They're loving the training

20th October 2006 at 01:00
Professional development makes big difference, say teachers, but too few share benefits. Karen Thornton reports

Funding for teachers' individual professional development is reaping huge benefits in the classroom, according to the recipients.

Up to 87 per cent of teachers who received funding last year said the training or research they had undertaken had been effective or very effective in improving classroom practice, pupil learning and school improvement.

But relatively few participants in the General Teaching Council for Wales's (GTCW) continuing professional development (CPD) fund passed on their findings to colleagues.

And schools were not systematically evaluating the impact of teachers'

additional training on teaching and learning, according to GTCW figures published at its council meeting this week in Trefforest, Pontypridd. These show that effectiveness ratings were particularly high (79-85 per cent) among teachers who carried out individual projects.

Positive responses were slightly lower for those working in networks of teachers within or across schools and local education authorities (68-70 per cent). Two-thirds came away with new ideas, while a fifth said they benefited from increased self-confidence, and one in 10 said their management skills had improved.

But only a quarter of schools were evaluating the impact of teachers' CPD on teaching and learning, with 12 per cent using pupil assessment and 11 per cent relying on inspection to monitor any gains. More than a third of participants failed to respond.

And while more than half of teachers shared their experiences and findings with departmental colleagues, only 3 per cent did so with teachers from other schools.

Council member Peter Williams, retired education officer for the Church in Wales, said it was important that teachers continued to be able to pursue their own professional development interests. A third gave this as their reason for applying.

Nearly 80 per cent of applicants said their training would not have happened without the CPD funding, but half of the remainder would have done it anyway -in their own time, at their own expense.

"That speaks volumes for the teachers we have," said Mr Williams.

Jacqui Turnbull, the council's deputy chairwoman, also applauded the high satisfaction rates with CPD funding, among the 2005-6 recipients.

But she said: "People are still thinking CPD entails going on a course (33 per cent). Maybe that's something we can monitor."

Gareth Roberts, professor of education at Bangor university, predicted the pattern of CPD applications would change, with more teachers applying for funding for training related to the roll-out of the Welsh baccalaureate.

So far this year (2006-7), the GTCW has allocated pound;1.8 million of the pound;2.5m available for teachers' CPD and for administration of the scheme.

As of September 25, funding had been allocated to more than 2,400 teachers, with a target of 3,500 by the end of next March.

More than two-fifths of applicants have received funding in previous rounds of the five-year scheme.

* The removal of up-front payments for inducting newly-qualified teachers and supporting teachers in their second and third years is putting some schools in financial difficulties.

The GTCW took over the administration of funding for induction and early professional development from this September. Schools now have to get approval for how they spend the cash before receiving it. But council members told GTCW officials that some schools were struggling to provide support to new staff up-front.

Elwyn Davies, head of Pencoed comprehensive, Bridgend, said it was a cash-flow problem.

Goronwy Jones, head of Baden Powell primary school, Cardiff, said: "If you have got more than one person involved in induction or EPD, then sometimes the work can't be done because the money isn't there."

Suzanne Nantcurvis, a teacher at Ysgol Dinas Bran, Denbighshire, said:

"Because the money is coming in after the event, people are being denied opportunities."

Chairman Mal Davies said the council would ask the Assembly government for more flexibility in cases of hardship, but that the system had been set up to ensure the money was being spent properly.


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