet the best CPD is rarely a one-off. To learn properly, teachers need time to try things out, reflect and discuss teaching with each other. Not only do we need some time, we need the right sorts of time.
Help is at hand. Below are some top tips for finding time for quality teacher learning.
Workload is something that’s being talked about a lot; there are few quick wins. But a manageable workload is something that is at the heart of a developmental culture, where staff have the headspace to develop and learn.
Consider shared detentions, move admin briefings out of meeting time and into email, and look for opportunities to slash marking time with pupils peer- or self-marking, and marking codes or symbols to cut down on long, personal comments.
For medium wins, look at using more online, "self-marking" assessments, reduce the number of whole-school data-collection points there need to be through the year, review parent meetings and report-writing. Comprehensive schemes of learning and high-quality assessments can support effective, efficient planning.
Toughest of all in the current financial climate, but with the biggest potential CPD pay-off: reduce teaching loads and reduce non-teaching duties.
Teachers learn best when they can collaborate. This could be planning together, watching each other’s lessons, or discussing research. You could try:
- scheduling teacher non-contact periods so that groups can work together (eg, phase teams, subject departments or faculties, year teams);
- "banking" 15 to 30 minutes of extra professional development time by finishing school lessons slightly later on four days of the week and then using that time on the fifth day;
- scheduling similar classes together (eg, key stage 2 literacy periods, Year 10 maths) so teachers can more easily swap classes or see each other’s lessons, and more easily engage in joint planning and assessment;
- extending team meeting times to encourage subject-specific or topic-specific professional development discussion instead of whole-school, one-size-fits-no one;
- disaggregating Inset days, using the time instead for several twilight or dawn sessions;
- if there are common tests/assessments, sitting them together in larger groups, to free up other teachers.
This all comes with a heavy dose of caution. If there was one easy way to find time for all staff, we wouldn’t need this column – we would all be doing it. Twilight CPD is at the end of a tiring work day when it’s harder to concentrate. Part-time staff often miss out. If the time is not used effectively, then it can feel like a burden and an addition to workload.
Yet CPD done well is one of the best things you can do for teachers and pupils. If we don’t have time for it, what else are we spending time on?
Bridget Clay is head of programme (Leading Together) at Teach First. She tweets @bridget89ec
David Weston is the CEO of the Teacher Development Trust. He tweets @informed_edu