Less is more for CPD, say councils

19th November 2010 at 00:00
`In-house' training will be cheaper but more useful for teachers, claim local authorities

Education directors in authorities imposing some of the biggest cuts in continuing professional development insist that richer rewards can be reaped by paying out less.

"All councils are looking at delivering CPD in a smarter way than before," said West Dunbartonshire education director Terry Lanagan. "The time when CPD was seen as courses is no longer the case."

West Dunbartonshire Council has imposed one of the biggest cuts, with combined CPD and training budgets down 43 per cent between 2008-09 and 2010-11.

Mr Lanagan wants CPD organised within schools or clusters as much as possible, an approach he believes will be more useful for teachers.

There are virtually no residential courses offered to West Dunbartonshire staff now and teachers are being asked to provide their own lunches at CPD events. "We have reduced to almost nil the use of hotels," he added.

He believes West Dunbartonshire is at the vanguard of Glow, the Scottish schools' intranet, and that imaginative IT approaches can reduce costs.

The authority is not making cuts across the board. CPD for newly-qualified teachers and co-operative learning are being protected.

But staff now have to make a case to headteachers for the benefits of a particular piece of CPD, and analysing the impact on practice has become a council priority. It was a far cry, Mr Lanagan recalled, from his days as a teacher when "generally speaking, if there was a place, you got to go".

He believed "big inspirational events" still had a place, but doubted they had long-term impact on teachers' practice.

His view is echoed in Clackmannanshire Council, where the highest proportional cut to CPD (56 per cent) has taken place.

Acting head of education Lesley Robertson said the focus was on training that "can be sustained through the development of in-house expertise", such as the "teacher learning communities" that assessment guru Dylan Wiliam launched in Clackmannanshire this week.

It was an "anxious time", admitted Keir Bloomer, a former education director at Clackmannanshire, now director of the Tapestry Partnership which attracts education gurus such as Dylan Wiliam and Jerome Bruner to Scotland and runs CPD programmes in authorities.

Bookings for Tapestry had not dropped, but he feared that CPD and quality improvement would "take a real bashing" in some authorities. Tapestry would have to "think carefully" before deciding whether to organise a big international conference next year.

School Leaders Scotland general secretary Ken Cunningham said the figures compiled by The TESS made "depressing reading".

CPD would generally be more effective if organised by schools, he said, but some authorities were keen to keep tight control of budgets.

There was some good news: "At the moment, there is better co-ordination nationally in terms of CPD than there has been for some time," he said.

Labour education spokesman Des McNulty disagrees. He claimed in a Scottish Parliament debate last week that the quality of CPD in Scotland was unsatisfactory "because of a lack of effective national co-ordination by the national CPD group", which left schools struggling to interpret Curriculum for Excellence.

"They are developing their own curriculum models because there is little co-ordination even at local authority level, never mind Scotland-wide," he said.

An HMIE report on the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence, based on 154 inspections in 2009, revealed earlier this year that a lack of suitable CPD was partly responsible for "ideas and principles not being well understood".

In September, former HMIE senior chief inspector Graham Donaldson, who is carrying out a review of initial teacher education that will include CPD, told the Scottish Learning Festival that 39 per cent of teachers surveyed would undertake more CPD if it was accredited. Only 51 per cent thought the current system of professional review and development was "effective or highly effective".


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