This week we offer solutions for overcoming any such blocks so that you can continue through the year developing your practice as an unhindered CPD leaderQuote of the Week

“Not only do we as individuals get locked into single-minded views, but we also reinforce these views for each other until the culture itself suffers the same mindlessness.”

− Ellen J. Langer

Practical Tips Banishing blocks to strategic CPD planning

Alongside the real world in which you work, is an ideal world. In that paradise, strategic plans are developed and come to fruition, all hurdles are overcome with ease and there’s a never-ending supply of enthusiasm for your work because results are evident for all to see. Sounds heavenly! There are many potential blocks to your success as a professional development coordinator, but knowing what these are and anticipating how they may affect the direction of your work can greatly reduce their influence. Here we offer potential solutions for some of the blocks faced by many CPD leaders.

Issue: In some schools the job of CPD coordinator is viewed in isolation and not as a vital part of the senior leadership team’s responsibilities. Without full backing at the senior level it will be virtually impossible to develop a solid CPD culture among staff members at all levels.

Solution: A key priority would be to establish strong links between the role of CPD coordinator and senior colleagues, in particular those with specific interests and expertise in lifelong learning. Make sure that the age-old issues of time and money remain high on the CPD agenda in your school. There is no reason why your school’s commitment to CPD cannot be reviewed and reinforced by governors and staff members on a regular basis.

Issue: A lack of desire to embed professional learning firmly within efforts to improve outcomes for pupils.

Solution: A ‘back to basics’ review of where professional learning is in your school right now can help. Take a look at how each professional development activity contributes to the improvement of teaching and learning. Do more of what works, and reassess the value of what doesn’t appear to contribute to this most crucial goal of CPD.

Issue: A separation between planning for CPD and overall school development planning. This often leads to a mismatch of needs and resources, wasting opportunities to improve the teaching and learning in a school.

Solution: Ensure that school development planning and planning for CPD feed into and are informed by one another, at every level of your school’s operations.

Issue: Disagreement over the best use of CPD resources.

Solution: Develop a commitment to using a range of CPD devices, from good quality (and supported) coaching and mentoring to the buying in of expertise from outside your school’s community.

Issue: A lack of opportunity for staff members to work, plan and study together collaboratively.

Solution: We know from evidence how effective collaboration in work and professional development can be in schools. Sometimes this kind of opportunity is enough to reinvigorate commitment to making improvements in teaching and learning. Don’t leave this kind of collaboration to chance though − for true success, it needs to be timetabled.

Issue: The history of (mis)use of performance management in a school rendering it little more than a tool (or weapon) for accountability rather than for genuine professional learning.

Solution: Working with all staff and governors to ensure a common acceptance that performance management is a central part of the development process, rather than simply a mechanism for ‘checking up’.

Issue: A lack of personalisation in the professional learning undertaken by staff at your school.

Solution: Work towards ensuring that all professional learning harnesses and builds on the expertise that already exists in your school. The key is to tap into what individuals care about in their work with children and link that to their professional learning for the future.

Over to you…

Have you had success in overcoming blocks to strategic CPD planning? Write your comment below, outlining your experiences of CPD.

Issues and Information Mental health concerns continue

Yet another report into the mental health of the nation’s children has found that local mental health services are ‘below satisfactory’, leading headteachers to fear that children are ‘slipping though the net’, such that it is. Regardless of whose responsibility it is to provide and maintain excellent mental health services for children, the clear message coming through repeatedly from these reports is that teachers and others working in schools need to be equipped to spot the signs of mental distress in the pupils that they teach, and to know where to go for help and information. While initial teacher training may not necessarily have the time or space to cover such issues, professional learning in schools can do so both implicitly and explicitly. An issue of this seriousness could benefit from frequent auditing within every school, both to gather information on the skills and expertise already in existence and to develop areas of perceived weakness within the context of education.

Find out more

To find out more about child mental health, visit the Young Minds website

Find out about promoting mental health in schools as part of Every Child Matters click here

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2008

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.