Achieving excellence with teacher-led CPD

Jo Fairclough

Jo Fairclough an Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for Teaching & Learning, CEIAG and International links at Aldridge School. Aldridge School is a large mixed secondary school and sixth form in Walsall, West. Midlands. Jo started her teaching career as a teacher of history before moving on to be Head of History in a further two schools in the West Midlands. She has been an Assistant Headteacher for one year, and works on a variety of projects involving peer coaching, in-house staff support and developing the use of new technologies in the classroom.

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All school leaders want their teachers to have good-quality continuing professional development (CPD) that develops them as individuals and makes a measurable and significant contribution to school improvement. Clearly a number of challenges get in the way for many schools; budgetary and time restrictions being just a few. Furthermore, research from the Teacher Development Trust shows that, at present, the vast majority of CPD is having no impact in the classroom, and too few schools are bothering to check to see how, if at all, CPD is transforming teaching and learning.

If schools are to develop their teachers into first-rate reflective and high performing practitioners, they need a varied and personalised CPD programme. Aldridge School has begun to move away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach to CPD, to a CPD programme that appeals to a range of teachers, unlocking the potential that exists within.

Good quality CPD...develops excellent practitioners

Our schools' motto is 'Achieving Excellence'. When I began here in September 2013, I had a firm belief that the key to achieving excellent practitioners lay within the wealth of expertise among our own teaching staff. Like many teachers, I have sat through various whole school training days that had little or no impact on my daily practice and while a considerable budget is still set aside for external CPD, I felt a need to move away from the ‘one-size fits all’ approach that still exists in a number of schools.

Research from 2006, 2011 and 2012 shows that CPD is most effective when it is targeted, evidence-based, collaborative, sustained and evaluated. Spurred on by calls from staff for more opportunities to share excellent practice, a varied programme of personalised in-house CPD has been developed to better target the exact needs of staff.

Good quality CPD…is varied and personalised

The CPD programme is focused on the school specific needs for improving teaching and learning such as questioning and feedback. Staff have been able to create their own bespoke CPD programme by choosing from a wide variety of opportunities. This has included a 'risky business' half-termly lunch, monthly in-house Tea-time tasters and the introduction of a Teaching & Learning journal. Staff were initially approached to lead tea-time taster sessions but a culture has begun to develop where sessions are being organised spontaneously and voluntarily.

The T&L Journal also provides an opportunity for staff to showcase reflective practice on areas such as reflections on the impact of Speaking and Listening Active Development days, using student-led learning and improving student response to teacher feedback. The journal is used to make staff aware of relevant websites, blogs, Twitter accounts, books and academic papers that will support their learning.

There is a real sense that a culture of co-operation and creativity is being developed, and this was evident in the week-long CPD festival that ran in June. This featured an Open Classroom trial where staff could drop in and out of each other’s lessons as well as numerous tea-time taster sessions. Over 80 staff took part in some way and feedback submitted suggested that it not only reaffirmed teaching practice but that more staff wanted an opportunity to volunteer next time.

Good quality CPD…is monitored and evaluated

However, as schools it is crucial to monitor the impact of external and in-house CPD on school improvement . Bluesky Education has proved to be an invaluable tool in ensuring that performance management processes really drive improvement. The the impact of all CPD is monitored and measured as staff must complete short and long term 'impact' statements. In particular, the bespoke CPD is working well in developing high performing practitioners and there has been a 10% increase in the number of lessons demonstrating excellent practice.

Good quality CPD…is sustained and collaborative

A number of ‘T&L Coach’ positions have been created for 2014-5 to extend the use of coaching. Another significant element of the role developing effective approaches to teaching and learning in a specific area. The introduction of Outstanding Learning Communities (OLC’s) wlll form the basis of this work. All staff will choose a strand of T&L such as ‘Developing a growth mindset’ or ‘Going Paperless’ to develop as part of these semi-autonomous OLC’s. Twilight time will be used to meet in these cross-curricular groups to share ideas, breakthroughs and problems. New ideas can then be put into practice, observed, discussed and re-evaluated before being presented in ‘Teachmeet’ style during the summer term.

How does your school handle CPD? Let us know in the comments.

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