The evidence on professional learning is clear: powerful forms of training and development help children to succeed and teachers to thrive. The young people that stand to gain the most are those we try hardest to reach. By improving our ability to diagnose and support learning needs we are able to help the children with more complex needs as well as those who receive less support outside school.
There is a moral imperative for school leaders to create environments that support, constructively challenge and develop all staff. This is matched by the responsibility for every teacher to ensure that their own learning and development is kept high on their priority list. No teacher has ever finished their work day with every item on their to-do list ticked off, so teachers and leaders must constantly make tough choices to make time for the vital-but-not-immediately-urgent task of development.
However, too much of a teacher’s life is characterised by fear and guilt. Expectations of what should and could be done will always be higher than what is physically achievable. If CPD becomes another burdensome and anxiety-inducing millstone around professionals’ necks, we will all be the poorer for it.
For this reason, merely specifying an entitlement to a number of hours of training and development could backfire horribly.
What is needed is a multi-pronged and well-supported approach which not only builds time for development but also changes the environment and culture where it takes place.
I strongly believe that the vast majority of teachers and leaders are well-intentioned people who want to do the best for their students and colleagues. While some may have views that need challenging head-on to achieve change, the most important task is making it clear that there is a better way than the overly managerialistic approach that relies on superficial training, monitoring and extreme accountability.
To achieve a new world of professional learning and development, we need to do more to recognise and facilitate growth and career development. A new profession-led College of Teaching could be an important part of the jigsaw to achieve this, supported by a more nuanced accountability regime and an effective (and stable) middle tier of support for schools.
So, let’s not mandate an entitlement to any old training. Let’s work toward an entitlement of great professional learning and development, in a developmental, supporting and constructively challenging environment of respect and collegiality.
It is a dream, but may be one that we can achieve quickly if we work together.
David Weston is a member of the panel for ATL’s pre-election debate on professionalism, “Meeting the learning needs of future generations - is CPD for teachers an entitlement, requirement, necessity or just a distant dream?” which takes place in London on 27 January.
In this, the third in a series of free discussions about key education issues, our panel will be asking questions about the role of CPD in teachers' working lives.
There are limited number of places still available – to find out more, see the ATL website.
By David Weston is the founder and Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust.