School Direct could revolutionise CPD, not just teacher training

Teaching schools have the potential to transform professional development, says Toby Greany, but we must ensure the expansion of School Direct doesn’t jeopardise this. This is an extract from the Guardian

…The expansion of School Direct has certainly been fast paced, bureaucratic and sometimes chaotic. Former education secretary Estelle Morris was the most recent high-profile critic to raise legitimate concerns around the risk of a teacher shortage due to the shortfall in School Direct recruitment numbers this year and the destabilising effect it is having on existing, high-quality HEI provision.

Ministers will have undoubtedly paused for thought over what to do next with School Direct. My guess is they will go for measured expansion: the Department for Education (DfE) has been discussing ways to shift student loan funding from HEIs to schools for the past year or more. If they can agree a way to do that, schools will be put firmly in the driving seat as commissioners of initial teacher training (ITT). The challenge will be to make sure schools can do so in a sufficiently strategic and cost efficient way – and that’s where teaching schools and academy chains come in.

In The Importance of Teaching white paper, teaching schools were positioned as playing a leading role in training new teachers, but their remit was actually much broader: to transform the culture of professional learning and school-to-school support. Too often, it was felt, newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) fell off a development cliff once they finished their PGCE and started work because too few schools focused seriously on continuous professional development (CPD).

This year, Vicky Beer, executive principal at Ashton on Mersey School, spoke at the national teaching schools conference, where she attributed much of her school’s success to its longstanding commitment to teacher training and staff development. Ofsted aren’t prone to hyperbole, so the statement in Ashton on Mersey’s report from April that lessons are of “simply stunning quality” is a strong endorsement of her argument.

Her premise was simple and persuasive: when you ask experienced teachers to work together to develop and mentor new recruits, you create a dynamic learning culture where the best practice is made explicit and professional collaboration is the norm. As a result, everyone improves…

I was talking to Sam Freedman last week, Michael Gove’s former policy adviser who now works for Teach First. “We knew professional development was important when we did the white paper,” he told me, “but I wish we’d realised just how important; it’s the key to everything.”

Putting schools in the driving seat of teacher training through School Direct has huge potential, but it will take a generation for that new set of entrants to transform schools. We need to focus on professional learning for the 430,000 teachers already employed in our schools just as much. If the success of School Direct comes at the expense of a serious focus on how to enhance the quality and impact of CPD in schools, then the price will be too high.

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What do you think of these comments of the potential impact of School Direct on CPD for teachers? Please let us know in the comments or on twitter…

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  1. Value_added

    SchoolsImprove Most Training Schools have not taken on their quota of trainees. Meanwhile HEI courses are being cut.

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