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Being Professional Tutor: Is it possible to make INSET days worthwhile?

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This will be the first in a planned series of posts that will highlight various aspects of my new role as Professional Tutor.  Future posts will cover Professional Learning Time; developing a cadre of expert coaches and new staff induction.

Was pondering what to blog about this morning when I stumbled across the following tweets:

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In turn, this led me to this excellent post by the Learning Spy that contains a thought provoking response by Ian Gilbert

What follows is an attempt to describe what I’m aiming for at my school after my secondment to Professional Tutor in July this year. You can read my vision for the role here.

They way I see it, INSET has a problem.  The time has to be identified in advance and yet it has to respond to the needs of teachers.  These will invariably change over the year.  I can’t offer any cast iron way of making INSET better, but here’s a story about what we’re attempting to do.  I’d like to think that this approach has helped me make the impact that I have.  There has been a 30% increase in staff who rate CPD at the school highly in the Keele Survey.

My first point would be that professional learning doesn’t just happen on INSET days.  INSET days need to be part of an integrated CPD package.

Joined up thinking

That rare beast in schools, where people communicate, is so useful when planning the timing of INSET days.  For example, One of our days was split into two afternoons.  Although the logistical issues relating to this (especially linked to school dinners) may mean it isn’t repeated, the afternoons were timed to coincide with our ‘meet the tutor’ evening and when key progress data was available.  It wasn’t too difficult to predict that staff would need time and support here.  The INSET days should be the final option put into the

In addition, the strategic direction of a school shouldn't be a mystery in September.  Indeed, it should be fixed well before the summer break.  By asking staff what they will need in order to deliver these aims as part of Line Management discussions a CPD needs analysis can be drawn up. 

Finally, teachers have to go through appraisal.  At our school, the three targets are narrowly defined.  It’s my responsibility to ensure that opportunities to allow staff to meet their targets.  The appraisal targets are linked to the Teaching Standards.

Nothing New in September

The first two INSET days took place on the first two days of term.  There shouldn't be anything new here.  This year, our Headteacher redefined the priorities and what we need to work on; there were a wide range of individual workshops run by teachers that staff could choose and we gave departments lots of planning time to get ready for the year ahead.  Is this best use of two days?  I believe that if our main thing is learning then giving staff adequate time to prepare is useful.

What is counter productive is a barrage of new initiatives as soon as you get back.  Giving teams one hour to implement an idea given to them that morning does not lead to

This of course relies upon policies and timetables being finalised as made available in June / July.  This allows new staff joining in September to have the material and existing staff  time to think.

Inset doesn’t have to be in school

In July, the final INSET day is timed to allow the wider leadership group (anyone with a TLR and up) time to get off site to talk about the 2013_14 priorities.  This, of course, relies upon effective follow up, something that needs work.

The rest of the school will have the opportunity to visit other school.  See this post if you can help.

Outside speakers

Outside speakers are great, however if schools are to use what they have better, often expertise and inspiration can be found within the school at all levels.  I’m a great believer that every person in the school has something to offer and a range of staff have led INSET day workshops from NQT+1s to support staff to senior staff.  Outside speakers do have a role if they are linked into an on-going initiative and support – not just a tick in a box.

Also, speakers shouldn’t need to come from education.  One of the best speakers that I have ever seen at an education conference are Andy Cave and Mark Beaumont.

Where I’d like to go

In the future, I’d like to get the whole school off-site and to develop one INSET day into a regional teaching and learning conference.

We have one more INSET day, planned for February that will respond to a major barrier to our students making the progress they deserve: literacy.  We’re going to do something whacky and mess with people’s heads then allow a series of workshops to enable staff to meet the day’s aims before giving over curriculum time for robust planning. Anyway, not sure that totally answered the question, but I think it’s a start Winking smile.

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