Research School Network: Less is More: reducing our CPD to make it more impactful Beth Stirling shares her thoughts on why effective implementation is key driver in embedding lasting change
Less is More: reducing our CPD to make it more impactful
Beth Stirling shares her thoughts on why effective implementation is key driver in embedding lasting change
by Staffordshire Research School
The first thing which struck me when I began teaching at Wellacre 6 years ago was how ideas were welcomed and, more importantly, listened to regardless of your role within the school. This has created a working environment which embraces change and staff are continually seeking out new research and ways to improve current practice. Because of this, and through the enthusiasm and guidance of our Assistant Principal Stacey Kearney who leads on Teaching and Learning, we achieved the Gold Award for CPD from The Teacher Development Trust.
However, it can be argued that our focus on growth and improvement can lead to CPD provision becoming extremely broad but also shallow. Staff are aware of the current research in many varied aspects of education and frequently engage with others in the profession to enhance this but it is impossible to be consistent as a school in such a wide variety of approaches.
As I am relatively new to the role of Literacy Lead, I have spent the past year attending CPD sessions and reading books on the best ways to engage pupils (and staff) in literacy. My knowledge has then been shared in the numerous CPD sessions I’ve been fortunate enough to deliver to my colleagues. Some of the sessions I have attended have, understandably given the amount I signed up to, become repetitive and I found myself smugly saying to myself ‘Wellacre staff already know all of this – I’ve told them!’ It’s true, they have been told this information (sometimes numerous times) and they can probably still remember the sessions, but how much of it would I really see embedded in the classroom if I walked around the school? This is what makes the difference. The best CPD in the world, and the most knowledgeable staff in the world, are wasted if they are not given the time to make the ideas they learn part of the daily routine.
When a new Principal, Julie Sharrock, joined us in the spring of 2021, a perfect time to stop and reflect on our CPD provision presented itself. I had been the Literacy Lead for almost a year at this point and used this time to consider the successes of the year as well as the areas which needed strengthening.
The best CPD in the world, and the most knowledgeable staff in the world, are wasted if they are not given the time to make the ideas they learn part of the daily routine.
As identified earlier, the most valuable thing you can equip teachers with is time. With this in mind, the Leadership Team decided that our CPD provision should focus less on providing staff with new information and allow more time for departments to work together to fully embed the ideas into the curriculum. We needed to do less but we needed to do it better.
The evidence to support this is the EEF’s research ‘Putting Evidence to Work – A School’s Guide to Implementation’ and the Implementation Plan included in this was used by any member of staff with a whole school responsibility to map the steps needed to achieve their three-year goal. The staff involved liaised with each other while creating these documents as many areas overlapped. For instance, as the Literacy Lead, I met with the Teaching and Learning Lead, the SENDCo and the Curriculum Leader to produce my documents. Each member of staff then presented their document at a Leadership Team meeting so that each member of the team was aware of the bigger picture. This process took place over the entire Summer term but the time spent was invaluable as our school’s goals are now clear, focused and cohesive.
My plans for literacy for the next three years are simple but clearly sequenced and will result in all colleagues mastering the goals. This year, our school will focus on three aspects of literacy:
1. Embedding the use of the Frayer model
2. Each department to have a clear understanding of disciplinary literacy and the literacy skills needed for pupils to succeed in their subject
3. Upgrading sentences in pupils’ writing
All staff have had training on these three aspects and some already use them in their lessons. However, the use is sporadic and is inconsistent within individual lessons as well as across the school.
The first literacy CPD session of each school year will be led by myself but from then on my role will be to circulate between the departments, providing guidance and support where needed. The remaining sessions will be spent by the departments planning and creating resources relating to my CPD session, reflecting on them once they have been used and adapting them where necessary. I will provide a focus each session to ensure work completed has a clear objective.
By focusing on the small details step by step, as a school we can identify problems quicker and we can ensure we have mastered each step before moving onto the next. While it is great to teach in a community which values betterment it is important that we now pause to ensure that every decision we make will have a positive impact on our pupils’ time at Wellacre and that we are not completing CPD without an end goal in mind. The new guidance report from the EEF on Effective Professional Development will also empower schools to better plan, deliver and implement lasting change that leads to improved student outcomes in the long-term.
“Schools should probably make fewer, but more strategic choices, and pursue these diligently”
Beth Stirling is the Whole School Literacy Lead at Wellacre Academy in Flixton, Greater Manchester
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