30 hours' CPD a year? Switch on some telly to top up your total

9th October 2009 at 01:00
Comment: Stephen Jones

For teachers, CPD - continuing professional development - is like apple pie and mother's milk: it's self-evidently a good thing.

Some might object that much of the training on offer is shoddy - the pie crust's gone soggy and mother's hit the gin - but let's not quibble. However good we are at our jobs, we can all become stale. And given the changing rate of teaching technology, it's all too easy to get left behind.

Until now, exactly how much "development" people did was up to them. Employers might say the odd session was compulsory, but that was about it. How much you wished to be developed was entirely your choice.

But as of August 31 this year, the voluntary element disappeared. That was the date chosen by the Institute for Learning (IfL) by which all of its members - in effect, every teacher and trainer in the learning and skills sector - had to "declare" what CPD they had undertaken during the previous year.

You can declare as much of it as you like, but there is a minimum level below which you should not fall. As the IfL puts it: "Your record will need to show that you have spent at least 30 hours each year (or pro-rata if you are . part-time) on professional development."

"Need" is an interesting word here. Clearly, what it really means is "must". So the obvious question arises: what if you haven't achieved the minimum? What sanctions will there be?

At present, the answer is almost certainly none. More likely, you will be taken gently by the hand and led towards the realisation that you have achieved your total hours almost without realising it.

The IfL is well aware that it has many reluctants among its members. Many would say they were press-ganged into joining when membership became a requirement for their jobs.

What constitutes CPD in this context is very loosely defined: reading journals or "reviewing" books or TV programmes relevant to your subject all count. Sitting with a bucket on your head while whistling the national anthem is not mentioned, but if you were short of a few hours, you could give it a go.

But declaring the number of hours spent on these activities may be just the start. If unlucky, you may be chosen as part of the sample for auditing. That means the IfL will require you to send them evidence. Wise members will have persuaded their partners to video their reading and viewing over the year. The unwise - and the single - may struggle.

But it doesn't end there. In your spare moments, you might want to access the 12-page guidelines on the IfL website, illustrated by a set of cheesy photographs, such as the one of a woman with one hand on her chin, the other on a keyboard. Helpfully, the caption tells you that she's "reflecting on CPD".

The IfL is keen on its members reflecting and has created a custom-built "learning space" entitled . Reflect. This enables you to "plan, record and assess the impact of CPD on your practice".

All this may be laudable, but you have to ask if it is wise. The IfL goes out of its way to be nice to recalcitrant members. If you missed the declaration deadline of August 31, you will have received a chatty little email giving you another chance.

But there's no denying the underlying element of coercion. And given how pushed for time FE teachers always are, there's a danger that "declaring your CPD" will be seen as one more silly thing dreamt up by those who don't have to face a class every day in order to torment those who do.

It's like setting targets for Christmas. You can do it - but, ultimately, will anyone thank you for your trouble?

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