‘Do-it-yourself weekend CPD is on the rise – but why should professional development happen in teachers’ leisure time?’

The Tes reports that the number of CPD conferences being held at weekends shows just how committed many teachers are. But will these events ultimately lead to schools shirking their responsibility for in-house professional development, asks researcher Rob Webster

A few weeks ago, I dropped in on a conference session about teacher wellbeing. Among the presenter’s sage tips for a better work-life balance was to be more protective over one’s free time. 

How ironic – and a bit sad – that teachers had paid to hear this on a Saturday. 

There’s much to admire about this level of commitment, but is it a sign that CPD for teachers is drifting from professional entitlement to niche pastime?

I’m a semi-regular presenter at education conferences. The grassroots movement of “teachers doing it for themselves” has, I think, been an overall force for good. It was set up to make CPD and sharing practice more accessible, affordable and profession-led, and I’ve been impressed with the number of teachers and school leaders willing to add events management to their job descriptions and hectic schedules. I suspect it makes a pleasant diversion from unpicking the latest government edict or finding new ways to sweat the school finances. 

With the pace and pressures of school life squeezing opportunities for training and networking, these informal weekend get-togethers offer teachers access to the professional learning they desire, at a price they can afford. Speakers donate time for free and sponsors cover the cost of lunch, keeping ticket prices low. The bonus for schools is that the additional cost of supply, needed to release teachers from the classroom, is avoided. 

If Saturday conferences become a de facto alternative to “expensive” Inset, there’s a risk that the most motivated, most effective teachers will get better, leaving behind colleagues who are not only equally deserving of these opportunities, but in some cases, have a greater need to build their teaching knowledge and skills. A good CPD offer can be an effective retention strategy, but it won’t work if it is shunted into teachers’ leisure time.  

Saturday conferences represent the best of the profession: the DIY ethic; the dedication to self-betterment and to improving outcomes. It’s the reason why I happily throw my lot in with teachers and spend the odd Saturday pitching into these vibrant events. But it’s important that CPD, and the valuable networking and sharing opportunities it provides, is not allowed to become a self-funded, weekend-only, minority pursuit.

Read more ‘Do-it-yourself weekend CPD is on the rise – but why should professional development happen in teachers’ leisure time?’

Do you go to weekend CPD conferences? Do you think that they will they become the norm? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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