In this unprecedented time we have been fortunate enough to be gifted so many CPD opportunities. From ResearchEd Durrington on Loom, to the TDT CPD connect ups and everything in between. For this, I am so grateful. I live and breath teacher development as an integral part of my role as Research Lead, as well as from a personal perspective.

I recently asked Twitter what their school’s CPD provision was during this time:

The majority of teachers (63.5%) were somehow engaging in CPD, whether it was directed by themselves or their school, evidenced or otherwise. That equates to 1,247 teachers just who responded to this poll. Extrapolating that nationally would indicate a significant number of colleagues are doing some form of professional development in the midst of our national situation.

I was dismayed to see that at least 14.8% of teachers needed to record this. (This proportion may well be higher if my questioning was a little more refined!)

Recording your CPD activity – to what end? To prove time spent? To earn a performance managment target?

I could be too cynical, of course, many may be recording their activity to discuss further with colleagues at a later date. I might just be grumpy? Sore from a history of unnecessary paperwork and administration. But the responses certainly raise questions around CPD during this time and beyond.

Why CPD?

I fundamentally believe that developing, moreover, improving classroom practice, and in turn, improving the deal our children get from their education, should sit at the heart of our profession. With a wealth of resources available at our finger tips my view has been “make the most of it”. Mostly, because I have the time. My school has not demanded that I make video lessons, nor stick to my normal timetable. I have to set appropriate tasks, that are manageable for them (and me) and respond to emails between 9am – 3pm. I know I have this good. So I need to use my time wisely.

What hasn’t occurred to me, at least until today, is how overwhelming this all may be for other people. Surely, we”re being offered tonnes of high quality CPD opportunities from, what can only be described as educational greats, this can only be a positive, right?

There are so many positives, not least listening to The Thinking School’s author Kulvarn Atwal discussing the transformation in his school and their focus on a “Dynamic learning community” during the Teacher Development Trust’s #CPDConnectUp: https://tdtrust.org/cpdconnectup

Notes from Kulvarn Atwal TDT CPD Connect up

Listening to this transformation, their use of action research and their culture of High Trust – High Challenge was really powerful, particularly when we consider that teacher effectiveness is the number 1 in school school factor to influence a child’s outcomes. Our role in harnessing teacher development is imperative.

During this fantastic session, I was fortunate to be in a ‘break-out’ room with the wonderful Jill Berry, who raised the following points:

  • The amount of CPD can be quite overwhelming, should this be curated by a senior leader or HoD for their staff?
  • How do we simplify all of this?
  • What’s working, what’s helping right now?

Alongside this, there was a questionnaire during the session, in which people were asked how their school’s CPD might change in light of current events. The responses provided a normal distribution from “won’t change” to will be “completely different.”

This, in conjunction with questions from David Weston:

How will what we have learnt today effect what we will do moving forward? In a time of uncertainty?

I really don’t think this question can be overstated. How we move forwards with CPD can make or break what we do in more certain times. If we are leaders of CPD or recipients thereof, then the relationships built, messages sent and standards set during our time of crisis will linger far beyond school opening or the first INSET day back in normality.

What we do now and what we plan for moving forward matters, more so than ever before. We have colleagues crying out to use their time to learn, to read, to engage. We have colleagues with huge personal responsibility, whose time is not their own right now. And everything in between.

All of this, in one way or another will impact on their wellbeing, their sense of self and their image of themselves as a teacher and a professional. This is where our responsibility becomes heavy, get it wrong and we not only risk wasting people’s time, but we actually risk chipping away at our colleagues in a time where everything around them may already be doing that.

I intend on sounding dramatic here. You see, a global pandemic kind of gives you permission to do that. The thing is, we just do not know what is happening in our colleagues lives right now.

So, how do we ensure our colleagues are getting the deal that they deserve?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Is anyone knowledgeable about CPD in a crisis? If they are, could you ask them to DM me, I have a few questions.

What I would suggest is this, do not put the car before the horse. Ensure you are developing a relationship with a strong focus on wellbeing. In a non-manipulative way. But in the knowledge that this is essential to positive outcomes.

Have a culture of transparency.

If your colleagues are working from home, but have a dependent relative or 3 children demanding attention, make sure that it is OK for them to let you know. Without fear of judgement or accusation of not working hard enough. No one expected to be in this situation. We have to be flexible. As part of this we must realise that not everyone will be around as often as they might be contracted for, and that should be OK. Its not a choice but a matter of necessity.

A culture of high trust

Ask

Every school’s CPD offering is different, but what we all have in common right now is that plan is completely out of the window! No matter how hard we try, for our students or our colleagues, we cannot recreate the school environment, so we must improvise as best we can. So, to that end, ask your colleagues:

  • What do they need from CPD right now?
  • Further support on safe guarding under the new circumstances?
  • Is it some guidance on remote learning?
  • Is there a specific educational book they want to read, a list of specific webinars available, etc?
  • Is their CPD the learning they are doing day by day, adjusting to this new world we find ourselves in?

A simple Google forms, Survey Monkey or one line email response, that is not onerous for sender or recipient is paramount. No one needs to be bogged down.

Be the filter, the gatekeeper, the signposter.

A culture of high trust

Have a contingency for our return

When we go back to school, whenever that is, our school priorities may (more likely will) have changed. We need to prepare for this.

Using the information we have about our colleagues prior to and during this unqiue time, what will they individually need upon return? Remebering, what will they need to positively impact on student outcomes?

For some this may mean a back to basics approach.

Others, this may be subject specific support.

You could utilise coaching as a development approach (if you have the knowledge, training and facilities already established for this).

Ultimately, being responsisive to the needs of our colleagues will not go unnoticed, and may make all the difference to their return to work, their efficacy in the classroom, their self-esteem and the children in their care.

A culture of high trust will lead to a culture of high challenge

CPD in a crisis:

Should we do it?

In short, yes, if people want it, need it and it is not going to negatively impact upon them.

Are we doing it?

Yes, tonnes of it, but we could do better. We need to filter, finesse and formulate a plan to make a coherent structure, that is easily digestible, responsive to need and is bespoke.

Are we doing it right?

Maybe, maybe not. But just ask. Let your colleagues be your guide. Give them the autonomy to make the professional decisions, appropriate to them right now.

We will all make mistakes, let’s not punish ourselves and others, realise that this is not forever, but the consequences of our choices could be, so be human, first and foremost.