CPD during Covid: Things have changed forever

CPD during Covid: Things have changed forever

This article was originally published on SecEd.

CPD has been transformed during the pandemic – with many agreed that it has changed forever. Yvonne Gandy finds out how the CPD offer of one of the regional Teaching School Hubs has reached a global audience after adapting during Covid-19.

CPD, like many aspects of life in the UK, will not be the same again once the pandemic is under control and life begins to return to “normal”.

That is the clear view of Sufian Sadiq, director of teaching school at the Chiltern Learning Trust, a cross-phase multi-academy trust of 11 schools based in and around Luton.

The MAT has just been announced as one of 81 new regional Teaching School Hubs that will replace the current network of 750 smaller teaching schools.

Chiltern, which will be responsible for two areas totalling 500 schools, has for some time been a major local player in CPD – as an Outstanding Leaders Partnership partner they deliver National Professional Qualifications to schools across their local area. The NPQs are still a major part of their work and are set to remain so in the next few years, certainly as they expand their reach as a Teaching School Hub.

Covid has led to the teaching school spreading its influence even further afield, utilising the power of online learning as never before. It is an approach that provides a fascinating glimpse of how CPD is evolving in these tumultuous times.

Mr Sadiq explained: “Our reach has been geographically very distinctive before. We would not look further than 20 miles away because it would just be inconvenient to get members of staff to come from any further way. It would just take too much time.

“In the last year we have developed our teaching school YouTube channel and it has been really effective. We now have almost 2,000 subscribers. They come from across the country and across the world.”

The movement of CPD activity online, at least for the foreseeable future, means that the teaching school can respond very quickly to the changing needs of teachers and leaders.

“Stress and anxiety are massive issues for teachers at the moment,” Mr Sadiq continued. “Traditionally, CPD has been held after school but this is increasingly difficult for teachers who may be having to home-school their own children and with a lack of after-school provision. That situation will probably continue for a while yet, so we have had to become flexible and imaginative in what we do.”

Chiltern has hosted 130 live CPD events on the YouTube channel over the past year and all the CPD content available on the YouTube channel is free to use.

“We are not coming from a profit-making perspective with this,” Mr Sadiq continued. “We want to reach as widely as possible because we want to help schools. That’s our moral purpose.

“We wanted our CPD to be accessible. We make it in bite-sized 20-minute chunks because we know how short of time people are at the moment. The idea is that no-one now has an appetite to be sat on Zoom all day.”

The online approach also means that the teaching school can quickly create CPD opportunities to help schools address current social issues. For example, they hosted an online conference with more than 1,000 attendees about Black Lives Matter as the movement gained momentum in the UK.

“It showed just how online learning can help you to nimbly respond to people’s needs,” Mr Sadiq said. “Before all this happened if I were to organise a major conference with more than 1,000 people attending it would have taken me six months. It took us just a week to organise that event.”

The current focus on online CPD could offer other positives: “There has been insufficient reflection I think on the number of BAME people in school leadership and I believe that by moving to a largely online model that might remove another barrier, especially when it comes to leadership development.

“It gives us a way of bringing people from all parts of the country together. You might be the only black teacher in a primary school in Cornwall, for example, but there will be an opportunity to network with other teachers like you, without the need to travel.”

This online-only approach has proved so popular in the last year that it won’t fade away with the pandemic, Mr Sadiq added. It is likely to leave a legacy in CPD approaches – what they will be are still to be worked out. But one thing is for sure, the future for CPD will be very different.

Yvonne Gandy is programme director of the National Professional Qualifications at Best Practice Network, which supports Outstanding Leaders Partnership to deliver the National Professional Qualifications for school leaders. More information is available at www.outstandingleaders.org and www.bestpracticenet.co.uk.