Guest Blog: Developing a CPD model

Lynn McCann writes this post about developing an effective model for delivering continuing professional development courses. She supports a range of schools and other educational organisations with students with additional needs. Lynn runs a consultancy business, she is definitely concerned about the outcomes of her support on the children. She supplies a lot of free resources and great advice via her website. Lynn is always on hand to tweet advice or support. 

Setting up Reachout ASC

Setting up my own consultancy business was never something I longed to do. Having taken the plunge 2 ½ years ago I have been developing a model of training and support (CPD). My aim was to give the best deal to schools we work with. Ultimately making school successful for pupils with ASC.

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We can reasonably be called experts in our field.  We’ve also both been class teachers in mainstream and special schools.  So we understand the challenge of putting ‘good advice’ into practice when you’re a busy class teacher pulled all ways. So firstly, our training sessions give busy, hassled teachers the knowledge they need about autism to be able to understand the needs of the pupils with autism that they teach.

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We talk, as we have certain information we need to pass on and explain. We always include practical activities that give them a taste and lots of real life examples. This is where we invite dialogue. We encourage delegates to reflect on how what we are saying relates to the children that they know. We encourage delegates to share insights and examples. This has the benefit of building up my bank of understanding too. I learn about how autism affects many more children than those I know directly.

SEND CPD in Schools

We love to work with whole staff. Inset sessions work well once we’ve gathered information about the school, it’s pupils and the staff’s needs. The worse thing would be to tell staff things they already know. We know what that’s like from our own experience.

Inset sessions when you sit there fuming and wish you were doing something more productive! Gathering this intelligence enables us to adapt our training and make it bespoke for each school. Our offer is relevant whether it’s a small primary school with just one pupil diagnosed with ASC, or a huge secondary with many pupils on the spectrum.

Our aim is to leave the school with the knowledge, confidence and some resources so they can do the job better.  But how do we know we achieve this?

  • Firstly, we offer email support. Schools or individual teachers can email us to ask further questions. They may request further resources or clarification about an issue or topic. Some do this but there’s not a massive take up.
  • Secondly, we offer an online community. Our Facebook page and twitter feed contain articles, resource ideas and comments that support continuing professional development.
  • Thirdly, we offer further specialised training courses that focus on one area. This may be social stories, in more depth, in order to develop professional skills further.

Individual training

But far more successful is our main business focus of providing regular visits to school for named pupils.  Schools that buy us in on a regular basis often do whole staff CPD early on in the contract which sets the foundations for everyone. Then by visiting every half term or sometimes more frequently, we can work with staff, the pupil and also parents to put in place all the support the pupil needs. This includes setting the next steps for moving the pupil on academically, supporting skills they struggle with and developing programmes that the school can implement daily.

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We aim our work at skilling up the staff bit by bit to be able to meet the pupils needs.  We are constantly able to evaluate our input, the development of the pupil and of the staff’s skills in delivering the interventions or support. Schools provide access to data and evidence to support this.  Bringing parents onboard and working as a team cements the partnership.  

We develop a long term working relationship with many of our schools. This gives us the chance to see pupils with ASC develop and benefit, and for staff to develop their expertise over time.  It’s not an area that you can be an expert in quickly. There is always something new to learn and busy teachers can benefit hugely from these kinds of partnerships.  Someone to talk to, ask for ideas and share progress with, is very helpful to them.  We have found our SENCOS particularly need this kind of mentoring and support.

See also Joe’s article https://inclusiveteach.com/2016/06/01/cpd-essentials-for-effective-training/. And this from Tom Sherrington @Headguruteacher https://headguruteacher.com/2014/07/06/barriers-to-effective-cpd/

My next step is to plan how we follow up those training sessions that we do not follow up with in-school support.  It’s good to have the challenge to keep our training relevant. Schools themselves can evaluate its effectiveness and value for money.

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