CPD: Why Teaching Needs A ‘VetFest’

How can we improve our CPD?

We know that meeting up with fellow professionals is good for our development and there are certainly plenty of CPD events that we can attend. But does CPD focus on developing the whole person?

CPD should be an opportunity to come together as a learning community to share understanding, support and compassion. It is effective when it makes an impact on outcomes for pupils, teachers and school leaders.

Teacher CPD days tend to be lop-sided with a narrow focus. Sure, there are training events that include a variety of topics to get our teeth into but they are often locked into an airless conference venue, or stuffy school, and after a while they just blur into one. They are all a bit ‘samey.

Some definitely blow a few cobwebs away but even the more exciting research type shindigs are missing something. There’s fun to be had in CPD but this isn’t someone standing by a PowerPoint sharing a few gags and teaching tales.

Days with true variety and located somewhere different are hard to find. In fact, where are they? Some residential subject conferences come close but these vary in quality and impact. Rather than add to our wellbeing, some CPD takes it away.

We need CPD that is going to makes us salivate and jump around like excited puppies. Mould-breaking CPD is there for the taking.

Time To Press ‘Paws’

I have been inspired by Noel Fitzpatrick’s memoir about becoming The Supervet. This world-class orthopaedic-neuro veterinary surgeon has a lot to share. Honestly, if you read one book this year then read this gem. He takes hard work and dedication to a new level.

Noel Fitzpatrick is a true thought leader and someone who passionately promotes the power of convergence, collaboration and learning from each other and crossing disciplines.

He believes in One Discipline and has set up the Humanimal Trust to drive collaboration between vets, doctors and researchers. Teaching has nothing similar. Teaching isn’t the sole preserve of the teaching profession as we know it. Teachers exist in many fields yet we rarely join up with those teaching in other professions.

In this autobiography, the Supervet talks about having created an event called the VET Festival or VetFest and Teaching needs its own version.

This is CPD on a different level and we have plenty to learn from it.

VetFest says,

It’s the only CPD event where learning, fun and the fresh outdoors come together – as one delegate put it “It’s CPD with the feel good factor!”

The Vibe

The feel good factor can be missing in Teacher CPD because we focus too much on the classroom. For all the talk about wellbeing, the majority of CPD events fail to include it as a practical experience.

VetFest shows us how CPD should be and what true collaboration looks like because it deals with the whole person and makes it a truly social experience with music, food and exercise. This is CPD with wellness at its core.

The VetFest event includes plenty of workshops and talks by “the best people in the world”. These are the professionals who work at the coal-face in their areas of excellence and can help others become the best they can be. But they include wellness hubs too and focus on the profession looking after each other.

The Noel Fitzpatrick ethos is to deliver medicine and love in equal measure and that is reflected in VetFest too. CPD should be about having a “rollicking good time” but be honest, when was the last CPD event you attended where that actually happened?

TeachFest could happen but if it ever does then it needs to be inclusive and that means involving everyone involved in education because everyone is a teacher.

Inspiring, Engaging, Fun

But wait, I hear you cry. We do have our own VetFest. Well, yes we do and it comes in the shape of the Festival of Education at Wellington College. There is little doubt that this event is very different from bog-standard CPD. But guess what – it’s ‘down South’.

But we need more of Festivals of Education spread across the UK and in neutral venues away from schools. We need them to be accessible, bigger, better and put wellness at the heart and they definitely need to be affordable so that more professionals can attend. Seriously, how many TAs can afford to go?

We also need the lesser-known voices to be heard so that colleagues get to hear different narratives so that ‘the same old, same old’ don’t dominate.

But what we really need are more subject-specific TeachFests with all the fun of the fair. As Cordingley et al (2018) say,

“Teachers say that they find subject-specific continuing professional development (CPD) more beneficial to their teaching than generic pedagogic CPD – and the evidence suggests that they are right in this judgement.”

VetFest manages to marry the generic with subject-specific topics and that’s something we can replicate. This is the real gap in our own world.  Generic CPD is less effective in terms of its impact on pupil outcomes than subject-specific CPD.


So let’s set up the TeachFests but make them subject-heavy. Again, there are subject-specific CPD sessions out there but they lack the wholeness element of an education, entertainment and wellness event. Does your subject-specific CPD offer subject support but also mindfulness, yoga and mutual support as its integral core? I doubt it.

Subject-specific TeachFests are needed so that we can help each other cope with the stresses and strains of teaching and openly share golden nuggets, mistakes and learning curves.

As The Supervet says about VetFest, we need a tangible community of compassion and a “way of acknowledging that we are all in this profession together, and so we should be as kind and considerate as we can to each other, with an ethos of mutual respect, no matter what level we’re at.”

Let’s get TeachFests on the move and combine subject-specific CPD with wellness and wellbeing.

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