Careers - Work with what you've got

5th March 2010 at 00:00
By making use of in-house expertise and teaming up with other schools you can make training days a success

Organising a training day for colleagues can be a daunting prospect. "Teachers value their time and don't like it being wasted," says Rick Eastham, CPD co-ordinator at Christ's Hospital School in Lincoln. "You have to build a programme that is varied, involving and above all relevant."

The first step is to decide on a theme. You could link the CPD day to your school's improvement plan or use it to address an issue that has suddenly become current.

At Christ's Hospital School a rise in the number of pupils with English as a second language prompted Mr Eastham to organise a day devoted to English as an additional language (EAL) strategies.

Another possible approach is to send a questionnaire to staff. According to a 2009 survey by the General Teaching Council for England, one in four teachers feels that their CPD needs are not being properly identified. So it makes sense to ask around, rather than imposing your own ideas.

Once you have decided on a focus for the day, try to build in an element of choice. "Colleagues will feel more positive if they can pick from a range of activities," says Sue Kelly, CPD leader at Millais School in Horsham, West Sussex, where a recent ICT skills day allowed staff to pick from six workshops.

For even wider choice, you could try teaming up with other schools. Dawn Lawrence-Hearn, of Walmer Science College in Kent, recently organised a joint training day for a cluster of 24 schools, offering a staggering 76 workshops. "There really was something for everyone," she says. "Afterwards staff could swap ideas with colleagues who went to other workshops."

This level of choice is only possible if you make use of in-house expertise by having your own staff run sessions. But there can still be a place for outside speakers.

Before booking, contact other schools who have used that speaker, or go and see them in action for yourself. Use their visit as a launching pad for the day, rather than an end in itself.

"One model that works well is to have a speaker in the morning, and then divide into departmental groups in the afternoon," says Rick Eastham. "It gives people a chance to relate what has been said to their own subject."

Whatever shape the day takes, pay attention to the details. Biscuits, coffee, an extra nice lunch - if you pamper staff just a little, it will help create a positive atmosphere. After all, CPD days are about bonding and raising morale as well as learning.

Finally, when it's over, you will want feedback from colleagues about how the day went and whether it met expectations. But it's not just the immediate effect that will tell you if it has been worthwhile. Follow that up a few months later to find out whether or not the training has had a lasting impact.

"A good CPD day brings staff together, gets them thinking and encourages them to collaborate," says Sue Kelly. "But the real test is whether or not it makes a long-term difference in the classroom."

MAKE THE DAY A TRIUMPH

- Try to find a theme that involves support staff as well as teachers.

- Give colleagues an element of choice.

- Make use of in-house expertise.

- Ensure the day is relevant to everyone.

- Carry out a detailed assessment of the day's impact.

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