The key stages of staff training...
Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Excellent schools put one of the highest priorities on training staff. There are a number of stages to this however, and the approach you take will depend very much on where your school is at on this cycle.
At one of the first schools I was charged with turning round, the situation was pretty dire. A pupil at this boarding school went missing for 2 weeks before anyone noticed, and I have no doubt that a snap inspection would have closed the place. However, many of the staff were well aware of how bad things were and desperately wanted the leadership in place to make a difference. There was no tradition of effective staff training with a variety of teachers from lecturers to the newly qualified. It was clear that this
school was at a level which needed clear direction and focus. Training sessions were held for all staff on safeguarding and teaching and learning with a strong centrally directed structure. Once I had someone with the ability to do so, I made sure we had someone whose role it was to mentor and support staff who were finding things challenging at or we had concerns about so a supportive environment was encouraged with help targeted where it was needed. The same teacher can mentor new staff into your expectations as a school so it’s always re-enforced where the school is heading.
This met the immediate needs and stopped the school failing. However, it is
never a recipe for making a ’good’ school.
In the first school I led which became ‘excellent’, the key lay in empowering others. First, the right people had to be in post and structures had to be right - staff need to be in teams - faculties or Departments, or whatever we wish to call them. Then training moved slowly away to the highly directive, to a more collaborative approach.
Teams and collaborative learning
The next stage is having a clear and focused development plan in place for the school using the input you have had from staff on sessions on what makes a great school. You need to audit all areas using inspection requirements as one of your guides. Staff can be asked in simple questionnaires what their needs from training are. You will also have started gaining information from lesson observations about general areas for improvement as well. You will have launched training for middle leaders on lesson observations and use of data and have staff attend training with UCL in London.
Research led learning
By this stage you can set up Teachmeet sessions - teachers volunteer to talk for a max of 10 mins on something they have learned works well in the classroom. It’s a great way of sharing ideas in a collaborative environment. If it’s after school, I always made sure there was great food and made it a pleasant session. You can also invite staff from other local schools along to participate. Staff who have attended excellent training such as that at UCL may be keen to undertake research based learning and its great to encourage this. The next stage to this is setting up Leadmeets - the same idea as Teachmeet, but focused on leadership issues. Senior staff and middle leaders can contribute, but it’s also a great way to
encourage your next generation of leaders too.
Trios and staff led learning
As things progress, the final stage is giving staff even more control over the training process and you will need to gauge when this is right. It’s really a mark of an excellent school when you are able to
do this. You put staff into Trios - groups of three, and provide directed time to allow them to meet. You can aid the process with a simple template, but the idea is that staff in their group decide what they want to observe in each other, and what ideas they are going to try out in class. In future meetings in directed time, they can report back to each other and hold each other accountable while sharing ideas in a supportive and non threatening way. It’s fine to fail in trying an idea, and staff have a support group to discuss it with outside traditional line management structures. Clearly for this to work, you need a clear culture embedded of support and collaboration and staff need to feel involved at every level.