Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why is CPD so useless?

There’s a mania in education for renaming things, as though that act alone will change everything. To encapsulate the idea of ‘the cutting edge of new technology’, Computing morphed into Information and Communication Technologies. There’s probably many a recidivist Luddite that has smiled cynically at the notion as the network breaks down or the Internet crashes, just at that vital point during the lesson. In the same vane training has been replaced by ‘Continuing Professional Development’.

Was there ever a ‘golden age’ for training? Probably not, but one thing is for sure, training today resembles an arid desert, a yawning vacuum, an absolute zero, the dead zone. In years gone by the Local Education Authorities (LEAs) did have the staff and the funding to make some attempt at training teachers. Now all most of them can offer are the dire Literacy and Numeracy training that comes straight out of manuals from the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF). The training is aimed at schools in ‘intensive support’ so the default mode is, ‘Welcome crap teachers we will show you how to jack up your results and save you from impending doom’.

The rest of ‘CPD’ is delivered by private companies, usually one man and a dog operations run by teachers desperate to get out of the firing line. They usually range from the dire to the absolutely dire.

There’s a heavy concentration on ‘Behaviour Management’. Now any teacher needs to control their class, although I’ve known some fairly scary teachers who were able to ‘control’ their class, whether they could ‘teach’ anything is another matter. This training is dominated by the behaviour ‘gurus’. Usually it varies from the banal to the bleeding obvious.

‘Behaviour Management’ does suit those senior managers who live in the bunker of denial about bad behaviour in their school. It is of course all down to the individual teacher being able to cope with their class. This despite the fact that some of them may contain 4 or 5 pupils that belong in a penal correction institution.

It does make me wonder what people will make of educational literature in 100 years time. Any survey will show that the most popular books began with ‘Getting the Buggers To…’. Books that are based on the ability to survive the trench war between children and teachers.

Another favourite staple are the ‘Mr Motivator’ sessions with ‘inspirational’ speakers featuring talks where hundreds of teachers are herded together in hot, sweaty, cramped hotel rooms and lectured for hours about how children need… lots of room, plenty of water to drink and should be encouraged to ask questions.

I don’t know what it is like in secondary with all those subject specialists, do they meet together frequently to exchange ideas and model best practice? Possibly not because other schools are now ‘competitors’ you don’t want to trade any secrets with them. Most courses will be ‘How to jack up your GCSE results’.

As for NQTs with only a something like a half staying more than five years you would have thought they would be targeted for intensive training. That isn’t always the case, in my local authority most training is ‘twilight’, so only a tiny minority of NQTs attend.

Early on in my career I could see that training would be negligible or so dire I would need a strong course amphetamines just to stay awake. I completed an MA in Education Studies. However, in interviews there hasn’t been a flicker of interest, it has been about as relevant as an NVQ Level One in Basket Weaving, yes I do spend my spare time on useful hobbies.

There’s an element of Orwellian ‘Newspeak’ about CPD, because it isn’t ‘Continuing’, it isn’t ‘Professional’ and the only thing it develops is that reflex action – looking at your watch ‘when the hell is this session going to end?’


Oh,Mr read, it's as if you and I were hewn from the same piece of gnarled driftwood or blasted oak.
Have just cruised a few of oyur posts in addition to this one - lured by a link on TES - I blogged on this very theme a while back, do check it out:

We must meet again like this!
"I completed an MA in Education Studies. However, in interviews there hasn’t been a flicker of interest, it has been about as relevant as an NVQ Level One in Basket Weaving"

Strange. I did an MA in Education studies along with a good group of keen and enthusiastic teachers, and within two or three years we had all moved on to management positions in schools. Maybe respecting CPD is more of a secondary thing (I'm now a secondary assistant head) - or maybe it wasn't the MA that was the problem in the interviews?
In secondary schools most of my training focuses on personal development issues for students. So building confidence, presentation skills, effective communication and career planning.

My main focus is working alongside schools and teachers to inspire students. However increasingly I am being asked by teachers to come and deliver the same said workshops to teachers, and this is in secondary schools.

I have been pondering how it would work to get schools to come together and share best practice and trainers/facilitators like myself to direct rather than tell teachers how to handle students, etc.
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