Will we learn the importance of CPD?

12th December 2008 at 00:00

Thanks to A Curriculum for Excellence, themed weeks are now common in schools. Careful cross-curricular planning is going into citizenship, health and wellbeing and whole-school projects. However, sometimes you have weeks where you can discern a theme that has happened almost by accident.

In November, we had a visit from university researchers who spoke to staff about "how teachers learn", examining continuing professional development, whole-school and individual experiences, and the formal and informal route to career-long learning in the profession.

The question at the end of my interview was: "If you had x amount of money for each member of staff for CPD, how would you best use it?" Having spent the previous 45 minutes boring for Scotland to a captive audience, this was the point at which I was forced to take a deep breath and reflect.

I thought of experiences this year with our newly qualified teachers and students, and suggested improved opportunities for observation and team teaching, coupled with some kind of sabbatical arrangement.

This would be the best way to help our teachers not only learn, but to reflect and put in place the fruits of what they had seen and thought about.

The following day I observed one of our most experienced English teachers deliver a great lesson to a group of challenging pupils, in a gentle but firm and directive atmosphere, and realised how inspirational such a model would be to her colleagues.

The day after that, a lecturer friend spoke about a conference he had attended where industrialists had opined that two initiatives at one time were the limit for any real chance of success, before becoming slack-jawed when their educational equivalents counted out 29 current initiatives.

The theme was developing - observation and reflection, focus and opportunity were the tools for teachers to continue learning effectively and to the benefit of their pupils.

At the end of the week, The TESS, as you would expect, made its own contribution to the week's focus: "CPD budgets slashed" read the front page headline (November 21).

Thankfully, our own council was not one in that position. It did promote the thematic outcome: when will we ever learn?

Sean McPartlin, is depute head at St Margaret's Academy, Livingston.

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