More than attending courses

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
How are the local authorities responding to the CPD challenge? John Cairney puts the question

The "one size doesn't fit all" mantra so beloved of Scottish ministers appears to have been taken to heart by the local authorities as they rise to the challenges of managing continuing professional development opportunities for teachers.

Though approaches vary, there is widespread agreement that professional development is "about more than attending courses". In addition to traditional in-service training days, the authorities are offering a range of approaches, including "twilight classes" and the Internet, and expect to have their CPD programmes in place and guidelines issued to teachers before the August deadline.

"Teachers have never been more professional," says Frances Colgan, advisory services manager in South Lanarkshire, "and this has been reflected in the numbers already doing more than 35 hours of development in a session. These teachers see accessing opportunities as central to monitoring their professional standards."

The South Lanarkshire CPD guidelines incorporate a range of activities for "reflection, professional dialogue and learning", with some activities taking place within the school day, such as heading in-school working parties and leading other teachers in workshop sessions.

Aberdeenshire's guidelines take a similarly broad view, describing a CPD activity as "anything which extends a teacher's professionalism, enhances existing knowledge and skills and facilitates development of new skills and qualities". Consequently, "it is inappropriate to equate CPD entirely with attendance at formal classes and courses."

Further to in-service training days and the additional 35 hours for CPD, elements may, for some teachers, be incorporated into the working week "through discussion and agreement". These could include co-operative teaching, observing lessons and mentoring and supporting colleagues.

Scottish Borders Council has gone a stage further. A framework developed with teachers includes a directory of courses featuring programmes required for the "core remit", such as support for learning, delivered mainly within class contact hours and other courses outwith class contact time.

In exceptional circumstances, some professional development activities, such as classroom observation, and professional needs that "can best be met by a course on offer during the contractual working week", can be recorded as part of the additional 35 hours a year as long as the time is made up.

David Mallen, head of educational planning and development, says: "The framework relies heavily on the professional approach to development which our teachers have traditionally shown."

In Perth and Kinross, staff who engage in policy writing or in school working groups outwith the school day can count the time towards their additional 35 hours of professional development.

"There has been extensive take-up," says Sheena Liddell, quality development manager. "We are very flexible, don't put things in boxes and encourage a healthy balance of CPD approaches between personal development and activities that impact more immediately on the school."

Time spent by staff preparing reports after attending in-service training or CPD activities during the school day can be set against the additional 35 hours in Argyll and Bute, where the Internet features strongly in CPD delivery.

Through a partnership with Paisley University, teachers can access Blackboard, a system that offers a selection of reference materials, as well as individual and group tutorials online.

From this session, headteachers and CPD co-ordinators can use Smartscreen, a website that facilitates planning, managing and recording CPD in schools.

It provides the authority with the ability to evaluate and produce reports on activities and costs within educational establishments.

"Teachers can also use the system to identify relevant local authority and national CPD provision and maintain individual records," says Fiona Johnston, the quality improvement officer.

Angus CPD Online is the name of Angus Council's novel approach to management. From September all staff, including non-teaching, will be able to plan and evaluate their agreed programme by using the authority's web-based electronic system.

As well as accessing and booking courses online, staff will be able to record their own evaluation of the activities they undertake and comment on how they have benefited from them.

"The system is both inclusive and flexible," says Peter Duguid, a senior adviser.

By the end of the session the electronic plan, which can be amended during the year in agreement with line managers, will stand as a profile of all CPD undertaken during and outwith the 35-hour working week.

Diversity extends to content as well as delivery systems. In Orkney, an early priority has been information and communications technology. All teachers in the authority have Internet access and director of education Leslie Manson says a website offering a catalogue of courses has been swamped with interest.

"Our general thrust is to continue with closure day courses which have been very successful, and to start twilight classes based on the catalogue on the website. We will also be encouraging more teachers to attend conferences and workshops on the mainland."

Science in primary schools will feature prominently in the restructured CPD catalogue of East Ayrshire. In another example of teacher professionalism, some subject departments in the authority's secondary schools are regarded as self-sufficient for CPD purposes. In addition, the quality improvement team is available to address other needs identified by lead teachers for curriculum management.

Larger authorities with sizeable quality development services in situ have an advantage in planning, says Michael O'Neill, director of education for North Lanarkshire.

In addition to the authority's extensive CPD programme covering major subject areas, the future priority is to roll out an interactive co-operative learning strategy based on a Canadian example. Training is offered as part of a summer school with recall days.

Mr O'Neill said that the response of teachers so far had been overwhelmingly positive and the plan is now to give every teacher the chance to take part in co-operative learning training over the next three to five years.

Staff who participate in the authority's extensive out-of-school-hours programme may have their involvement accredited as part of their CPD.

"We are assessing to what extent the planning and preparation required to take part in these activities is a learningdevelopmental experience."

Personal development folios are increasingly being used by teachers to identify CPD requirements. Edinburgh issued such folios to all its new staff in the last two sessions and many schools have developed their own, usually based on the How Good is Our School? guide.

Margaret Alcorn, the city's CPD manager, says the authority's planning and booking system is well advanced. There are no major problems envisaged in implementing the programme, which is based on an analysis of the teachers'

development needs.

She says the authority's new programme for leadership development, part of which articulates with the Scottish Qualification for Headship, has also had a good response. A chartered teacher pilot module in science is being developed.

The teaching and learning route aspect of Glasgow's framework incorporates collegiate activities such as working party membership, classroom observation and job shadowing as well as an extensive programme of authority-directed activities.

These include extended provision of twilight programmes and development opportunities at weekends and during holidays.

The leadership and management route progresses from an accredited in-school project leadership programme, targeted at senior teachers and assistant principal teachers, through team leadership to strategic leadership aimed at SQH aspirants.

Teachers in Dundee have been given a guide linked to How Good is Our School? 2 and the authority's directory of in-service support. The guide is intended to polish up the process of identifying needs and finding opportunities.

Glen Taylor, the education services manager, says the authority is looking at CPD activities in the broadest sense.

"Many teachers are already doing more than the 35 hours. We are offering extra chances to ensure that what they do is effective and rewarding," he says.

There will be increased availability of twilight and weekend courses, partly to reduce disruption to schools.

Sheila Smith, the CPD manager in West Lothian, says: "We encourage other learning modes such as job shadowing and small-scale classroom research.

"Teachers can attain a Certificate in Positive Learning, which is validated by Stirling University and accredited by the council.

"The idea is to link coursework with classroom practice by combining a selection of courses with activities such as shadowing other professionals - who may not be teachers - and writing up a small-scale classroom project."

The authority also offers a three-year postgraduate professional enquiry course, with Falkirk Council and Stirling University. It aims to help teachers evaluate their practice and use research methodology, with the eventual intention of applying the results in the classroom.

West Lothian and Falkirk, along with Perth and Kinross, Stirling and Clackmannanshire, form the Central Scotland Partnership, which is now in its third year of offering CPD to teachers in the evenings and at weekends.

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