A breath of air in the classroom

6th May 2005 at 01:00
It comes as no surprise when academics say that a good teacher makes three times more difference to a child's attainment than any other aspect of schooling. In our heart of hearts we have always known that (page four).

Ministers, local authorities and school management teams must prioritise opportunities for teachers to access high-quality continuing professional development. Teachers, too, must play their part and grasp these opportunities. For some that is second nature. Others see the requirement to complete 35 hours annually of CPD as a burden. On occasions, that burden is borne with ill grace, even resentment - and that is understandable to some extent.

For many years teachers have been subjected to centrally imposed in-service training, dictated by education authorities more akin to politburos. Tales are legion of pointless hours of training being delivered to uninterested audiences by out-of-touch trainers - see Bridget McElroy's Diary (page 32) this week. Others have requested access to particular elements of CPD, only to be denied on cost or availability grounds.

Those in charge of delivering CPD face a number of challenges, not least to reinspire the jaded teachers who haunt our staffrooms. New entrants to teaching arrive with an expectation that they will be exposed to the latest research and trained in the most up-to-date techniques, whether in classroom organisation or behaviour management. They must not be disappointed.

There are tentative signs that the staffroom culture is changing and that teachers are becoming more willing to engage in techniques such as coaching, mentoring, peer observation and peer assessment. It takes courage to open your classroom door and invite a colleague in to observe your strengths and weaknesses - but evidence suggests that it pays dividends for teachers and, by association, pupils.

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