The new school year is now well under way, so the SLT at your school has probably started talking about SDPs and CPD.
Educators love an acronym, don’t they?
School development plans (SDPs) are good practice; they mean that everyone understands the long-term goals, although many teaching assistants only hear about them prior to, or in the aftermath of, an Ofsted visit.
So, what exactly are they?
They are plans detailing the focus of the school over a set period (usually a year). They explain exactly what the school is going to do to bridge the gap and assign responsibility to different individuals.
Seeing that this is such a vital document for the school, do you get a say in how the plan gets developed and what part you play in the delivery?
Part of the bigger picture
I have worked in two schools, each with a very different approach; one presented the plan as a fait accompli, a draft to be viewed before ratification by the board with very few tangible links for TAs. The other used inset days and staff meetings to enable contributions from all staff.
Fundamentally, SDPs are about understanding what will be important to the senior leadership team over the coming year and then working out how that will impact you day to day.
Will phonics be a focus? If so, expect more interventions. Will reading be significant? Then expect more training as you embark on a new reading scheme.
Let’s make this personal: does your CPD (continuing professional development) directly link to the plan or can you put forward ideas for training? Again, I have seen it work both ways.
I have received Forest Schools training and I am now a qualified Thrive practitioner – both key elements on the school development plans – but I received the training by putting myself forward.
I have also been fortunate to receive first-aid training, an introduction to Lego therapy, pre-teach principles and Primary Talk training because they were required by all support staff to meet the objectives in the school plans.
As schools change the way they operate, so must we as TAs. We must not be shy to put forward our ideas and suggestions, and be ready to undertake training. After all, we need to ensure we keep up with our professional development so that the children get the best opportunities.
Think about your skills and what interests you, and how that relates to the children.
Does the school have a focus on health and wellbeing, and are you interested in getting outside and keeping fit? Could you offer to help the PE lead to increase the provision?
Or would you prefer to look into how outdoor learning could benefit the children and offer to go on training to make this a reality, with you at the helm?
Want to teach? Look at the learning and development part of the SDP and discuss with the senior leadership team (SLT) what opportunities there are for you. Whether that be through higher level teaching assistant status or whether you can get released for more specific teacher training.
Remember, the SLT to loves to see how a problem has been considered and solved – use that to your advantage.
Our TA tales come from a primary school teaching assistant living and working in Dorset