A few days ago I saw this tweet by @C_Hendrick and nodded in agreement. I have seen many more of these events occurring recently, I get asked to speak at them and I am a small cog in the fantastic team of primary practitioners who organise Primary Rocks Live. I am the only one who is not full time school based.
Why so many negatives floating on the sea of positivity?
What has prompted me to write this blog is the negative thoughts many tweeters expressed around the concept of Saturday CPD. I won’t lift tweets and place them here but there were a number of issues raised amongst the raft of positivity:
I do not think there is an expectation for any staff to attend Saturday CPD sessions, it would be a different matter if SLT were placing this expectation on teachers. Some schools pay for Saturday CPD tickets and days in lieu if a teacher requests to attend and it is beneficial to the school or teacher.
Why is there a need at all for Saturday CPD?
Most schools have five INSeT days per year in addition to staff meetings and attendance at external CPD events so why is there a need for Saturday CPD events such as #ResearchED, Pedagoo and #PrimaryRocks Live? I think the answer is pretty simple – they offer something different.
Most school CPD is booked by SLT who have an overview of the whole school, they assess any weaknesses and needs of the school staff. (accuracy of this assessment could be argued here). They then source CPD based upon these needs. One teacher recently told me on Facebook that they have asked to come on a Literacy Shed CPD course but have been told that the only CPD being sanctioned this year is maths CPD because this is high on the list of priorities for the school. You can see why this occurs if budgets are tight. If Maths and English are taking priority in a budget that is already being squeezed where will PE, Art and RE training it in terms of priority.
This is the big difference between CPD that is chargeable and takes place during the week and Saturday CPD. Saturday CPD often deals with the wants of the teacher rather than the needs of the school.
Personally my interests lie in English and PE, I lap up all modern developments and theories out there on these subjects. Truthfully, maths CPD, science CPD and behaviour training do not appeal to me, if I was in school where this was seen as a weakness then I would attend and take notice but I would be unlikely to seek it out otherwise. However, I want to find out more about the teaching of English, I want to see how it is done in other schools and how teachers are delivering it and I want to hear from academics in the field. This is where Saturday events come into their own, I can pick and choose which I would like to attend and who I would like to listen to whilst I am there – I can spend a whole day of CPD without anyone mentioning the ‘bar method’. The only bar method I’ll see on Saturday CPD days is the pulling of pints at the end of the afternoon.
This is not the only difference between ‘traditional’ in school CPD and Saturday CPD. I have seen a number of fantastic speakers at these events, Hywel Roberts, David Didau and Jon Brunskill to name a few, speakers that schools could simply not afford to pay all staff to see in the same amount of time (especially when school CPD budgets are around 0.5% of their total budget.) I have seen these speakers talk for around 30 – 60 mins each time, Saturday events are like the tasting menu at a Michelin Star restaurant, you get little samples of wonderful tasty morsels which leave you wanting more. It is because of this that Saturday CPD is relatively cheaper than the traditional school CPD ‘Saturday speakers’ tend to speak for free or a reduced price. I deliver CPD in schools weekly but I speak at Saturday events and teachmeets for free when they are non-profit making events because I want to be able to share with those teachers who do not get the opportunity through school. Often speakers at these events, such as #PrimaryRocks Live, are full time classroom teachers who are not able to take time out of class to offer their experiences to others.
It doesn't happen in other professions though so teachers shouldn't have to!
One argument I saw repeated on twitter this week. Try this – type ‘Saturday CPD’ into google. A whole myriad of results appears. If you are an accountant it seems you can attend an ACCA course on pretty much any Saturday in the year, Dental nurses in Reading can top up their knowledge this Saturday. In Liverpool on the 6th of May you can attend the ‘Exotic Pets in General Practice’ CPD course (if you are a vet.) You could brush up on your counselling in Brighton this Saturday or choose from a range of massage courses to do in Kent. And it is not just in the UK, if you are a barrister in New South Wales their Bar association offers official accreditation for barristers attending two or more Saturday courses in 2016/17
As for burning out, please take my advice, if everything is getting too much for you then take Saturdays to relax and spend time with your family and friends. Or come along to a Saturday CPD event and make new friends. Saturday events are designed so you can take in as much or as little as you like. I have missed whole workshops because I have been sitting and chatting with like minded people in the refreshment area. I count some of the Primary Rocks team amongst my best friends now and Primary Rocks is a chance for us to meet up and enjoy each others company. (Especially at the end of the day when we all go for PrimaryRocksBeers)
Blog by Rob Smith
The primary focused edchat - Mondays 8-9pm UK time