Personal dividends;Career development

12th March 1999 at 00:00
Anat Arkin looks at how the Investors in People scheme can help schools.

While the Government is still talking about "fast tracking" talented young teachers, rapid career progression is already a fact of life at Cator Park School in south London.

Any teacher who wants to get ahead in a particular area is given the chance to observe and work with experienced colleagues and to go on relevant courses. As a result, several of the head-of-year posts created in a recent shake-up of the school's management went to strong internal candidates.

Graham Keane, who is responsible for staff development at this girls' comprehensive in Beckenham, says: "The culture here is to develop the staff and that does create opportunities to progress more quickly than usual.

"Some people have become heads of faculty after three or four years' teaching, and are doing very well because they've had the right training."

Like many schools, Cator Park used to have more of a hit-or-miss approach to staff development. People would go on courses which sounded interesting without necessarily thinking about their objectives or how a course might support their career development. Things began to change when the school signed up for the Investors in People (IIP) standard.

In the three years leading up to its recognition as an Investor last May, Cator Park developed processes to identify teachers' training needs, to get them to think about what they hope to achieve from a course and to share new knowledge with colleagues when they return.

But staff development is not just about sending people on courses. Every teacher new to the school or new to a job is assigned a mentor. This means that all those recently-appointed faculty heads are being supported by experienced members of the management team, rather than being left to sink or swim.

"In common with many other schools, we used to have mentors just for newly-qualified teachers," says Mr Keane. "But Investors in People made us appreciate that there are things that even experienced staff need to take on board when they go to a new school."

Cator Park is one of 1,538 schools - 741 primaries and 797 secondaries - which have achieved the IIP standard since it was introduced seven years ago. A further 1,421 primary schools and 1,191 secondary schools are, in the IIP jargon, "committed" to achieving it, though it is difficult to establish how many of these are actively working towards the standard.

To become Investors, schools - like other organisations - have to show that they are developing all their employees, regularly reviewing training and development needs, and taking action to meet those needs throughout their employment. They must also evaluate the outcomes of training and development for both individuals and the organisation.

Once schools have achieved the standard, they cannot let up on staff training. If they want to continue to display the IIP logo on their stationery and prospectus they have to go through the accreditation process again after three years. The 119 schools which have so far been re-recognised at least once include Endike school in Hull, which was the first primary in the UK to gain an IIP award and is now working towards its third assessment.

Headteacher Malcolm Coates says the standard has helped the school clarify its thinking about training and provided a useful framework for staff-development planning. The focus on training has also benefited individual members of the teaching and non-teaching staff. But there is a downside for the school - a large number of well-trained teachers have left to take up more senior jobs in other schools.

Further information from Investors in People UK Ltd 0171 467 1900

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