Brilliant TAs, imaginative NQTs, inspiring heads, successful heads of department, and, of course, innovative CPD leaders are using and appearing on Teachers TV, writes Paul Ashton
I appreciate CPD Update giving me the chance to write an article in the journal, because Teachers TV is a paradoxical feature in the CPD landscape, for three reasons. First, while being paid for by government, Teachers TV is actually editorially independent and run by television professionals with an education background, not by civil servants. Second, the TV station is available on air 24/7 and at the same time it is a converged channel of which nearly all of its 2,000 programmes can be watched online – and indeed downloaded, stored and even edited. And third, though teachers are very pressed for time, it is widely watched – in June there were 170,000 viewings from the website alone. And it’s not only paradoxical, it’s also unique. No one else is systematically showing good practice, filmed in realistic settings, on such a scale. And no one ever has, until now. A teacher in a small school in Jersey has a fantastically successful way of teaching the addition of fractions, but only her immediate colleagues know about it. The Teachers TV channel makes her method available to every primary teacher in the country, and through the website to any primary teacher or teacher-trainer in the world who can get online. The same goes for brilliant TAs, imaginative NQTs, inspiring heads, successful heads of department, and, of course, innovative CPD leaders. The key to the CPD value of Teachers TV is that it does not tell the audience what to do but allows viewers and web-users alike to learn from each other, which when you get down to it is the only form of professional development they really respect. It is a very happy coincidence that just as professional development in schools is moving up a gear with the introduction of performance management, Teachers TV is establishing itself as an indispensable tool for classroom observation, for the transfer of good and credible practice in coaching and mentoring and the giving and taking of feedback. For instance, a CPD leader in a school can now run a twilight session on behaviour for learning and classroom management, or primary MFL, or the use of pupil data, which they can exemplify with a dozen or so excerpts illustrating examples from different schools. These visual stimuli can only serve to heighten the impact of such sessions. The whole-school dimension should also help CPD leaders to achieve that difficult thing – offering support that meets one teacher’s needs, while at the same time integrating that individual support with the school’s overall policies for improvement, and beyond that with government initiatives such as ECM and personalised learning. An individual teacher will probably be thinking of his or her CPD needs mainly in the light of subject teaching and its attendant organisation, while Teachers TV has literally hundreds of programmes showing real people tackling the larger whole-school issues, from action research to assessment for learning, through inclusion and the creative use of ICT, to leadership issues and SEN provision. Not forgetting those important groups – governors, and parents too. The same thinking applies to all the others who work in the school whose CPD is, as CPD Update regularly points out, next on the agenda. Some of our most appreciated programmes show TAs and HLTAs, canteen staff, admin staff, SENCOs, Science technicians, librarians, learning mentors and many others, very few of whom have ever seen their talented counterparts in other schools at work. Also, Teachers TV do not just confine their peer-to-peer philosophy solely to the UK. How many teachers have seen how their colleagues in other countries do things? For more than a year now comparative education has been one of Teachers TV’s priorities, showing viewers foreign classrooms they would never otherwise see. How do they teach primary maths in Hungary? What does early years practice look like in Sweden? Is vocational education in Germany as successful as we think it is? How do they teach respect and manners in Japan, handwriting in France, PE in China, and sex education in Holland? To take just one of these examples, I’d say it was important from a CPD point of view for an Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) practitioner to take a half-hour look at nursery settings in Sweden alongside interpreting the new EYFS framework here.
Paul Ashton is joint head of programmes at Teachers TV