CPDL at Canons in 2016/17

Posted on July 1, 2017


This year at Canons, our People & Professionalism Team took the bold step of making all our non-departmental, non-year team meetings optional to staff. Many years ago we made our Teaching and Learning Communities (TLCs) optional in terms of which ones teachers could choose (so many schools still direct staff), but this was the next level. 

We cleared Staff Meetings out of the meeting cycle (they’re now in INSET days). We made INSET days for all staff – teachers and support staff – and made them one-size-fits-all. This sounds counterintuitive but, using Philippa Cordingley’s analogy, we see them as the pylons that are necessary for conveying the electricity: the professional learning between them are the wires and people at Canons can choose from the variety we offer, or choose to focus on something else of their own choosing. 

We also changed our TLCS into Professional Learning Communities (again for all staff, freely available to choose whatever your role). In the space vacated by Staff Meetings we introduced Joint Practice Development (JPD) sessions for staff to choose and use for collaborative learning. There was no direction given to these, simply time for people to meet within and/or across teams as they saw fit. 

All of this is part of our Vision 2020 drive for ‘Great Professionalism’ (one of four greats, each led by a team that is composed of SLT, middle and grassroots leaders). In this conception of professionalism we prioritise trust in the talents and agency of our colleagues, alongside support through the giving of time, space, resource and assistance. To many, it appeared to be a high risk strategy: what if colleagues simply chose not to engage?  They didn’t have to, as all PLCs and JPD slots are voluntary. But we believe in two things above everything else about the adults in our school: that they are good people who choose this profession for the right reasons, and that they all want to get better at their jobs. With these twin beliefs embedded in our ethos, we had no concerns at all about the outcomes. 

Yesterday morning, at our final ‘pylon’ INSET, we offered all staff the opportunity to present (informally, over breakfast, around a table) to colleagues about their professional learning this academic year. As with everything else we do, this was optional, but to support them our Research Advocate provided them with a proforma which they could use, adapt or replace as they saw fit. Those who opted in (including five of our Student Researchers, were joined, over coffee and croissants, by the rest of the staff who could choose to go and listen to as many talks as they wanted to (or not) over the course of an hour. 

The results were amazing. Below are a selection of the offerings (the ones I got to see), which are of themselves excellent. But the best thing was the interactions – low key but, I hope, high impact – between those explaining their learning and those learning from that learning. It was a little like a professional ‘peer review’ process with visiting colleagues asking lots of challenging questions to get to the nub of what their presenter had done and learnt during the year. I heard many comments that suggested that future collaborations have already been kick-started (which would tie in beautifully to our ‘Great Partnerships’ work for Vision 2020). 

It has, I hope you’ll agree when you see the summary sheets below, been a fantastic first year of our new approach to professional learning, and I am proud of the work of each individual colleague and the People & Professionalism Team for their roles in this. Most of all, I’m proud that this is the product of treating adults with the courtesy, respect, trust and belief that true professionals deserve. I can’t wait to see what 2017/18 brings that roots those values even deeper into “what we do around here” and how that begins to impact on the outcomes (in the broadest sense possible) for the staff, students, family and community of Canons High School. 


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