From inclusion to ethics, CPD Update looks at twelve essential headings for a CPD policy.
In the light of what seems about to happen as a result of government plans many schools will be looking again at their CPD policy. We present here an attempt to establish a set of principles for constructing a policy for professional learning. It is suggested that a policy should address all the following headings. Please regard this as merely a draft to adapt as you wish.
1. Inclusion and fairness
CPD is not confined to teachers. There should be no question of, for example, withholding resource for professional learning from a colleague who is not a teacher. Schools that have met the standard for Investors in People will recognise this. Nevertheless, a CPD policy needs to make this clear. An issue, however, is that when public money entering schools for CPD is designated for specific initiatives it can cut across plans to work collaboratively How will you address it?
2. Based upon rigorous and continuous analysis of professional learning needs It is important to demonstrate how the professional learning needs of individuals, groups, the school and any network or federation of which a school is a part are discovered. Needs are derived from a number of sources not all of which are imposed by government. They can be very imperfectly understood at the outset. They can change in the light of professional learning and events. And they are not always the same as ‘wants’. If analysis of needs is conducted badly individuals and a whole school may be setting themselves up for failure. Any claims made by a school that are based upon professional learning must be capable of being tracked back to how the school and the individuals in the school set about discovering the needs to be addressed. Another way of putting this is that before you can describe the circumstances in which an individual, group or whole school begins to learn professionally it is necessary to show how you decided what you or it needed to learn. So make sure that your policy shows how you propose to analyse professional learning needs.
Although there will be specific points in a year where analysis of need is likely to be addressed for the whole school and for individuals the word ‘continuous’ has been chosen as a reminder that understanding of need changes while the process of professional learning is taking place.
3. Consensus Achieving consensus does not mean that the majority is always right but the process of planning professional learning should take into account difference, disagreement and misunderstandings and it is not wise to hide away from those expressing contrary views as they will only find you at an awkward moment.
A phrase once in widespread use was ‘remove the person from the problem’. In other words, respect the person by not getting personal. If you can.
4. Part of a school’s overall strategy and self evaluation
Schools should wish to be informed by individual professional learning and the individual should have a good knowledge of the context in which they work. CPD can bring into question assumptions a school has made in the past and individuals often think ahead of a whole school: that is why they go on to become leaders.
5. Supported by senior leader/managers
As part of the connection between CPD and school strategy it is crucial that professional learning carries a high value. In other words, that professional learning is ‘on the agenda’ and resourced.
6. Allowing risk taking and not frightened to fail
Mistakes and learning go together. People often learn most from their ‘cock-ups’ because they are driven to find out what went wrong. But they have to feel that they will not be punished for doing so. Yes we can learn from success but, somehow, we are less driven to do so.
7. Reaching out
Schools are seldom successful when isolated. Schools relate to other schools, to local authorities and to communities. Any policy for the professional learning of staff should make clear how it connects with the world outside the school. Maybe reconciling collaboration with competition will have to be addressed here.
8. Subject to review
All policies should be subject to review. Although to some extent this is a constant process that takes into account changing needs, events and changing understanding of needs it is sensible to set a time once a year for a major review.
9. Critically examining all evidence, including any unexpected evidence for unintended outcomes
A policy for professional learning that fails to do this is making the fundamental mistake of only looking for evidence that fits the plan or target. It is important, therefore, to demonstrate that the policy is really about development rather than the simplistic attainment of targets.
10. Evaluation of impact
If you wish to be thorough about evaluation it is no good leaving it until the end. A policy needs to outline the steps that will be taken to ensure that evaluation of impact is taken seriously from the beginning.
11. Voice: professional voice or His Masters Voice (HMV)?
Acquiring and developing professional voice is not the same as demonstrating that you always work to a standard. So will your policy enable professionals to voice authentic views or will they be drowned out by those who speak in a regulatory and official dialect? It becomes essential, therefore, to establish where, on the one hand, professional learning and, on the other hand, decisions about pay and promotion connect and where they do not connect.
The connection between national standards in England and pay, pay progression and career progression makes it essential to be clear about the part played by CPD. If a leader of professional learning is likely to be perceived as influencing who gets paid what and who gets what job the role is likely to become somewhat problematic. A CPD policy should address this. Where are the boundaries? Where are the grey areas?