The times, they are a-changing

20th May 2005 at 01:00
Pupils deserve teachers who keep up to date with training that is generated close to home, writes Brian Boyd

You enter the GP's surgery and in the few minutes prior to diagnosis you discover the doctor qualified in 1970. Since then, he proudly boasts, he has never read a single book on medicine; he never gets involved in field trials and avoids training courses with other GPs like the plague.

He prefers to rely on experience.

You might be thinking seriously of changing your GP. And yet, for many years, that is how it was in teaching, too. Reading, research, in-service and theory were all regarded with suspicion, to be avoided if possible. The only difference was that the pupils had no rights in the matter.

All of that is changing. Continuing professional development is now an entitlement. Thirty-five hours a year may not seem a huge amount but this is about quality rather than quantity.

CPD is now defined as much more than simply in-service courses. The Scottish Executive has issued a list (in Continuing Professional Development, 2002 ) which "is intended to be illustrative rather than exhaustive".

The list includes: * activity related to achieving national standards

* self-evaluation and personal reflection

* subject-based activities, including involvement with professional bodies and associations

* attendance at in-service days

* membership of school committees and task groups

* developing school, local authority and national policies

* visits to and from colleagues in other schools

* co-operative teaching

* lesson observation and analysis

* secondments

* professional reading and research

* mentoring and supporting colleagues

* curricular planningdevelopment

* management and leadership development opportunities

* teacher placements

* working with others, including as part of inter-agency teams, and

* working with parentscarers.

The post-McCrone crop of teachers is, in a real sense, the CPD generation. By the time their probationary year is out, most of them will have been exposed to more high-quality CPD than most teachers of the 1970s had in a decade.

Local authorities across the country have put together very impressive programmes for probationer teachers. Schools have supplemented these with in-house support across the curriculum. In addition, each local authority publishes its own catalogue of CPD opportunities for all staff, often offered as twilight (after school), weekend and even "vacation mode" courses.

Only last month I spent an enjoyable Saturday in Dingwall, working with some 40 teachers on thinking skills. This was the fourth of a series of five days, the remainder of which were held on school days. The pattern of CPD is changing.

But it is not all good news. Chartered Teacher, the flagship programme designed to reward good teachers for staying in the classroom, has not been taken up by anything like the numbers predicted.

The four core modules, out of 12, have received a positive evaluation from the participants. There is also an extensive list of optional modules - including a number developed by Tapestry, an innovative organisation which partners education and the arts, based on the work of people such as Howard Gardner, Reuven Feuerstein and Tony Buzan - which have not yet run because of insufficient take-up.

Whether it is the cost of individual modules (pound;600-plus) or the strain of having to complete 12 of them, perhaps spread over six years, while holding down a full-time job, teachers are not coming forward in large numbers.

If chartered teachers are to make a significant contribution to school improvement, then it is in the interest of Scottish education that more people are encouraged to take the qualification.

However, we need to promote CPD, in all its forms, in such a way as to enhance the professionalism of those working in and with schools. Models from the past, which saw teachers as mere "deliverers" of the curriculum or conduits for national initiatives, have rightly been questioned. Now, at least as much CPD should be generated from within the school or cluster as from the local authority or the universities.

As integrated community schools become the norm, increasingly, inter-agency training should become a prerequisite for collaborative working.

The most significant development may well lie in the area of professional reading and research. The relationship between teachers and researchers should be a partnership of equals. Teachers should be encouraged to develop the skills to allow them to conduct their own research. But they should also be in a position to subject research to a critique, and the best way of ensuring this is through professional reading.

In the past, too much research-based literature was not written with teachers in mind.

For the CPD generation, having the time and opportunity to be a reflective professional will be a legitimate aspiration. It is the very least their pupils should expect.

Brian Boyd is professor of education at Strathclyde University

Hodder Gibson has produced a new continuing professional development in education series aimed at teachers. The series, edited by Brian Boyd, aims to present important professional issues in an accessible, engaging style. The first four titles provide an introduction to thinking skills, additional support needs, primary to secondary transition and CPD itself. CPD: Improving Professional Practice, Additional Support Needs, Learning to Think: Thinking to Learn and Primary-Secondary Transition will be published, in association with TES Scotland, on June 2, pound;9.99 each

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