A breakdown of...CPD
"This will be the best CPD you will ever complete" = Cue me sat in a Holiday Inn eating pain au chocolat for 8 hours...
Later this year, I will travel to Singapore to find out why their teacher retention is so high, particularly among new teachers. There are obviously many cultural factors that come into play here; however, there is also the fact that both the Ministry and Institute for Education (MOE and NIE) offer unparalleled training and support. In fact, TALIS, an international comparative survey, found Singaporean teachers to be “some of the best trained teachers in the world.” This is particularly important considering that it also has the youngest teaching workforce of all TALIS countries (at an average of 36 years), with the OECD explaining how:
"With a young teaching force resulting in a larger proportion of teachers with fewer years of teaching experience, Singapore has put in place strong teacher preparation and peer-mentoring programmes to help newer teachers succeed"
This is something that Harry Fletcher-Wood explored in his incredible seven-post blog series 'Education in Singapore', where he explored the secrets of this record-breaking education system.
So where am I going with this? Well, the purpose of my trip to Singapore is to find out how teachers can be better supported in their first five years of teaching (and hopefully, beyond!) I think my choice of opening quote for this blog post pretty much sums up the state of CPD in the UK. Your school shells out £300 for you to travel into a strange suburb of London or Manchester, where you then sit for eight hours drinking too much coffee, eating stale pastries and listening to someone give the same presentation they have given since the nineties (shout out to Microsoft PowerPoint on Windows '98 - alive and well in a Holiday Inn in Lambeth). The crazy thing is, many teachers would now consider this a luxury! With school purse strings tightening, it is likely that our annual escape away from the daily rabble will be a thing of the past; we will have to find new ways to get our hands on high-end biros and headed paper (the best things to come from these CPD days...literally...)
"But, Paul!" I hear you cry, "What about the termly INSETs? Aren't they useful CPD?" To be fair, I wouldn't know; I will tell you if I manage to keep myself awake through my next one. After the standard talks on safeguarding, e-safety and network updates (which are clearly important, I do not deny that), departments are left with just an hour to discuss how they can improve things within the school. A lot of ideas are then banded around, the laggards in the back fold their arms and mutter to one another, then everyone packs up and goes home. How is this useful CPD? Ultimately, something needs to change. Teachers, especially those new to the profession, are leaving the profession because of unnecessary workload, lack of progression, poor behaviour (from pupils and staff!) and excessive paperwork. Why are schools not sharing best practice in these areas?
So, for all those new teachers who are struggling with a certain part of their teaching. For all those heroes who have struggled through INSET after INSET, pastry after pastry, this is for you. Here is a breakdown of the five best pieces of CPD I have ever come across in the last five years:
Coming in at number five is the best subject-specific CPD that a teacher can embark on (in my opinion). I have been to a good handful of 'How to teach A Level/GCSE History...' courses over the past few years, particularly when the GCSE and A-Level specifications changed; but they all pale in comparison to actually marking the blasted things myself. If you are new to a GCSE or A Level syllabus, then get yourself signed up to mark or moderate. You will quickly realise what is needed to get the top grades and will become so much more confident advising on exam technique in the classroom. So no more of that: "Is it two paragraphs or three?", "Do we have to bring in other texts?" and "Does the coursework need an introduction?"
> You will get to parade the department being the person that actually understands the mark scheme ("No Karen, it's analyse then evaluate, not evaluate then analyse...")
> You get paid. It's not great, but usually between £700 and £1000 depending on the level
> It takes up a good chunk of your life between May and July (I found coursework moderation far easier than exam marking in terms of workload)
> You might know the exam like the back of your hand, but it doesn't give you tips on how to actually deliver it in the classroom.
How many times do we tell our students about the importance of reading? Yet, when we reach adulthood, we suddenly stop. Now, I know that many of us can polish off a gritty crime drama in a week or two, but when was the last time that you picked up a book on pedagogy? There are so many out there to choose from, which is perhaps part of the problem for teachers who are new to all of this! If you're confused, then start with this summary from the National Education Show, or take to Twitter to see the latest 'thing' that teachers are raving about. Perhaps check if your school has its own Teaching and Learning section in the library or ask colleagues for their recommendations. @BRobertson1381 recently shared his reading board from Eyemouth High School, which I think is a great idea that all schools should adopt:
> Again, you can be the one in the school who can offer the latest insights and name-drop a researcher or two ("Karen, I'm not sure that really fits in with Rosenshine's principles...").
> This CPD is essentially tailor-made. As a I said, there are so many books out there, so it should be easy to find one that fits your subject or level.
> Time. I am always amazed by the people that have the time to read these books cover to cover. My advice would be to dip in-and-out as you need them.
