Do We Need A National Teacher Learning Day?

Do we need a National CPD day?

It used to be Save Our Sundays, now it’s a case of Save Our Saturdays.

It was recently reported that a ‘National Teacher Learning Day’ is being planned so that teachers don’t have to do continuing professional development in their spare time.

The first National Teacher Learning Day (NTLD) will take place in a couple of years on July 3rd 2020.

The driving force behind NTLD day is teacher and author Debra Kidd who helped create Northern Rocks, ironically the weekend CPD event.

Northern Rocks education conferences have been very popular but now they have stopped “because I’m worried that teachers are starting to feel expected to do their training on a Saturday at their own expense.”

The idea is certainly generating a lot of interest and reading Debra Kidd’s Twitter shows many teachers want this to happen with more than 100 schools already signed up.

A CPD Revolution?

CPD includes all activities that we undertake, formally and informally, in order to maintain, update, develop and enhance our knowledge, skills, and attitudes in response to the needs of our pupils.

Arguably, most CPD takes place during normal work hours when you are actually engaging in teaching.

CPD is an entitlement in many schools and these schools wouldn’t expect their staff to ‘work’ on a Saturday because they value their staff and their wellbeing. Obviously if you are investing a chunk of your free time to CPD then this is an additional burden.

But with more and more teachers doing CPD on a Saturday some schools are shirking their responsibility for in-house professional development which is just out of order.

But some staff do give up their time at the weekends for CPD purposes but NTLD wants this to stop:

What about teachers with no child care, or those who care for elderly parents, or those who are simply too exhausted? What about costs? So many of these events are self funded, and while cheap, they involve travel and sometimes accommodation costs. What are we saying, as a profession, if teachers can only access affordable, high quality CPD to meet their individual needs at their own expense and in their own time? There has to be a better way.

The idea behind the new National Teacher Learning Day is a good one and events will either be free or no more than £40 per person.

Doing CPD in school time is a great plan but realistically one day isn’t going to make a difference so it isn’t really a revolution, more of a sidestep.

There are clearly many reasons for doing away with Saturday events but weekend training events still serve a purpose – to do away with them would be madness. Let them continue for those that want them and can attend. Teachers are constantly engaging in CPD out of hours through social media, evening TeachMeets, online learning, weekend conferences etc because they want to.

Some teachers are never off Twitter and the like yet have put their weight behind NLTD on wellbeing and workload grounds which is contradictory. There is nothing wrong with CPD in your own time if you can manage and balance your commitments.

Why demonise weekend CPD? I don’t know anyone who has a 9-5 professional learning network. Connected educators who pursue CPD do so with an understanding that learning is never off-duty. As Whittaker et al (2015) say,

Connected educators are extremely busy human beings who are so passionate about their careers that they want to dedicate as much time as possible to learning more about how they can do a better job tomorrow than they did today. They willingly and eagerly take it upon themselves to make time outside the scope of their regular school day and role therein to work even more in the evenings, on weekends, and even on vacations to reach out to other educators in an effort to become better.

For those of us who want to and enjoy it, then let us do our CPD when we choose.

As Rob Webster says, “Saturday conferences represent the best of the profession: the DIY ethic; the dedication to self-betterment and to improving outcomes.”

There is no single, singular or correct way of doing or organising CPD. Most CPD is self-directed and based on one’s own learning needs. Doctors are expected to do a minimum of 50 hours of CPD per year – a lot of it in their own time – most exceed this.

Why should teachers be any different? This is why we need the weekends to do CPD.

CPD can’t ever be just a weekday event which is why a balanced approach is needed where teachers engage in a range of CPD opportunities including those out-of-hours activities. Flexibility is an important principle for developing CPD. Teachers are not a homogeneous group and subject specialism conference attendance is what we really need to work on.

NTLD is a start but without a CPD Standards Office with CPD requirements, professional development is wishy-washy, inconsistent and lacks direction.

Engaging in CPD is a professional obligation and a a prerequisite for enhancing the quality of education. The strongest motivating factor for continuous professional life-long learning is the will and desire to maintain professional quality and to be the best we can.

I’m all for CPD being organisationally-embedded in terms of time, money, values, attitudes, wellbeing and workload but we still need to invest large parts of our time personally to CPD as well. Every day is a school day.

Links

The Teacher Development Trust offer a CPD Quality Audit which is a framework to enable your school to review the culture and quality of your current CPD provision.

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