Diary of a headteacher: Investing time in your staff

Written by: Diary of a Headteacher | Published:
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Transforming the CPD in his school has helped our headteacher diarist to develop the ‘professional capital’ of his teaching staff

I’ve been interested in the concept of developing the professional capital of staff in schools for some time. I’ve always held the intrinsic belief that school improvement can become over complicated and schools leaders can easily fall into the trap of initiative and intervention overload.

If you consider the term “capital” in a business context, it refers to any value added to an organisation that increases its net worth. In educational terms we can easily understand the term “value-added” in relation to student progress, but my experience has shown me that we do not always implicitly understand how to recognise and develop the professional capital of the staff in our schools.

In recent years, I have observed school CPD programmes evolve from a one-size-fits-all approach towards a more personalised training experience for teachers. I have also seen a movement away from a culture where teachers “go out on courses”.

If you read the work by Professors Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan on developing professional capital in schools, you will understand the three underpinning principles that form the basis of this concept: human, social and decisional capital.

Human capital is the talent, ability and skill of the staff within a school; essentially I interpret this as how good your teachers are.

Decisional capital is the capability of your teachers and staff to make effective judgements within their work; judgements on how to deal with situations, on the quality of student work, on how to manage and lead individuals and teams. I think of decisional capital as something that evolves and develops over time as we accrue experiences and learn from mistakes.

And perhaps most important is the concept of social capital; the way in which teachers and other members of staff within a school collaborate and work together in a collegiate and supportive culture. There is powerful research that points towards schools making significant and sustainable improvements due to an investment and dedication towards developing the social capital within the school. The more teachers are encouraged to work together, learn from each other and collaborate in research-based learning activities, the more effective the school becomes.

I have found the concept of developing the professional capital of staff fascinating, particularly the focus on social capital. I have always had an instinctive feeling that enabling your teachers to work together in a collegiate environment will yield significant rewards. I knew this because, deep down, this is what I wanted as a teacher; to feel trusted, valued and invested in.

So how has this changed the way that I’ve developed our teacher development strategy? I started by throwing our old CPD model out and starting with a blank sheet of paper and my most creative and open-minded teachers around the table. We’ve stripped away time-consuming and fruitless activities and focused only on the things we decided had an impact on student progress.

What came out was something we originally termed a “teacher learning menu” but subsequently rebranded “professional learning pathways” for all our teachers. Our staff all have 20 hours worth of CPD time they can use to engage in professional learning activities that are relevant to them and their career development.

We’ve created professional learning communities within the school where staff plan, coach and evaluate the impact of their practice with trusted colleagues. The impact has been transformational and not one single member of staff wants to go back to the old model.

So, what have I learned? I’ve learned that you need to invest in your staff if you want to improve your school. It sounds so simple and straightforward but how can we genuinely expect our school to become better if we keep on doing the same things, year-in, year-out?

This investment doesn’t need to be monetary, it is about dedicating time and resources in the form of internal expertise to developing teaching and learning and classroom practice. It is about committing to developing a culture of self-improvement where staff within the school become the relentless driving force behind authentic sustainable growth.

  • SecEd’s headteacher diarist is in his third year of headship at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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