A New Deal

13 Jun

“All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual.” – Albert Einstein

This week the Education Minister announced his plans for a “new deal” for teachers in Wales.  The main thrust of the plan was to guarantee all teachers would have access to high quality continued professional development (CPD) from their first day on the job until their last day before retirement.

It is right that the Welsh Government have recognised the need for a new deal on professional development.  In his keynote speech, ‘Reform, Rigour and Respect’ the Education Minister openly acknowledged that the Welsh Government had got this wrong in the past and had neglected this critical aspect of developing the education system.  Indeed, one of the main criticisms that came out in the OECD report was that there needs to be a greater focus on CPD to help build the human capacity of the sector.  Both the Welsh Government and the OECD see this as a way to increase the standing and respect of the role of teaching.  Something that desperately needs to happen.

Part of the plan is to ensure that schools, through their school development plans, have to identity how they are providing CPD for their staff.  In one sense this is a positive step.  It creates, through legislation, a written commitment from schools that their staff will have that access to training.  Crucially it will also be aligning that training to the needs of the school and its pupils.  However, on the other side of the argument for too long schools have felt as though they are operating a DIY approach to CPD.  It is hard to really see how once again placing the emphasis on those schools changes that.  At the very least that needs to be matched by a commitment from regional consortia and local authorities, both financially and through expertise.

For all the support and good will for this announcement there will inevitably of course be cynics.  The Welsh Government’s track record in education of delivering the practical elements of its theoretical commitments has not been good.  The sector is almost switched off to new announcements because they are not confident they will be implemented as promised.  The fact that the 2007 Daugherty report pressed the need for improved training for professionals, and nothing came of it, is tribute enough to how teachers have been left empty-handed in the past.  What is more, world-class professional development does not come cheap.  There has to be an investment in the system to deliver it effectively.  That no new money will be earmarked for this new deal is somewhat worrying.  Funding will be allocated but through existing sources.  The natural questions that arise then are; is the money that will be available enough and what other aspect of education will miss out as a result?

Those are questions that will continue to hang in the air.  No doubt teachers and schools will monitor how the plans pan out in reality.  In the meantime most will approach the commitment with an open mind.  Getting this right could be the key to unlocking the true potential of our system and our pupils.  On that basis it is worth getting behind.  Let’s just hope that the concerns of the cynics amongst us are not proved correct.

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