Professional development at its best matches teachers' interests with those of their schools. Daniel Hickey talks to six staff.
Meera Pankhania (above), reception class teacher at Sherton primary, Leicester Meera Pankhania's Gujerati puts her at an advantage at Sherton primary as about 90 per cent of pupils are Muslim, and most speak Gujerati as a first language.
"I've been on courses run by EMAG (ethnic minority achievement grant)," she says. "They spoke the first few minutes in French, which made you aware just how bewildered non-English speaking children must feel in the classroom.
"It made me realise how you must use concrete things which they understand - pictures and worksheets, for example. It was really useful."
She says that her teaching skills have largely been developed in the classroom, "by using different teaching styles and techniques, and being aware of how the children learn".
But she's full of enthusiasm for a course she's just been to run by the Science Teaching Trust on developing and assessing science investigations for primary children. "It made us aware of the different strategies pupils use and how to make them work more independently."
Meera, who's been teaching three years, says she went to her head and said she wanted to do this course "as it is sometimes difficult to get young children to do science investigation. It worked through different scenarios to use at key stages 1 and 2 - for example, ways of teaching about air resistance by making parachutes, and how to adapt this so the lesson can be delivered to a range of age groups and abilities.
"Courses like this are important. You never stop learning and I'm working with colleagues from different schools - there were about 30 on the science course."
She says that she will give a presentation to the other staff at Sherton on an Inset day "to pass on what I have learned".
Meera has also been on a first aid course. "We get bulletins telling us what courses are available, but money is an issue."
DavID Ayling, head of Cheslyn Hay high school, Walsall, West Midlands The biggest changes Dave Ayling has noticed in CPD have been the move towards more formal qualifications and the introduction of a leadership qualification for new heads (NPQH).
"Until about five years ago, teachers tended to gain promotion by on-the-job experience and a higher degree," he says. "There's probably no better encouragement for continuing professional development than if you realise you have got to have a qualification or you won't have access.
Mr Ayling says that until recently local education authorities provided management perspective courses, "but they did not lead to qualifications. Things are more formalised now. There are large sums of money available to support training, and increasingly the Standards Fund is earmarked to support the Government's agenda. There is a series of designated courses and initiatives to guarantee what the Government wants. It is Identikit training across the country."
He says the new leadership spine and pay threshold for classroom teachers will mean more monitoring and assessment responsibilities for heads with implications for training.
In the past, he has attended courses on curriculum development and special needs. "For my new job, and second headship, the assumption is that I am bringing skills I've developed in the first one. The new headship qualification may support this."
Nikki Holland, deputy head of Keir Hardie infants school in Newham, east London "I check through the courses run by the authority andhighlight them - for staffas a whole or individuals. There are various daytimeand twilight courses in multiculturalism and classroom management, for example."
Ms Holland says that the decisions about who goes on what course are at the discretion of the head or deputy. They are mostly in subjects the school is trying to develop and which link with its development plan. Feedback is encouraged through photocopying materials and staff meetings, or through individual debriefing sessions.
"If Ofsted or our borough inspector were to highlight a particular area, such as the fact that we need more IT, then we use one of our Inset days to address it," she says. "There's a mixture of how and what you teach children, and management courses."
Ms Holland recently went on an assessment manager's course, learning how to use computer software to track pupils' progress. "We also watch each other teach," she says. "If we've got a good practitioner of behaviour management, for example, an NQT might go and observe. Then we might get in a supply teacher to cover the class.
"We also have professional development interviews. We look at a management or subject area and decide on three targets for an individual teacher. For example, developing his or her subject knowledge by going on a course, and then looking at what he or she hopes to achieve in a term.
"There are definitely enough resources. Newham is excellent; I don't have time to go on all the courses it runs."
Deborah Vollborth, number two in the maths department at Hamond's High in Swaffham, Norfolk Deborah Vollborth and her staff have been on a "wide range" of personal and departmental professional courses. Her school is part of a consortium and recently hosted a talk by Australian educationist Bill Rogers on behaviour and classroom management.
"I've been on a 'managing a maths department' course, geared towards my next step. I've also attended a 'women into management' course. This was very helpful and included suggestions - for example, on what to do if you need a career break for children."
She says courses must fit with the school's action plan and be approved by its Inset manager and a deputy head.
Hamond's tries to cover for absence internally, which allows staff to go on courses more often. "When we come back, we fill in a form to say how the course has been of benefit and how it would benefit others," says Ms Vollborth. "We also copy handouts.
"It's useful to meet teachers from other schools; you learn so much. It's good to talk and share good practice.
"As we gear up for numeracy tests, I'm also doing another course because schools are expected to have a numeracy co-ordinator."
Chris Mullarkey, an NQT (business studies) at Childwall comprehensive, Liverpool Chris Mullarkey admits that he found his teacher training "quite difficult".
"There was an overload of paperwork and gathering evidence of the skills you needed," he says. "It was a case of jumping through hoops. We knew we had to do it to get through, but there was a lot of duplication. The sad thing is this is continuing into induction."
But, he says, Childwall is very supportive. He meets the deputy head every Tuesday to go through teething problems. "It tends to be an insiders' guide - who to see for what - rather than classroom management. The deputy also comes to see me teach."
He finds the feedback particularly helpful. "The meetings that follow are part of our 10 per cent off the timetable. The NQT standards mean we have to produce a career entry profile (CEP) where we keep a record of our progress and include such things as lessons plans. And because I'm teaching GNVQ, I'll be doing some courses on assessment.
"There's so much to do, there's very little time to think about courses. But I'd like to do more on the management side, to learn about running a department. It's an ambition for the future.
"I think what I've developed most is my relationships with the children. Some of them come from quite rough backgrounds and you haveto adapt to their abilitiesand skills.
"Observing other teachers has also been useful. I see staff with different styles showing how to get things from individual pupils."
Dean Smart, history teacherat St George's communitycollege in Bristol Dean Smart says St George's has supported him in completing his Masters and has sent him to shorter courses, mostly related tohistory.
"I go on a history course every year. It's really professional updating based on key stage 4. I've also done short courses on special needs and educational management."
Mr Smart says professional development courses are a chance to reflect. "You can withdraw slightly from everyday matters and return reinvigorated and enthusiastic. I get a buzz from being with my own subject people. I also send younger colleagues on courses. I'm off to Leeds at the end of term for the annual history get together. Friday, Saturday and Sunday - there's dedication."