Help yourself

24th June 2005 at 01:00
So many opportunities, so little time: don't let them pass you by, says Sara Bubb

Spare a thought for the poor soul responsible for continuing professional development in your school. No longer is it just about collating the thousands of course flyers that land in their pigeonholes - there's a whole heap more because the role is growing like wildfire.

There might be any combination of these words in their job title: CPD professional development staff development in-service training human resources co-ordinator leader manager officer administrator. Or the role may well be included within the umbrella term "headteacher", "deputy" or "assistant head".

A rose by any other name? Well, sometimes a clear job description helps define exactly what's needed and where priorities lie. This is vital because continuing professional development co-ordinators have the power to make a significant difference to their colleagues and thereby raise pupil achievement, but they also risk wasting a lot of time and money.

The Training and Development Agency for schools wants to build stronger continuing professional development infrastructures in schools. The job needs to be done effectively and gives good value for money and has a positive impact. Co-ordinators have to marry up tensions between what an individual wants with school improvement and national initiatives.

Yet how many people have had training in how to lead and manage professional development? Luckily there are more courses, books and materials available to help people get up to speed in this rapidly changing and complex field.

Co-ordinators have to address all six stages of the cycle: identifying and analysing needs, designing and implementing some professional development, monitoring it and evaluating its impact at different levels.

It isn't just about courses, conferences and in-service days. The range of professional development opportunities is huge. The London's Learning CD draws an analogy between food and continuing professional development, saying that "the shift is from the 'supermarket' approach of one-off in-service activities undertaken by large groups of staff unrelated to individual, team or whole school needs to a professional learning community in which there is an '... la carte' vision of the purposes and principles of CPD for all staff" (DfES, 2005: 2.1).

Being a continuing professional development co-ordinator is time consuming, but many of the tasks - the budget, matching needs to activities - are administrative and don't need a teacher to execute them.

Matt Marlow, training school manager at Lodge Park technology college in Corby, Northamptonshire, is a fantastic example of the potential of workforce remodelling. Young and enthusiastic, with a background in project management rather than teaching, he is an unusual appointment, but things are working well.

Sandra Dickson, part of Lodge Park's leadership team, can't speak highly enough of him: "Because Matt is doing this I can spend time on things that require a teacher."

She is Mr Marlow's link to the staff. For instance, he wants to introduce 360-degree feedback so Ms Dickson gives advice on how to circumvent the cynics. He manages the training school budget and organises the professional development of all staff, from the bespoke to whole-school training. Offering, among other things, voice coaching and sessions on body language run by a teacher from the dramadepartment, Mr Marlow works closely with trainee and newly qualified teachers.

Ms Dickson says: "He's very good at keeping track of who's done what and offers a menu of professional development activities that take account of money, time and resources."

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