The red or blue pills are not the only options - How best to manage lasting behaviour change in education CPD

September 29, 2023
Classroom of students raising hands to answer a question

School Improvement

When deciding on the best approach to initiate school improvement in a particular area, sometimes both short-term and long-term solutions are required but we are more attracted to the quick fix pain relief too often when it comes to staff training and development in schools.

As an alternative example, if we take a person suffering from a mental health condition. They might be offered medication very quickly to help them settle the sense of discomfort they are feeling. This solution is well researched, backed up by evidence and thus gives the recipient a sense of confidence that this intervention will have a positive impact on them. They might then be offered some sort of therapy that is regular and runs for a longer duration, that enables the person to enact changes in their thinking, their beliefs and then their behaviour.

In a world where we can often feel time poor in all areas of life, making a long-term commitment to change can be one commitment too far. This is often against a backdrop of a world that loves a fast, instantly gratifying solution.

Behaviour training in schools

In schools, we are in the business of people. Adults, children, families, communities. It’s complex, it’s diverse and it is ever changing. To create a programme of training, especially in behaviour management for these groups is not straight forward and this is particularly true of the staff. In most schools we might give 4-6 days to staff training per academic year with smaller pieces of CPD being squeezed in where we can.

Training companies that sell CPD products to schools are aware of the constraints and so quick fix, pain relief INSET packages can come with lots of promise and thus be quite appealing. These solutions can work and often do, but in the absence of a combined longer-term solution, the quick fixes can become less effective over time.

Senior leaders in schools analyse data and listen to the support and challenges they receive from a range of stakeholders to help inform school development plans for the year ahead. They then attempt to align training programmes that will support these development goals.

If there were resources and funding available like a top premier league team uses to enhance every player, based on their area for development, this would be ok but the story in schools is often very different.

Some of the best CPD comes from within the staff team without any need for external investment. However, with staff turnover on the increase, significant reduction in teacher recruitment and the ever-tightening budget constraints, this approach is more of a challenge now and thus looking to external CPD providers becomes appealing, especially when the opportunity to combine external guidance and support with internal drive and enthusiasm are on offer.

Tailored CPD training solutions

School leaders have big decisions to make as to how to use the limited training budgets and time they have available. They will likely have to choose between a pain relief option like a 2-hour INSET session or a longer term 1-year programme such train the trainer or coaching models.

There is also the complexity of matching up the development needs of individual schools within multi-academy trusts that are all likely to be on different journeys of improvement within different contexts. CPD providers can have significant impact on the development of a trust if they can align their training provision to the strategic plans of the trust and the schools at a local level.

It’s important that training companies recognise these details when designing CPD packages for schools and colleges, irrelevant of the topic being covered and it’s important to work with these institutions to help them benefit from both the short-term pain relief and the longer-term therapeutic solutions.

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