Some years ago, in my previous school, we put together a thinking skills project. It serves as a fantastic sample of two schools working together to create a lasting and beneficial form of CPD across two settings.
The project came about when a fellow headteacher and myself attended a great day’s training in the use of thinking skills in the classroom to support learning. We were both keen to develop such an approach and decided the best way to do this was to identify one key member of staff in each of our schools who would enjoy being involved in such work. We sent them both on a further thinking skils course and then gave them another day to work together, share what they had found out and agree how they might move forward with this in both our schools. They were both piloting some of the techniques and strategies they had learned about on the course and were keen to develop the project further. It was agreed that a full inset day for both schools would enable them to present all they had learnt, to talk about their successes in their own classrooms since attending the training and talk abut any difficulties they had encountered. They continued to meet over the next couple of months to share and support each other, and to plan for the training day.
We planned for both the teachers and ourselves as heads to deliver the training, share what we had learned on the courses and provide staff with a range of strategies and techniques to try themselves in class. The day went well. We hired a venue away from both our schools and hired a buffet lunch! It gave the day an importance and helped staff see it as some worth taking seriously. It was great for teachers from both schools to work together in year groups to plan out what they would be prepared to try out following the day and how they might support each other, electronically and through school visits. A follow up twilight meeting was planned for the following term to share what had worked in different classes and what people would like help with.
The project not only saw the introduction of new approaches in the classroom but also helped to build a supportive network across both our schools. There was no fear about ‘getting things wrong’ as it was new to everyone. It was more about getting involved in something innovative and exciting together. The project acted as a catalyst to developing a cross schools network and a culture of collaboration and support that still exists today. It was the start of a way of working that we have all adopted almost as second nature today but I believe there is still an awful lot we can do to get the most out of such simple approaches to networking and lasting cpd.