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Time out to tune into the latest techno sounds

A PRIMARY headteacher who went on a four-week sabbatical at a botanic garden to improve his knowledge of sustainable development. A music teacher who used a professional development bursary to bring her up-to-date with the latest sounds and technology.

These two examples of how teaching staff used pound;2.86 million of Assembly government funding during 20067 under the continuing professional development programme were cited in a report by Estyn last week.

As the report was published Susan Lewis, chief inspector, said of the CPD programme, administered by the General Teaching Council for Wales: "It has a powerful and positive effect on teachers. It makes then feel valued and reinvigorates the way they work."

But the report gave a mixed verdict on the effects of the CPD programmes on schools and pupils.

Inspectors found that teachers who took short breaks to enhance their knowledge, such as trips to schools abroad and courses aimed at research and the sharing of good practice, did have an impact.

But being out of the classroom for six weeks or longer could disrupt pupils' learning, with the outcome for the teacher being one of "purely personal experience".

Some teachers were also taken to task for not tracking the impact of their new-found learning on pupils on their return.

However, inspectors found that uptake is healthy as heads increasingly encourage staff to apply for CPD funding which they cannot afford out of their own budgets.

Mal Davies, chairman of the GTCW and head of Willows High School in Cardiff. said: "I'm not surprised the report is so positive. The pound;3m empowers teachers."

Funding of up to pound;5,000 can be provided for a sabbatical. The highest award is the Professional Network, allowing a group of teachers to work together on a regular basis. Visits to Europe under the Professional Development Bursary are up to pound;600, rising to pound;1,000 outside Europe.

Estyn wants teachers guided to collect evidence on how CPD can raise pupil achievement.

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