The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Liz Worthen

Creating a buzz around CPD

Thursday afternoons at Bluecoats Academy in Nottingham are CPD time. Official teaching finishes early and staff all engage in CPD activities (while pupils benefit from extra-curricular activities, coaching and specialist teaching). Lisa Harrison, Assistant Principal in charge of CPD, told us about how it works.

How did you get started?

We’d been having dedicated CPD time on a Thursday afternoon for a couple of years. Last September we made a change, and the Directors of Learning (faculty/department heads) worked alongside the CPD leader to decide which groups teachers would be allocated to – based on needs identified through performance management and the school development plan.

What kind of activities do teachers engage in?

We have various groups, including:

  • Innovate –investigate new strategies and techniques to employ within the classroom
  • Consolidate – improving teaching skills and developing pedagogy
  • Cambridge University research – getting engaged in action research
  • Skills, knowledge and enhancement – getting QTS in a second subject area
  • Reflective teaching – Using IRIS technology to record lessons, watch them back and learn how we can become better within the classroom
  • Coaching – working with colleagues in partner schools
  • Middle leaders – strengthening your leadership skills.

What’s been the benefit?

The programme has really created a buzz around CPD. It’s been great to see people who haven’t led training before taking ownership of it and getting enthused by the experience. The research group has worked particularly well, with participants now keen to engage further and do more research of their own. Working in cross-curricular groups has encouraged discussion across teams. There’s more chat about teaching and learning now; seeing this increase in professional dialogue is a real positive. We run our own TeachMeets at the end of every term, where participants give a short presentation to share something they’re learned. It’s a good way of getting feedback. And 96% of the training has been rated as good or outstanding, which is very encouraging!

Any practical advice you’d offer?

Make sure that you’re providing CPD which captures people’s interest and gives them something they’ll value. For example, our teachers have really appreciated the opportunity to gain QTS in a second subject area. Link CPD with performance management and the school development plan, so you’re not asking colleagues to do something extra. Instead you’re saying: ‘here’s what we expect – and here’s what we’ll provide to help you achieve it’.

Who leads the training?

CPD groups are led mainly by our own staff, in particular UPS (upper pay scale) teachers. Leading a group is good professional development too!

Anything you’re planning to change or tweak?

From this coming September, teachers will still be allocated to a group, but will then be able to choose from a menu of CPD activities within that group. This will give a greater sense of choice and self-direction.

How have Optimus contributed?

We’ve used several of the Optimus Education DIY training packs. The middle managers course has been really successful. We liked the positive approach towards leading and managing others. The format of the sessions made it easy to pick out what was most appropriate and personalise the course to our needs and the time we had available. We’ve run the course twice already and will be using it again next year. Note: many of the Optimus DIY packs are now available as part of the new online Training & CPD Service – making it even easier to access these high quality resources!

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