Relatively little is known about the coalition’s precise plans for education at this stage. What we do know, however, are the grand narrative themes: for example, the intention to give schools greater freedom over teaching. Such regime shifts demand our close attention, so this CPD Update imagines what the impact of this may be on professional learning in schoolspdf-2004274

CPD Week Info Sheet – Academies Bill.pdf

‘People are easily led. The more you feed them baby food, the more they want it. I’m trying to encourage people to start growing up, walking on two feet – thinking for themselves… I don’t have answers, I have questions.’
Terry Gilliam

So, the new ministers at the Department for Education want schools to have greater freedom over the curriculum and over teaching. At the time of writing no detail has been released but, thanks in part to the Twittersphere, we do know that the new Department’s core priority ‘is to focus on teaching and learning’.

Without wishing to assert the obvious too strongly (every incarnation of the government department with responsibilities for education over the years has focused on teaching and learning), this does provide schools with the ideal impetus to ask pertinent questions about how, through its programme of professional learning, it will deal with any brave new world which may emerge through policy change. To help guide your school through this process, these areas for consideration may help:

  • Re-thinking: Great professional learning is about discovery, critical thinking, making connections and meeting the learning halfway. It’s about becoming adept at contextualising and is totally distinct from consultancy. When the boundaries between consultancy and professional learning become blurred, great opportunities for learning are wasted.
  • Questioning: It could be that we are on the brink of a radical shift in freedoms and flexibilities that schools have over what is taught. Interestingly, though, flexibilities do already exist but the extent to which they are used varies tremendously from school to school. Asking key questions within your school about the way in which flexibilities may be received is worth doing. How, as a school, would you deal with it? Is there any toxicity to underlying pedagogy which needs to be dealt with?
  • Balancing: Greater freedom over teaching means a vastly enhanced need for professional learning which holds in tension the needs of both the individual and the school as a whole. This means exploring ways of protecting funding and creating opportunities for learning.
  • Aligning: While differing needs among staff members will need to be acknowledged with a common awareness, there is no reason why this difference cannot feed into common goals and progress. In this sense, difference can align with the way in which the school needs to function as a whole.
  • Think together: Keep asking questions! This helps to encourage mutual respect and counters fragmentation. Thinking together does not mean thinking the same. Acknowledging this develops core strength in a school.

Perhaps sticking to the same old rhythms when circumstances demand a different dance cannot work. This is not a time to ‘go with the flow’! It’s a time to find ways of re-thinking things; of re-imagining ways of working. And regardless of whether that leads to radical shifts or subtle tweaks, great learning will emerge from the process.

Find out more…

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2010

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.