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NTEN CPD Audit; The power of peer review

Our journey with the Teacher Development Trust started just over 12 months ago with a flight on a cold December morning to Newcastle and a visit to Cramlington Learning Village. Visiting Cramlington was alone almost enough of an experience to inspire change!  I was particularly impressed with their commitment to CPD for all staff and the associated benefits it has brought to their school.  The attraction of working with the Teacher Development Trust and particularly their National Teacher Enquiry Network strand was multifaceted. What had became clear was that we needed to move beyond a focus on simple compliance (OFSTED) and create a staff culture of sustainable and collaborative self directed improvement. We had various aspects of practice development in progress and the missing link was a holistic framework that our existing ideas could sit within and be refined further.

After initial conversations with existing NTEN partner schools I returned back to school convinced that I had found a network that would allow our thinking to be challenged within a supportive framework and be the basis upon which we could refine our practice and ultimately improve the outcomes for the students at our school.  Once we had joined I took the opportunity to use the peer CPD audit as a reflective document and evaluate our existing CPD practices against a model of exemplary practice. Alongside this, myself and several colleagues attended NTEN events hosted at partner schools and we initiated an exploratory cycle of lesson study to investigate the possibilities that this approach might bring. A key message that permeates conversations with NTEN members (staff and partner schools) and a consistent theme that runs through NTEN events is one of staff collaboration and reflection as a route to sustainable school improvement. 

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Our long term view was to use the framework provided by the CPD audit as a roadmap towards creating a highly effective model of CPD that would support staff in improving their practice.  The thinking that this promoted caused a number of developmental changes in the way we did a number of things:

  • Lesson observation; no grades anymore.
  • Appraisal; revised to allow recognition of expertise and risk taking / innovation in practice. Target phrased as; For performance / For mastery / For innovation
  • Greater choice in CPD provision; learning from existing staff expertise; The Thursday Morning Thriller.
  • A more strategic use of INSET days; Literacy with @learningspy and a start on the development of staff expertise in response to “What makes great teaching?
  • Greater implementation of IRIS technology to promote staff self reflection.
  • Empowering staff to have greater control over CPD and allowing them opportunities for collaborative planning, peer and self reflection and valuing these practices as part of the appraisal process.

Most recently we participated in the NTEN CPD audit. For anyone interested in how this process works it is broadly as follows:

  • The school self evaluate their position in relation to the audit framework.
  • Staff from all areas (teaching, admin, pastoral, support, technical) complete a short survey online.
  • A member of NTEN staff visits to undertake the audit, speaking to a range of staff and helping to triangulate evidence towards an overall judgement.
  • After evidence from the audit, visit and staff survey have been triangulated an agreed judgement, along with agreed strengths and agreed next steps, is confirmed.

The outcome of our audit was that we are meeting the bronze criteria overall. This was exactly as I had thought and when we embarked upon this journey where we hoped we would be after the first audit. We will be continuing with our membership of NTEN and plan to make use of the feedback and the audit framework to develop our practice to achieve a silver award at our next visit.

Our membership of NTEN, along with the peer reviewed CPD audit has been one of the most powerful processes that I have been involved with. The challenge brought by the visit was great! It promoted a significant process of self reflection yet also allowed an opportunity to discuss future strategic plans and the potential benefits and pitfalls; in essence it was like a really powerful coaching conversation that allowed a detailed dissection of what currently happens and an opportunity to discuss what our next steps may be.

This process combined with reading a great blog by @leadinglearner about the power of peer review has drawn me to the following conclusions:

  • Peer review is easily as rigorous as a compliance style inspection.
  • Peer review challenges you to make sustainable long term changes for the benefit of your organisation and most importantly the students.
  • Peer review encourages collaboration between organisations, concentrating on the process rather than the outcome.
  • The high challenge, low risk nature of peer review promotes an incredibly honest style of self evaluation that leads towards a collaborative and risk taking culture.

Overall I have been delighted with our association with the Teacher Development Trust; the old saying is true, “the more you give the more you get”;  being a fully engaged member of NTEN leads to greater opportunities for challenge and reflection, all of which will lead to improved teacher practice and better outcomes for students!



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