A shout out for our subject associations


Educator Suzi Bewell could not get by without her subject association, but she fears that these vital organisations are losing their kudos among some teachers.

With budgets in UK schools being cut, particularly CPD budgets, I believe that the future of training and development is shifting massively to the online world. 

I think this will suit both school leaders and teachers. It will give colleagues the opportunity to develop and acquire knowledge and skills from the comfort of their own home/school and there is also no additional travel or expenses to factor in, thus keeping costs down.

Another issue, alongside the reduction in spending in many schools, appears to be the problem of colleagues increasingly not being allowed out of school due to staffing pressures. In the past, attending a day conference in London for someone like myself living in the North could amount to more than £600, including conference fee, train travel and the cost of supply.

Furthermore, due to the busy nature of schools, the learning that had taken place on such days would often stay with the sole attendee, with departmental meetings frequently being more about administration and exam entries as opposed to sharing best and next practice.

As PGCE course leader for modern foreign languages at the University of York, it is vital that I stay up-to-date with the latest developments in education. 

I do this in a number of ways: via email, by social media and also in attending online webinars, TeachMeets and face-to-face conferences. 

Social media is especially effective. I have written in detail in the past about the power of social media for helping time-poor colleagues to keep up-to -date and find support via their online PLN (Personal Learning Network). 

I am proud to be an active member of ALL, the Association for Language Learning. ALL has long-embraced social media and has a significant online presence on both Twitter and Facebook, and has recently started to branch out into facilitating online webinars with nationally recognised MFL experts such as John Connor and Joe Dale. 

At a recent ICT Links into Languages conference in Southampton, several live keynote sessions were recorded and are now available online to watch for free, benefiting many more languages teachers than just the 70-plus people who attended.

However, we all must continue to value the opportunity to get out of school and meet colleagues and peers face-to-face to share best practice and professional learning. For me, Language World, run by ALL, is the highlight of my year – two full days of CPD and the opportunity to catch up with friends old and new.

However, I am concerned that being a member of a subject association no longer holds the kudos that it once did. ALL, as I am sure many other subject associations do, offers great value for money and regular local and national opportunities to learn and develop. 

Opportunities for CPD, both online and in person, are becoming more and more valuable. With the huge growth of academies has come a reduction in many local authority services. Local authority advisors would traditionally support colleagues in their region but very few of these advisors remain in post today. 

And given the current climate of immense change in education (the new national curriculum, the primary languages resurgence from September 2014, not to mention changes to both GCSE and A level examinations), it is no wonder that some teachers do not know where to turn for help.

It is reassuring to know that amid all this constant change, ALL and the other subject associations are still there to support, advise and encourage their members. In fact, given the tremendous change and challenge education faces, there has never been a more important time to be part of your subject association, irrespective of your curriculum area.

  • This guest editorial has been written by Suzi Bewell, who runs the PGCE MFL course at The University of York. Follow her on Twitter @suzibewell

Further information
For more information on the annual Language World Conference at Lancaster University on April 4 and 5, visit www.all-languages.org.uk/events/language_world



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