Give us the right to decide our training

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
TES Cymru last week published the results of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' survey on members' experience of continuing professional development
TES Cymru last week published the results of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers' survey on members' experience of continuing professional development.

Parts of it made rather grim reading. Four in 10 said that a CPD request had been refused, 57 per cent felt they did not have enough control of their training, and less than half rated the professional development they had received as good.

For a profession now expected to deliver far-reaching reforms, such as the foundation phase, 14-19 pathways and the School Effectiveness Framework, these findings should cause serious concern.

It is important to emphasise that these failings cannot be laid at the door of the General Teaching Council for Wales. Although there were complaints about the level of bureaucracy involved in GTCW schemes, respondents were generally appreciative of the support they received.

It is also important to acknowledge that the limited funding available via the GTCW, and the lack of money for CPD in school and local authority budgets, is clearly causing problems.

No one now seriously doubts that education is underfunded in Wales compared with the rest of the UK: school buildings speak the fact more eloquently than words.

However, rather than getting into yet another wrangle about funding, let's focus on improving the mechanisms whereby teachers can access the CPD tools they need to improve their performance still further. In this regard, two of the findings thrown up by the ATL's survey are deeply disturbing.

First, it appears that in some schools a performance management regime has yet to be set up. Second, nearly one in five teachers have been refused a CPD need identified in their performance management review. This means that some teachers have been asked to improve their expertise but not given the means to do so.

The ATL has raised the question of performance management for teachers with education minister Jane Hutt and her predecessors on several occasions over the past 18 months.

Each time we have been told by the minister personally that consultation on revised regulations was "imminent". Finally, in March, we were informed that these regulations would be revised in time for the 200910 academic year. I'm glad that a date has finally been set, but it strikes me as a strange definition of the word "imminent".

The current regulations for performance management came into force nearly six years ago. A lot has happened since then, especially across the border. A wholesale adoption of the English regime may not be desirable, but there are things that can be learnt from it. The ATL would certainly argue that teachers should be given rights in regard to their CPD, especially for a need identified in a review.

There is a critical symbiosis between the performance management regime, CPD, and improving outcomes for pupils. The ATL believes that revised performance management arrangements can be used constructively to stimulate informed demand for CPD which is beneficial to the lives of both teachers and pupils.

Teachers in Wales who have had access to good quality training have been full of praise. They appreciate its value in helping them to develop and grow as professionals, and how it has enabled them to up their game with their pupils.

This relationship between teacher and pupil is crucial in raising standards in schools. Access to adequately funded, good quality CPD is not simply about teachers' professional needs, but about their ability to deliver what they are employed to do. Poor or non-existent professional development deprives them of the tools for the job.

The Webb report into FE highlighted the need for Wales to up-skill its workforce across the board. Wouldn't it be ironic if the key workforce in that process was itself handicapped by a lack of training.

Dr Philip Dixon is director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru.

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