A regular occurrence, even in these challenging times: a member of the team had asked for a brief catch-up. I already knew what was coming as I’d been pre-warned by the assistant principal: a role had been advertised at another college and she was thinking of applying.
She was concerned that if she stayed, though she loved her role, she would stagnate and there seemed few opportunities in the near future at this college (and she wasn’t wrong).
With limited opportunities on the horizon for promotion or a pay rise (ie, moving up), and no desire to move part-time to pursue opportunities outside of the classroom (ie, moving down), what remained?
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CPD: Sexy sideways
Sexy sideways are defined as any opportunity (CPD, qualification or training) that brings job satisfaction to teachers. It is a very loose definition, primarily because I made the phrase up on the spot in discussion with the above member of staff (though at the time it was termed "interesting sideways" to head off a visit from HR).
A 2008 study into teacher motivation concluded that student behaviour/interaction is the primary motivation and demotivating factor for teachers. This is great if students are consistently engaged – it brings enormous job satisfaction. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. With so much hinging on student interaction, leaders must be proactive in identifying other motivating factors for staff. With funding restricting pay increases and inexperience providing a potential barrier to progression at times, in my opinion, the biggest remaining motivating factor is CPD.
This CPD can take many forms: from an external course to a full qualification to running an internal project. It is just as important to empower staff as it is to facilitate their professional development. It doesn’t need to be expensive – many conferences are reasonably priced (or even free) and are held throughout the year (and even weekends for staff who are able to attend then).
Even more cost-effective CPD is available through the humble book. With a range, volume and diversity of books available (all with strategies that can be quickly applied in the classroom), an in-house CPD library can be an enormously effective tool to spark development, and requires little more than an email request to staff to bring in books that they have found useful. Failing this, put your hand in your pocket – the majority of titles can be purchased for £10 and, with vouchers available through popular teaching apps, you’ll have a range of resources in no time.
More cost-effective: why not facilitate a "sharing good practice" event in existing CPD/ department time with a member of staff given responsibility for organisation? Giving a practitioner responsibility for contacting a local school or college and opening a dialogue around sharing practice can be enormously beneficial and will again foster a sense of trust between practitioners and leaders. In further education, this has meant working with the local maths centre for excellence, and has meant excellent professional links being forged.
At the other end of the financial scale, many practitioners have found a Master's to be extremely beneficial, with the Department for Education’s NPQ (in middle and senior leadership) programme proving a middle ground between in-house, project-based and university-accredited qualifications.
As beneficial as it can be to send practitioners on "the right" CPD, however, it can also be immensely harmful to send them to "the wrong" CPD (causing unnecessary workload or feelings of resentment). Whole-school CPD is usually the main perpetrator here – non-personalised, lecture-style CPD is not only likely to switch off the majority of practitioners, but also to have little classroom impact.
Part of avoiding this is knowing your team, having discussions and an open dialogue about what practitioners feel they need, with leaders sharing their view also. This dialogue (and subsequent compromise) will go a long way to helping staff to achieve their goals, and therefore reaching the desired outcome for everyone involved – having more motivated and effective practitioners to support and guide students.
The clue is in the name – CPD is primarily used to develop practice – but why can’t it be multi-purpose? Why can’t we use it as part-reward? As part-motivator? As an exercise in building team morale or refining culture? As a confidence-builder?
With professional development becoming more and more vital in shaping the quality and effectiveness of practitioners, all hail the interesting sideways.
Jonny Kay is head of English and maths at a college in the North East