In these times of great change for schools, the need is greater than ever to get CPD back on the right track, argues Caroline Wright…
Over the past 30 years we at BESA have gathered data from more than 26,000 UK state schools on their views, budgets and areas of spending focus, spanning furniture, technology and play equipment. In this on-going research, the issue that sits quietly but persistently behind the main focus of each report is continuing professional development (CPD) and training.
If we look back to 1999, Labour launched the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) of £230 million to be spent on ICT training for teachers. At a time when approximately only 30 per cent of teachers used computers and the internet at home, this training was vital, if they were to make best use of the technology arriving in their classrooms. By June 2000, only 47 per cent of staff were thought by ICT co-ordinators to be confident and competent in using ICT in the curriculum, a slight improvement on the 45 per cent in 1999.
The NOF programme may not have gone far enough but at least it provided some training. Another example was when Becta launched its interactive whiteboard framework, which sadly prioritised suppliers purely on price. Unsurprisingly, a lot of whiteboards were sold with training all but stripped out of the package.
By Bett 2012, the secretary of state for education at the time, Rt Hon Michael Gove used his speech to describe the potential of technology to disseminate learning much more widely. To the delight of BESA and schools across the country, Gove promised new investment in training teachers to be confident in using technological tools and resources, and to be able to adapt to new ones as they emerged.
They were welcome words; but three years on and the need for training is greater than ever.
The price of change
The education sector is currently at a phase in history where it is possibly experiencing more changes than ever before. Schools have had to become business managers to ensure they adapt to complete autonomy with the removal of local authority control. A new curriculum, primary teachers learning to teach computer coding and modern foreign languages, and the removal of assessment levels are all having an impact.
And while many of the changes are recognised as necessary, the problem lies in the fact that all this has come without any training, and schools are feeling the strain.
CPD is currently rated as highly important in 74 per cent of primary and 38 per cent of secondary schools. One area of focus for training is assessment and monitoring, with 55 per cent of schools stating that this is a priority; figures that have reached an all time high!
The biggest concern, however, lies in the fact that despite the demand, high quality supply does not appear to be easily available. Last year’s ‘Classroom Learning Resources’ survey of 314 primary and 298 secondary schools, found that a staggering 83 per cent of teachers questioned the quality of training in schools. We did see an improvement in the same research carried out this year, but the improvement is marginal.
It is not only the supply that is the issue for teachers. Taking time out of the classroom to receive training is not only inconvenient but it is costly; not just in terms of the training course costs but also because of the supply cover fees that schools have to consider.
These issues naturally affect the preferred format of training. What we are starting to see is a move towards online training courses that can be completed in segments when teachers find the time.
Investment and returns
Our Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Training in Schools research interestingly revealed that Heads of ICT from 41 per cent of surveyed schools showed a preference for conferences and seminars for training delivery, with just 23 per cent choosing offsite 1:1 training. Events such at Bett and the Education Show offer a wide range of high quality training, delivered by industry experts (and therefore highly appropriate) and free of charge. So these and other education events are certainly worth considering.
In this election year, it is also all the more important that politicians, policy makers and school leaders are willing to build on the legacy of our investment in education and ensure that training is included with all new policies and initiatives. This will encourage training providers to help develop appropriate training courses (whether face to face or online) and this, in turn will ensure that teachers will be fully trained and confident to optimise the Government’s investment and meet the learning needs of future generations.
However, until we start to see a CPD directive from the Government it is vital that schools learn from future mistakes and make their own investment in training. Recent years have seen unprecedented changes in the needs of teachers and history has shown the importance of training in the successful adoption of new technologies and initiatives.
About the author
Caroline Wright is director of the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA)