Teacher training

16th March 2001 at 00:00
Opportunities to learn exist in and out of the classroom, says Penny Cottee.

To most of us, the phrase "adult education" conjures up visions of evening classes in Chinese cookery or Spanish conversation at a local college.

But in the new era of the school as a learning organisation, perhaps schools should be viewed as places where adults can learn and develop alongside the pupils. Professional development for educational staff is vital - to enhance their students' learning, of course, but also to create skilled, confident people.

Senior teachers can expand their management skills, with the Business in the Community scheme, Partners in Leadership. Aimed at headteachers who have the four-day Leadership Programme for Serving Heads under their belts, the programme links them with a senior businessperson for a 12-month, one-to-one mentoring partnership.

Helen Hyde, headteacher of Watford Grammar Schools for Girls, found the scheme "very valuable indeed", as her mentor from British Airways helped her focus on her school's performance management.

Modern languages teachers used to have the edge on opportunities abroad, but a new scheme from the League for the Exchange of Commonwealth Teachers is open to supply teachers,teaching assistants, and any teacher, including those in pupil referral units.

The Teachers' International Professional Development programme offers study visits and exchanges with Commonwealth countries. Staff from two or three LEAs work together on a given research project. LEAs can apply to become involved in next year's programme (closes August 2001). International teaching is also an option with agencies such as Select Education, whose overseas office can find teachers permanent and contract work in Australia and New Zealand .

Closer to home, the NUT's new professional development programme underlines the union's belief that "teachers ar the best trainers". Those who have attended this programme are offered the Training for Trainers course, which takes its lead from the peer coaching concept.

The government's recent professional development strategy reminds us that there is also scope for school- and classroom-based training. Head of the policy unit for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Meryl Thompson, says: "In the best managed schools, teachers can benefit greatly from collaborative working with colleagues, be that mentoring, inductions for NQTs, or working together on MEd modules.

"I know of primary school literacy and numeracy co-ordinators, whose lessons are used to model best practice to other teachers, sitting in the class."

Many schools now put their own lesson plans, ideas and materials on the internet for colleagues nationwide to share; and, of course, the world wide web offers a valuable source of professional development resources.

A good example is schoolmanager.net provided by The Stationery Office.

Aimed at the senior management team and governors, this problem-solving site offers advice on around 150 issues, from stress management to finance, and from ICT to presentation skills. For each subject you'll find contacts for further help, advice, and Three Good IdeasThree Bad Ideas to examine.

The discussion area features advice from site users themselves.

The Green Paper, Teachers Meeting the Challenge of Change, outlined a culture in which all staff benefit from good quality training and development throughout their careers, and the DfEE's recent recommendations take that forward.

Linking with performance management, which aims among other things to pinpoint professional development goals, it seems the climate for teachers' personal progression is very positive.

As ATL's Meryl Thompson says, "Maybe the best is yet to come."

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