Saturday CPD – a wonder for busy teachers or a millstone around their necks?

Rhetoric Program Flexible Learning Classroom

I read with interest today a blog post written by Debra Kidd announcing that the forthcoming Northern Rocks event will probably be the last.  For those who haven’t attended one before, Northern Rocks is one of many teacher organised CPD events on a Saturday (with excellent feedback).

Debra makes some interesting points in her blog post, concerned that teachers could be worried about missing out and in doing so, increasing their own workloads. That got me thinking as, through my role as regional secretary for the ASE, that I could be part of the problem as we organise CPD on a Saturday too.

So why do we organise CPD on a Saturday? We organise it because people come. It’s because teachers are finding it increasingly hard (and I don’t recall a time it ever was easy…) to get out of school on a weekday. Many schools restrict CPD, only paying for CPD that has direct links to the school development plan.  Teachers have fought back by organising their own events on a Saturday, where time is given freely and costs to be covered are minimal. As an ASE member, I give up my time to organise CPD and sometimes to present as well. We try to restrict our events to half a day because we know a full day is a  huge commitment.

Comments I read today on Twitter are making me question my stance on Saturday CPD.  I hope Kristy doesn’t mind me stealing her tweet to quote here, but her comment struck a chord and made me reflect on how I feel about Saturday CPD.

I used to work long hours on school days (even Fridays) and I spent my Sundays planning lessons on top. I was reluctant to attend many CPD or education related events because a Saturday was my only day off, the only day I got to spend with my family and most importantly my only time to stop and recharge.

Are we, as Kristy suggests, creating a two-tier culture within education – those who have time (not by choice) for CPD and those who do not? If that is the case, how far does this division go? Could it potentially affect recruitment (for example as part of a selection process) or could it influence pay decisions?

Are we creating an underclass of teachers, who through no fault of their own, are being denied CPD as the expectation shifts to one where teachers are expected to attend CPD in their own time?

CPD should be a core entitlement of any profession. It’s so important that schools have five days set aside for CPD so when did expectations change?

Perhaps I exist in a bubble. Many of the Saturday CPD events are publicised on social media, and the presenters and attendees occupy the same bubble (which anecdotal estimates put at 3-5% of teachers). Perhaps most teachers are oblivious to these events and so don’t feel they are missing out?

I hadn’t worried too much about this in the past as our regional science CPD events typically pull in under 100 delegates. There were relatively few Saturday CPD events in my area but as I’ve spent more time researching I’ve found more and more on offer on a Saturday with teacher-led conferences, subject association led CPD and even trade shows like the BETT show and the Education Show at the NEC. I do worry that we could be approaching a point of no return and that Saturday CPD could become the norm rather than a personal preference.

Update: Since I wrote this article it occurred to me that this issue goes further than Saturday CPD.  I’ve seen more and more books published for teachers – books on how to teach, manage behaviour, differentiate and so on. Books written for teachers, often by teachers or ex-teachers. What they all have in common is a price tag (£15 seems to be the average price) that could prevent teachers with a limited budget from buying them. These books are shared on Twitter, teachers who have read them are quick to say so and there quickly starts another missing-out culture.  Since Christmas I’ve seen perhaps a dozen books that I would like to read which amounts to nearly £200 in value (and I haven’t even considered the time it would take to read them all!) Sadly I’ve had to say no to most of them, and I do wonder what I’m missing out on. Were I at the start of my career I might have felt under more pressure to part with my hard-earned cash.  I know some schools have a CPD library – is that a solution or will that reduce sales to the point that authors don’t see a return on the time they invest in writing?

Image © lhammersmith