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10 January 2022

The Monday Briefing: Just a little bit of you

The Monday Briefing: Just a little bit of you

When I assumed the position of Principal at the College, I immediately tried to instill as part of the organisation of the calendar of the institution the best areas of practice throughout my career. I decided to retain our processes for the final week of term, whereby all students sit mock examinations which are promptly marked by teachers, with results being provided at the end of the week. From one of my previous schools, I always felt that it was incredibly productive to have the first day of term dedicated to teacher development. Less of a ‘shock to the system’, it provides a chance for staff to catch up socially, regroup and prepare for the term ahead.

Following a safeguarding update from our Vice Principal, the day was dedicated to an introductory session with Raman and Preeti Bath from B.A.T.H Coaching. Whilst 9 out of 10 professional development sessions tend to be completed ‘in-house’, it is often more engaging for staff to enjoy the influence of visiting speakers, particularly when they have expertise in Psychology and Human Resources. This encourages new ideas and a fresh approach.

This is all part of a new initiative I’ve introduced as part of the College priorities for the academic year - to enhance further staff CPD by empowering teachers to understand their own abilities more effectively, becoming more reflective within their own practice and identifying priorities for improvement, working collaboratively with colleagues and students, to formulate an individual project as part of their appraisal targets.

Speaking to staff both separately and collectively, there was almost universal agreement that it had been the most useful staff CPD day that they had ever experienced. After addressing some of the trends in teaching at the moment, and making a very strong case for the necessity for a stronger focus on supporting staff emotional wellbeing to avoid burnout, a discussion-based session followed where teachers openly expressed their thoughts and feelings about their own professional practice. It was interesting to see what the main concerns were for all present: some talked of anxieties which they struggled, at points, to control; others stressed that the suffered from a type of ‘imposter syndrome’ which made them question their delivery; a few felt that they infrequently went through dips in confidence from time to time. 

These priorities will now form the basis for hour-long focus sessions - presenting a range of strategies and approaches for staff with which to improve their approach in these areas.

The rest of the day was set aside for in depth 1:1 sessions, concentrating on a thorough review of the results of skills profiles which had been formulated via the completion of a range of questions carried out by staff.

I feel it is an important part of staff development that teachers are afforded such opportunities, and most staff felt that there was a great degree of truth in the profiles which were created for them. These profiles will remain confidential to them - and their content will be for the respective staff to use as they see fit, but having the chance to read a full profile, breaking down realised and unrealised strengths, learned behaviours and ‘weaknesses’ (though these were referred to as ‘untapped areas’) was personally incredibly insightful.

We are only at the beginning of this process, but it’s an exciting one - and one which I feel will yield something special. An integral part of the College’s ethos is to empower students to progress within a supportive environment, and such an intention should also be true of staff.

It is inevitable that staff will come and go at schools, but there is certainly no guarantee that they will progress as practitioners. Throughout my career, I’ve participated in several different and quite variable programmes, and the success of these has been largely down to the staff involved: how far they want to improve; how invested they are in the College; how keen they are to support others to this end.

At this stage, I’m really keen to see where it all goes. 

I’ve already learned a great deal about myself, and considered how I can help others as well as myself to improve. It’s a pleasure to say that the approach is a new one, and places value on staff growth, happiness and fulfillment. It’s another area in which I am proud of our approach.

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