PD Now a Top Priority

Will the teaching profession be forever prone to problems which drive out the talented and well-meaning? Not if we put professional learning back at the top of schools’ agendas and allow teachers to determine their own needs at least to some extent.

Educators’ twitter feeds have for a long while been awash with announcements of educators who have come to the end of the line after just a few years – it’s no secret that teacher retention in schools is a huge issue. So what has been done to counter the problem? And is it enough to address the inherent problem of micromanagement in schools which sucks out teacher autonomy, drive and creativity.

The Early Career Framework, while it’s true value has yet to be revealed, has to be a big step in the right direction in ensuring that schools provide critical support and firm foundations on which Early Career Teachers can develop. Another important movement in schools whose aim is to develop teachers’ skills and therefore their efficacy in the classroom is that of coaching and mentoring.

These (different) approaches aim to achieve the same broad goal: to support the teacher’s development, by sharing knowledge, increasing selfawareness, developing skills, and exposing individuals to new perspectives which should lead to real impact and may lead to career progression. This support ought to be based on one-to-one relationships which are supportive and non-judgemental and involve observing, listening, and asking questions to understand the individual’s situation and use questioning techniques to facilitate the individual’s thought processes.

All crucial if done properly. But is this enough when some schools continue to micromanage the socks off its professionals?: “Do it this way, not that way.”, “Use this planning proforma.”, “Lessons should look like this.” and on top of this, precious PPA time being heavily directed, planning meetings with senior leaders, meetings at lunchtime and in any ‘free’ after school slots, all labelled ‘support’ but essentially detracting from all-important thinking time and even a sense of autonomy.

We sympathise. Teachers need autonomy and schools need to develop their teachers. So a balance must be struck. The EEF in its recent publication on the topic of PD recognises its importance but notes that it also comes with costs: “We know that teachers engage in professional development activities whilst balancing multiple and, at times, competing commitments and time pressures.

The need is clear, therefore, for PD to be well-designed, selected, and implemented so that the investment is justified.” To tackle the problem, training providers like Equis in Education are thinking differently and creating learning opportunities that are brief, affordable and accessible to individuals or groups, such as BLIPlet webinars covering a variety of topics, soon to be available as bitesized, 6 or 7 minute videos.

These kinds of opportunities will allow teachers to make their own choices while also supporting important whole school areas for development such as behaviour management, SEMH or developing coaching skills.

Now we’ve seemingly kicked omicron into touch, professional learning is coming off the backburner, finally, and schools will hopefully proactively encourage a healthy culture for teacher development. It’s time!

By Emma Gardner

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