A lot more than he bargained for

28th November 2003 at 00:00
In a recent conversation with a teacher at a nearby beacon school, I found myself enraged by their latest abundance of provision - and the lack thereof at my own. These conversations usually involve me nodding, while my beacon friend repeats the same phrases over and over again - crowing statements such as: "At my school we do it like thisI " or: "At my school we have this and thatI " On this occasion, we were talking about professional development co-ordinators. They, of course, had one, although I was under the apprehension that the existence of PDCs was a myth - much like gorgons, the lost city of Atlantis or overtime. Little did I know that there are practising PDCs all over the country, doing their job efficiently and effectively; liaising with colleagues about their career expectations, then sending them on courses, getting loads of money and adding masses of bulk to many a CV. Except mine.

In my experience, professional development is something that occurs rarely - the odd literacy or numeracy course, perhaps an ICT thing, but never a conscious, active role-taking exercise, and definitely not an own choice.

My headteacher thinks having teachers out on courses disrupts the school day and the children. She could be right. Maybe at this other school disruption is minimised by a supply budget the size of David Bell's three-year income, allowing for a permanent float.

The information reported by my beacon buddy was not meant as bragging. But beacon status does mean something: teachers there are proud of their school. They have this secret formula for success that others are desperate to obtain, but are unable to.

There is an unfairness about trying to better your own school when you have the drive but not the resources - when you're ambitions are constrained by such basic issues as inadequate staffing, fluctuating standards and lack of finance. You can never afford lots of supply teachers or non-class-based special needs co-ordinators or paid after-school provision. The list is endless. I am jealous.

I spoke briefly to my head about our professional development policy. She nodded enthusiastically and said we didn't have one, but that I could write it. The next day I found a letter in my pigeonhole addressed to the professional development co-ordinator. I did laugh.

So we now have a PDC. Will I have an innovative new role or will I be the person who hands out the course brochure at the start of each term? Anyway, I shall bite the bullet and write a professional development strategy. I wonder if it will do any good.

Robin Warren is a key stage 1 co-ordinator and student mentor at Hargrave Park primary school, London borough of Islington

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