Professional Development and Professionalism: The symbolic role of CPD

15th July 2014

By Laura McInerney

In the third in our week of blogs picking apart ‘the London Story’ Laura explores the role of CPD and argues it helped teachers feel valued and united.

It’s very fashionable at the moment to bemoan CPD for teachers. For anyone who’s ever sat in an INSET session, it’s easy to do. There are always interminable post-it note activities, inevitable Ofsted chat, and the nagging feeling that if you were just left alone for the remainder of the day you might actually be quite productive at getting all the things done that need doing.

However, professional development of teachers extends beyond INSET, or at least – it should.

One of the take-homes from reviewing the evidence for Lessons from London Schools was that teachers liked being given the opportunity to develop professionally. During the 2000s there were all manner of initiatives organized at borough level (e.g. lead practitioner networks in subjects) and also across London (e.g. the introduction of Teach First and Teaching Leaders). These were supplemented by specialised collaboration groups. The London Grid for Learning brought together people interested in technology; EMAP worked on ethnic minority achievement; “Families of Schools” data brought school leaders from similar institutions together to see what each was doing well.

When I entered London’s professional fold in 2006, this smorgasbord of development was obvious. Not just via Teach First, who offered me endless evening and weekend learning events, but I was also put into a borough NQT group, a borough Citizenship group, a local forum on RE policy and in my second year I worked as a lead practitioner developing the Diplomas.

These opportunities taught me lots, but they did something even more profound. They sealed in me the sense of ‘being’ a teacher, and that ‘being’ a teacher wasn’t just something you did on your own but that you were part of a wider family all aiming to do something amazing: change children’s lives.

I’ll forgive you if you just felt a bit nauseous at that sentence. It makes me feel a bit queasy too. But it’s also true.

How London teachers got to the point where they collaborated so readily is debatable. Whether there is merely a correlated, rather than causal, link between increased opportunities for teacher development and student outcomes is also possible. But that teachers felt more linked to the profession, that leaders say it made a difference, that every area in London that saw dramatic increases in its achievement had these sort of activities on the go is indisputable.

Hence, professional development is not something to be sniffed at when it comes to system-wide improvements. Yes, it needs to be more than just some post-it notes and a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet. But if is extended, it really does seem to make a difference.

More London Blogs:

‘Lessons from London Schools: Investigating the Success’ is a Centre for London and CfBT report and we are grateful to both organisations for giving us the opportunity to carry out an in depth study of this crucial topic.

The views in this blog are my own and whilst my analysis is predominantly based on the CfL/CfBTreports, not all the data I have presented here is necessarily in the report.