Spotlight on supporting small schools to access CPD
Posted 9th January 2024
North Yorkshire is blessed with rolling hills and dales and 194 ‘small schools’ to serve our rural communities. The DfE defines a ‘small school’ as a school with less than 150 pupils. Small schools have unique contexts with headteachers, teachers and teaching assistants balancing multiple roles and teaching children in mixed age flexible settings. Working in a small school can be incredibly rewarding, building strong relationships with children, communities and families; yet it is also challenging as schools fulfil all the roles and functions of a larger school with much less resource and capacity.
Recruiting an ECT
Smaller schools therefore have less resource to support an ECT. All ECTs now have an extended 2 year induction, the first year being 90% or less contact time than other teachers and 95% in in the second year. For small schools it is not just finding this extra time away from teaching, but also finding a mentor who can support at least the weekly mentor meetings (then fortnightly in the second year); and complete the ECF mentor training that accompanies the new evidence based Early Career Framework. It is vital then that small schools have access to a flexible ECF programme.
We are now in our third year of ECF delivery, and as a Teaching School Hub delivery partner we have learned a lot about how to implement the ECF effectively in a range of schools. Our lead provider UCL provides an incredibly flexible ECF model. We are committed to F2F training as we recognise the power of teacher collaboration, networks and peer learning for novice teachers and that there is a pastoral dimension to the ECF delivery. We support rural schools therefore by providing geographical clusters in a range of locations, including South Craven and Brompton-on-Swale, where ECTs meet termly with their Early Career Lead who will work with the ECT for their full 2 years.
Additionally, mentor training has been reduced in line with feedback to the DfE and beyond Inductions (which can be F2F or online), training comprises of only 3 x 1 hour online termly after school sessions. The rest of the ECF is facilitated via an online learning platform: UCL Extend. Mentors and Induction Tutors are guided to use this self-directed study flexibly with their ECT, using audits to support ECTs to access the learning most applicable to them. The UCL ECF is not a one-size fits all and there is certainly no requirement that mentors and ECTs do everything.
The ECF is not the only free CPD offer to small schools. National Professional Qualifications have expanded to include specialist and leadership options and are currently fully funded for all schools.
Reformed NPQs are designed to be flexible around school commitments and less workload that the legacy NPQs, no school based project or evidencing standards! We have certainly benefitted from the flexibility of the new specialist and leadership NPQs at Red Kite. The geography of our Hub area makes complete F2F difficult and that is why online after school 1 hour seminars are perfect for school leaders to access. Additionally, our 2 F2F conferences in Harrogate are very well-attended; we give participants lots of advance notice on these, and offer alternatives.
“I found that the structure of the course was designed so that my time was managed efficiently with clear direction as to the navigation of online resources and seminars. The frequency of seminars and the expectations in regards to engagement (online content and seminars) were manageable yet they provided the correct level of challenge.”
Jess Fox, Class teacher and subject leader (English, history, music), Askwith Primary School.
We know our small schools struggle to access CPD, there is even a challenge sourcing supply teachers. The DfE recognise this additional challenge, and for every school participant, a small school receives a £800 bursary to support.
Currently these bursaries and NPQ full funding is applicable to our February 2024 cohort; funding beyond this as yet has not been confirmed. Our application deadline is 2 February.
We know that all school-based colleagues value bite-sized chunks of CPD that they can fit in around their busy schedules and access flexibly. That is why we have collated and shared all our Hub Talks so far into an online public library. Here you can dip into a range of short talks on a range of topics from EAL to system leadership.