Delivering high quality CPD in these challenging times
I have led CPD at Liverpool Life sciences UTC for the past 6 years and now also lead the CPD for the staff at The Studio School, along with my colleague Emma Weston. Delivering high quality CPD has been a key focus for us in the CUC building from day 1. With both schools opening their doors in 2013 we had the opportunity to do things a little differently from traditional schools across the country. Over the last 6 years CPD has focused on providing opportunities for our staff to engage in high quality professional development because we recognised early on that if our teachers thrive our students will too.
However, due to Covid-19 and schools across the UK closing their doors at the end of March we had to think outside the box. Schools have had to be innovative in order to operate effectively for their staff and students. We were fortunate at the UTC and Studio School as we have worked hard over the last 4 years ensuring all of our departments use Google Classroom so that our students can access the work they cover in class easily to aid revision and enabling students who may have missed the lesson due to absence to catch up. Our students were used to this way of working, therefore when we went into lockdown the transition to remote learning for our staff and students wasn’t too challenging.
My role as teaching and learning lead is to ensure I provide our teaching staff with the opportunities they need to develop and improve their practice. We recognise that CPD is about the teacher and, therefore, personalising CPD is crucial if it is to be effective for all. I realised that in order to ensure the CPD programme was effective for all our teachers I first needed to find out what they want and, more importantly need, from their CPD programme. The staff audit conducted at the end of the academic year allowed Emma and I to understand fully staff needs and we designed a CPD programme around their feedback. Staff were keen to have specific training at the start of the academic year on SEN and EAL to allow them to ensure they were catering for these students in their class from September. Staff wanted expert training and advice for these young people and were keen to learn some new strategies they could adopt in their lessons that will allow our SEN students or those with EAL to thrive in their classrooms.
Additionally, we found from the staff audit, that staff were keen to have CPD time allocated to subject specific CPD. This was the overwhelming response from our teaching team, therefore we ensured time was allocated for subject teams to plan and deliver the CPD that was essential to ensure all our teaching staff can be experts in their disciplinary fields. And lastly, staff were keen to have some degree of autonomy over their CPD and we agreed it could not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach. We decided to ensure the first half term was focused around training needs. This year we are developing the use of coaching with both staff and students, therefore training in this area is an essential addition to the programme. We are also planning on using our IRIS technology not only to improve our teaching and learning but also to develop our coaching practice. Again, staff training on the use of IRIS is essential in the first half term. After this, staff choose their own CPD activity each week based on their own needs or areas of interest. Our middle leaders have the opportunity to conduct some research into an area of pedagogy they are passionate about. Research has been an integral part of our CPD at the UTC and our teachers actively take part in action research to understand our students better and use practices in the classroom that are effective and enhance the learning taking place.
To do this, under the current Covid-19 climate, all of our CPD is now available remotely for our staff who can access it at a time convenient to them. We have created a Teaching and Learning website for staff in the CUC building to provide them with a central platform where they can access all their resources and training. Staff training, so far, has been delivered via video which staff have welcomed as they can access their CPD at a time convenient to them. Our profession is like no other. Teachers engage in CPD regularly out with school hours and many of us prefer reading articles and books or listening to podcasts at the weekend or in the evenings as this is where we find we have the most headspace to think. Teaching really is a vocation.
As we continue to navigate our way through these unchartered territories of a global pandemic in the 21st century we must ensure we learn from this experience. We have come to realise that there are other ways of working that enable us to have a better-quality work-life balance than we did previously. Our work does not always need to be done in the building and by encouraging staff to leave at the earliest opportunity, we allow them to get home at a reasonable hour. Those staff with young children can eat dinner with their families and help with the bedtime routine that they often missed. Staff not in this position can make the most of the last of the light nights before winter encroaches on us all. So many staff have told me how they are using their time after school to walk or cycle, some are going fishing and others just curling up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book. By giving our teachers the opportunity to personalise their CPD programme and access it at the most appropriate times for them, we are giving them the professional trust so often missing in the teaching profession and the opportunity to truly flourish as opposed to sitting through one size fits all CPD that may not actually fit their needs at all.
Within the Northern Schools Trust we value and prioritise cross trust CPD and come together as a trust twice a year. Additionally, we are adding to the CPD website to include CPD opportunities for our non-teaching staff.
If we want to improve the quality of teaching and learning in this country and we want to attract more people to join our profession then we must consider new ways of working. Would we have moved all our CPD to a remote platform had it not been for this pandemic? Probably not. We would still be delivering our CPD after school when staff are exhausted after teaching all day. We need to continue to learn from this experience and continue to find ways of working that actually achieve the ultimate aim we are setting out to achieve. We acknowledge that one of the most important aspects of being a teacher is accepting that we have a professional obligation to continually improve our practice, but we need to consider carefully how we create the right environment for staff to do so.
“By putting staff first, you are providing for students the one thing which will help them make good progress in their learning: truly great teaching.”
John Tomsett and Jonny Utterly
Putting Staff First
Liverpool Life Sciences UTC