CPD, the DfE and you: what makes good literacy professional development?
Posted by Emily Best
9 Aug 2016
Last month the DfE released their five-point Standard for teachers’ professional development. Some of this will be familiar practice, reinforcing what many already believed and confirming what others suspected. The headline is that any professional development should be substantial and sustainable. But what does this mean for literacy? We know that literacy can lie at the heart of whole-school improvement but when the challenges vary from year to year and school to school, how can you ensure that, on top of everything else, your literacy CPD is up to standard?
1: Professional development should have a clear focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.
According to our latest survey young people who enjoy reading very much are three times as likely to read above the level expected for their age as young people who do not enjoy reading at all (32.7% vs. 10.1%). If you want to improve reading outcomes, consider a programme that helps encourage reading for pleasure. Don’t let the word “enjoyment” put you off, you can still maintain a results-based focus as long as you give time to reflection on and evaluation of different approaches.
As well as helping teachers and literacy leaders develop strategies to promote enjoyment of reading, our course Reading for Enjoyment in Key Stages 2 and 3 includes an evaluation framework and participants learn to work with and respond to their own pupil attainment levels to ensure the approach they take works best.
2: Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise
In the 2015 School Inspection Handbook OFSTED states that, to be judged outstanding, schools must demonstrate that “excellent policies underpin practice that ensures pupils…are making progress in literacy.” Most would agree it has been a turbulent year in education but while policies come and go and approaches change, the need for solid literacy practice across all ages and subjects persists. Make sure you’re well equipped to respond to changes:
- Stay up to date with the latest research and policy with our Literacy Guide for Schools
- Contact your local teaching school for guidance
- Bring in experts to shape your CPD around the latest evidence
3: Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge
In 2003 the Centre for the Use of Research and Evidence in Education (CUREE) showed that collaborative CPD “enhanced beliefs amongst teachers of their power to make a difference to their pupils’ learning […]” Our training is cluster-based but we also encourage multiple teachers from each school to attend. Not only do you have the time and space to share ideas with other schools but by working with a colleague you are better equipped to embed strategies across your school.
Don’t be tempted to save money by running your CPD in house to the detriment of expert input. Good CPD costs money – invest in it. Results show that deprivation is a key factor in poor literacy – the percentage of FSM pupils leaving school with an A* - C GCSE including English and mathematics in 2013/2014 was 33.5% compared to 60.5% for all other pupils – so there is a strong argument for using your pupil premium allocation to fund professional development.
4: Professional development programmes should be sustained over time
Pressure to achieve short-term results in literacy and time spent implementing day-to-day practice can detract from longer term goals. But to have effective results time is essential. For example, we know that the gender gap is still a persistent issue (in 2015 we reported that 61.2% of girls enjoying reading versus 47.8% of boys), but there are many reasons for this that vary from group to group. To unpick the reasons specific to your pupils and develop your strategies you need that time for reflection and evaluation.
This is why our course Improving Boys’ Literacy: Strategies for Success is spread across two terms with plenty of time to complete gap tasks. We also know, however, that teachers depend on time away from the classroom to plan, consolidate and evaluate research, so when you come to one of our training sessions we invite your head to attend for free, so they can understand the benefits and accommodate accordingly. Which leads to the final point from DfE…
5: Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership
According to our survey last year, only 42% of teachers asked said they had particular strategies for teaching literacy that they thought worked well, with only 35% feeling confident about using evidence-based approached. 1 in 10 said that a lack of leadership was a barrier to achievement in literacy.
All of these requirements presume a level of commitment from participants, but it’s only possible to commit if time, space and budget are available. Make sure you get those things. Make sure your literacy leader is a member of the National Literacy Trust Network so they can access the materials themselves – our school memberships include up to five logins. If you are a leader yourself, read the latest research, speak to other schools and work with your staff. Together, you can ensure your literacy provision is the best it can be.
We offer a range of CPD courses to help you drive great literacy provision and leadership in your school. Find out more
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