TES Extra - CPD - Injecting life into teaching

17th October 2008 at 01:00
Tim Brighouse champions professional development

What do you think of when you hear the term CPD? The chance to nag the head or the deputy for time off to attend a course that turns out to be a waste of time? CPD, as another management-speak acronym, can seem like an irrelevant waste of time and energy. It doesn't have to be like that.

Put simply, the case for professional development is to enable teachers and others working in schools to have and sustain the sort of intellectual curiosity that brings life to their teaching and enjoyment to their jobs. It builds confidence, it challenges our thinking, it stops us going stale, and it may even make our lives easier.

Yet CPD in schools can be a hit-and-miss affair. Leadership of it is too often an afterthought: one more add-on to some overburdened colleague's responsibilities.

Of course, in the best schools it's different. For a start, the people at the top value it - they know CPD is important so they put resources into it. They realise that staff development is interwoven with school improvement.

CPD in great schools is like an artery pumping knowledge, learning and understanding through the staff. Teachers observe each other's practice; the staffroom and meetings are replete with talk about teaching, learning, assessment and the curriculum; faculty meetings are the chance to plan and evaluate work together; and planned timetabled slots allow teachers to explain and learn from each other and local providers. The same is true for support staff.

So that all seems doable and infinitely more interesting than a stuffy lecture in some conference hotel. What is stopping us from actually doing it?

First, we have to persuade all, not just some, schools to take the issue seriously. Secondly, we need an organisation that is prepared to give schools a bit of support. The Training and Development Agency for Schools is leading the charge by providing authoritative guidance to help schools understand what CPD can offer, and providing signposts to both its own and other organisations' resources.

Thirdly, the sector needs to work together. The TDA's new database showcasing CPD provision, for example, needs providers to get involved and staff to use it.

It is about time CPD received the priority it deserves, and which in other professions it receives. So that is why I'm so pleased to be involved in the TDA's campaign to embed staff development in schools.

Tim Brighouse, former London schools commissioner, is CPD champion for the TDA. Tim will be online with The TES on October 24 to answer questions about professional development and offer advice. Questions can be posted from today on www.tes.co.ukcpdclinic. Tim is also collecting CPD ideas and best practice. Email tim.brighouse@tes.co.uk.

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