Taking the long view: investing in CLPE CPD
I’m one of the converted. I’ve seen the light. I now understand why people knock on doors and stand on street corners to share a message, because once you’ve been on a CLPE course, you remember why you were passionate about teaching. You can’t wait to get back in the classroom. You need to spread the word to colleagues. You find yourself having to reassure others that no, you’re not on commission, you just don’t want to keep all of this good stuff a secret.
All too often, I’ve attended training that begins apologetically: ‘we must do this because it’s statutory’ or ‘Ofsted expect it’. I once attended a session that advocated using texts purely because they contained the grammatical features required by a year group. Put down Charlotte’s Web or The London Eye Mystery – they do not showcase the full range of punctuation. Instead read a text that uses a dash brilliantly and has an abundance of relative clauses. These sorts of courses reflect the broader picture: a teaching profession increasingly wrong-headed, flotsam and jetsam amidst the sea of misinterpreted strategy documents and social media-fuelled rumour.
Not so CLPE training. The starting point is always asking and answering those fundamental questions about what we want pupils to learn, what’s the best way of achieving this and how we know. They have the courage to stick with these questions and the conviction that comes from knowing that they base their work on evidence and have evidence that it works. ‘Integrity’ is a word I’ve heard there a lot and they are rightly proud of modelling ways of meeting statutory requirements with integrity.
I gave some thought as to what it is about the CLPE training, particularly the long courses, that makes it so successful. As well as taking a different starting point, there are some other key differences:
They do what they say on the tin.
Unlike so many courses that promise so much and deliver so little, you can feel confident that you’ll get what you pay for. Raising Achievement in Writing does raise achievement in writing. It did in my school.
Courses are evidence-based and longer courses involve conducting some kind of school-based research.
I hadn’t actually realised when signing up that I would need to read academic texts and undertake action research between sessions. It’d been years since I’d done this sort of thing and I was a little concerned about how I would fit that in to an already crammed timetable. However, it didn’t take long for me to see the benefit and make the time. I learned so much from considering how theory underpinned practice and following the progress of case studies; plus, it was hugely satisfying to see how pupils’ attitudes changed over time.
There is time to reflect and evaluate within and between sessions when doing longer courses:
Often it’s only when you go back and try something that you know what you should’ve asked. And you get to do this with a group of colleagues on the same journey as you and your course leader.
The teaching team are experts and work with professional authors to give insights into reading and writing:
This is reflected in: their choice of core texts; their ability to signpost other texts; the engaging and original activities they devise; their capacity to showcase what classroom displays for their teaching schemes might look like; and their understanding of classroom practice and how pupils learn. In addition to the CLPE staff, both longer courses I attended were significantly enhanced by the professional writers and illustrators who led interactive sessions, bringing an important insight into their creative processes.
There is an uncompromising expectation that all teachers need to be readers and writers.
If you attend a writing course, you will be expected to read and compose both on the day and afterwards. With longer courses, there is time to reflect on the reading and the writing completed between sessions. I would always count reading as a pleasure and was fine about writing prose. But I experienced sweaty-handed dread at the idea of writing poetry. I had no choice but to overcome this and, as a result, am a better teacher of poetry.
In short, how have CLPE courses benefited my school? They have:
- Contributed to us developing an engaging and purposeful curriculum.
- Given us a number of highly successful teaching sequences.
- Schooled us in how to use a similar approach to plan our own teaching sequences.
- Increased standards in, and enjoyment of, writing (both of these are quantifiable).
- Given us a better understanding of barriers and motivators for reading and writing.
- Contributed to our ethos of ‘Readers as writers and Writers as readers’.
You only need to consider how many teachers come back to CLPE to get a flavour of how well regarded they are. A number of colleagues that I’ve chatted to said that their school spent its entire CPD budget with CLPE, because it was the only external training that was worthwhile. Even in these times of straitened circumstances, we can’t afford not to have places like CLPE and the beacon of hope and excellence that their training offers.