The DfE has recently published the Standard for Teachers professional development, a document which not only emphasises the importance of high quality continuing professional development for teachers but also the fact that effective teacher development is a partnership between teachers, Head teachers and their senior leadership team and CPD providers.
At the heart of the Standard and the guidance for implementing it are improved pupils outcomes. Improved pupil outcomes are also the ultimate goal of Network for Languages London Schools Excellence Fund Legacy project Professional Language Networks hub. Those teachers involved in this project have had the opportunity not only to access a range of courses offered by Network for Languages London, but also to attend special ‘Summer school’ days where they meet together and engage in a range of CPD activities. At the most recent Summer school I discussed with some of the teachers what factors come into play for them when accessing CPD or not, and what they perceive as the benefits of attending courses run by an external provider.
On the positive side it was clear from our discussions that many teachers are keen to access CPD courses and had different reasons and motivations for attending a specific course. For some it may be a matter of upskilling in a specific area, such as how to address the needs of EAL students, or the Gifted and Talented. For those teachers newly appointed to the role of MFL co-ordinator in their primary school a course such as the one run by Network for Languages on Leading languages is an opportunity to gain an insight into what the role entails and to meet with other teachers in a similar position. This is arguably one of the chief benefits of attending a CPD event provided externally; the opportunity to share experiences and discuss the issues involved with teachers who have a range of experience and backgrounds from outside the immediate circle of their own school or cluster of schools. This is particularly important for those teachers working in the primary sector who may be working in isolation and who have no one in their schools with whom they can discuss ideas. Taking part in CPD courses also enables these teachers to ask questions about national and government directives and to check what others in a similar position to them are doing in response to them. As to which course provider to go for the following were all factors that influenced the decision: the relevance of the course to their particular needs, the price, ease of access to the venue and the provision of course materials, such as the memory stick that Network for Languages gives to course participants.
On the downside however, the following were, perhaps not unsurprisingly, all cited as barriers to accessing CPD provided at an external venue:
- The impact of budget cuts at both primary and secondary level on paying both for teachers to attend a course and for getting supply cover for them.
- Where budgets did allow some teachers mentioned that there was a problem actually getting hold of suitably qualified supply teachers to provide the cover needed.
- At primary level some teachers felt that where they only saw their class on a fortnightly basis, a day out on a CPD course could be quite disruptive and result in those pupils not having their language lesson taught by a specialist for almost a month.
- The workload involved in providing cover was also perceived as a disincentive for apply for day long courses.
At this point of the year when Network for Languages starts to plan what to offer by way of courses in the coming year do comment on what you have found to be beneficial both to you professionally and, more importantly, to your pupils in terms of CPD that you have undertaken, and/or let us know what other, perhaps bespoke, support you would be interested in. Would you find it helpful to have courses delivered more locally to where you work, perhaps to a cluster of schools in your area or borough? If so do get in touch with Network for Languages: firstname.lastname@example.org