> It is one thing having a list of ideas to try out in class, but sometimes you need a bit of a helping hand understanding 'did that actually work?' - no amount of words and pages can help you with that!
3) Internal Teaching and Learning sessions
Chances are, your school has a Teaching and Learning lead who is in charge of all things CPD for teaching staff. If you do, then my advice would be to find out from them what is going on over the coming term/year. You may have a preconceived idea of them based on the absolutely dire INSET that was delivered at the start of the year, but chances are, they had their arm twisted in numerous directions by the rest of SLT, so give them a chance (for now...) As well as the T&L lead, within lots of schools there is also an underground network of enthusiastic mole teachers, who are working away to improve pupil outcomes, metacognition and wellbeing. My current school runs monthly workshops delivered by these keen members of staff (I recently delivered a session on retrieval practice to a crowd of 20; next stop, Wembley...) and it also has working parties on everything from sanctions to marking. There may even be networks for recently-qualified teachers that you will be invited along to. My advice would be to get involved with as much as possible (within reason), as it will allow you to integrate yourself into the school community and will give you a renewed love for the job at the times where you're questioning your sanity.
> It's completely free and requires very little effort on your part. Just turn up at lunchtime or after school every so often, then sit back and immerse yourself in the wonders of cognitive load theory.
> After a few terms, you may feel confident enough to deliver a session yourself. This is a great way to develop your career and get yourself noticed by SLT for that upcoming HoD job ('Hi Karen, remember me...?')
> You are often at the mercy of your Teaching and Learning lead on this one. If they have no clue what they are doing, then the CPD opportunities within the school may be few and far between.
> Again, time is a big thing here. The 45 minutes over lunch are often your only moments of peace before the mad rush of afternoon classes, so a seminar on engagement can appear more like a chore than an opportunity.
I bloody love a good conference. Yes, they can be expensive (you won't get much change out of £50/£60, even with the NQT discount!) but there is just something fulfilling about sitting in a conference hall surrounded by the big dogs of the profession. Half the time I have no clue what is being said, but I make notes anyway and nod every few minutes to convince myself that I could be the next David Didau. If you are new to conferences, then I would really recommend ResearchEd. Some of their sessions can be a little technical (I once had one delivered by a knee surgeon...), but they are all quite small and you can often find an upcoming conference happening in a town/city near you. Conferences are often the best way for teachers to bridge the gap between research and classroom practice; there is always a good mix of speakers from all areas, who can pass on their experiences of implementing a theory or practice.
> The networking that goes on at conferences is insane. Get your Twitter finger ready and throw yourself into the conversation. Chances are, you'll come away with some great connections for the future.
> You are definitely at the cutting edge of education with this CPD (take that, Karen...)
> Definitely one of the most expensive pieces of CPD that an average teacher will pay for themselves, so bye bye shopping budget!
> Conferences can be a little overwhelming for a NQT, so take my advice and start small, before moving into the big national events.
1) Professional qualifications and programmes
By far the best CPD I have ever completed was the Chartered Teacher programme from the Chartered College of Teaching (I say 'completed', I get my results next week so...this could be awkward). Programmes and qualifications like these are obviously hard work. This one involved 14 months of reading, essay writing and reflection, all on top of a full-time job. However, the impact that this CPD has had on my classroom teaching has been phenomenal. Rather than just 'doing', I now 'think, do and reflect', which means that any intervention is considered for its effectiveness and payoff. It has also given me so much more confidence with my teaching and I can walk into most conversations with a sound understanding of pedagogy. The great thing for new teachers, is that the Chartered College recently helped launch a separate programme for those who are new to the profession, (Accelerate) which provides a breakdown of research and best practice to prepare you for the world of teaching. Definitely one to check out!
Obviously, programmes like these are not cheap and you are unlikely to pay for it yourself. My advice would be to approach your school and negotiate some sort of agreement so that they foot the bill. Then, the only thing left to do is to text your friends and family to tell them that you'll see them again in fourteen months time...
> Perhaps the most rewarding CPD. Every time you see those letters after your name or that note on your CV, you'll be reminded that you conquered this pedagogical beast.
> These programmes have been tailor-made to offer you the ultimate set of skills to thrive within a particular area of education, so you know that you will be getting your money's worth
> Again, it is a huge time commitment and you need to be in a pretty solid place to take on a professional qualification!
> I am in two minds about letting my school pay for my qualifications, as I sometimes feel they could hold it against me at a later date. Just triple check the agreement that you are making before signing on the dotted line.
So there you go, my Top 5 CPD opportunities for new teachers. If you have any advice or insights then join the conversation on Twitter, using #teacherbreakdown. Happy learning!