We are in a season of culture change and transformation for CPD, according to speakers at the 4th annual CPD Update conference for professional development leaders

At the 2008 CPD leadership conference two major themes emerged early and recurred throughout the day. First, that we are in a time of culture change that will have far-reaching implications for CPD leaders. Second, that it is more important that ever to engage hard-to-reach colleagues, in order to realise that culture change.

Emphasis on growth
The conference was opened with enthusiasm and vigour by chair Patrick Nash from the Teacher Support Network, as he spoke of the new emphasis on ‘growth as professionals and as individuals’. Patrick explained how the Network has evolved from being seen as a crisis support service to a proponent of proactive engagement in developing professional practice. Patrick believes that ‘informal and formal learning are essential to effective CPD’ and that teachers need structured time for reflective activity, for example with supervision.

Changes and transitions
The first keynote speaker Liz Francis, Director of Teachers Programme at the TDA, took delegates on a whistle-stop tour of the extensive activities being undertaken and shared by the TDA to help schools achieve the ‘logical chain’ as identified in Ofsted’s 2006 report. Liz gave an update on what the policy-makers are doing – she noted that government has been moving away from centralised intervention – and drew out some further changes and transitions happening now, including the move away from ‘induction’ to core standards, from CPD co-ordinators to leaders, from internal provision to a rounded mix of collaborative and in-house activities. For the TDA, culture has emerged as being the crucial element to professional development. As Liz said, ‘the individual and the organisational must go hand in hand’. There is little point in an individual engaging in CPD if there is no culture of support and knowledge sharing in school. Liz issued a call to action for CPD leaders to make it happen!

The strategic leadership role
Vivienne Porrit, Head of CPD at the London Centre for Leadership in Learning, IOE, was the second keynote speaker. Vivienne spoke of the importance of the CPD leadership role being truly leading and strategic – particularly as many of those in the role state ‘lack of time’ is a major obstacle. Vivienne’s team has carried out research into the functions of CPD leaders, and also the nomenclature of the role. In May 2007, survey results showed that most were called ‘CPD co-ordinators’. Vivienne believes that ‘language is a key part in culture change – language signals culture’, and therefore it is vital that the CPD job title reflects the purpose of the role: to develop enquiry and action research processes, identify aspiring and future leaders, and above all share knowledge across the school. Vivienne believes that the latter is the key function of a CPD leader, ‘otherwise we replicate processes year in year out’. The research also revealed that many CPD leaders spend most of their time on managerial and administrative tasks rather than strategy and support. ‘CPD leaders should lead vision and strategy, and support processes – not do them’. And if you are wondering how this could be achieved, ‘Remodel!’. Vivienne finished with a challenge to delegates ‘What are the two things you will do to make a difference to the culture in your school?’

Turning ideas into actions
Following the keynotes, a series of small discursive workshops took place, which explored a range of aspects of culture change. Expert practitioners and senior leaders ran sessions including performance management and CPD for the wider workforce, cost-effective solutions for sharing good practice, early professional development and effective strategic leadership of CPD. Delegates enjoyed round-table discussions and took away plenty of practical ideas. In the workshop led by Josephine Smith, Deputy Head, Longfield School, the group discussed the benefits and challenges of producing a monthly in-house newsletter for sharing good practice, in the process encouraging contributions and engagement from hard-to-reach colleagues. Josephine also presented a transferable model for changing the approach to inset, by disaggregating days into ‘mix and match’ twilight sessions with both compulsory and elective options. Delegates discussed ways of extending this to clusters.

The day provided plenty of food for thought, informative policy updates and practical ideas to explore and implement. Perhaps above all, delegates took away a renewed sense of the potential of their roles as leaders of development and transformation. As Liz Francis said, ‘Changing the behaviour of experts is very difficult, but the role of CPD leader in changing culture is significant.’

Optimus Education conferences take place throughout the school year. Please click here for the current programme.