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BLOG: Filling the jar, a view on CPD

CPD does not have to mean training courses, in fact when budgets are tight they can often be expensive. There is a story about a wise man who filled a jar with large rocks until it was full. He then poured smaller rocks into the cracks, and finally sand into the smaller cracks until it was truly full. Training courses are big rocks. I'm going to look at a CPD intervention from the 'sand' category.

The majority of my personal CPD is done through listening to audiobooks. This was an idea I used to train managers in advanced business concepts in my previous job. We paid for all management level staff to have a subscription to Audible, an audiobook service from Amazon. It cost us £7.99 per month per employee. The deal was that each employee had to spend half their credits on books related to management or business (in any field or specialism) and could spend the other half on whatever interested them, I suspect some irrelevant novels may have been downloaded, but the 50/50 rule was necessary to encourage engagement.

Performance boomed as our managers began to develop knowledge of their own and each others' roles and bring new ideas and theoretical models to weekly meetings on a regular basis. My favourite quote was “I've just finished reading 'Surrounded by Idiots;' suddenly I understand where (the boss) is coming from.” Turnover increased by 25% that year, and every year since. 

When I switched into the early years sector I brought the practice with me. I still spend half my credits on books and lecture series directly related to parenting, early years education, child psychology, child development etc. It works out about 12 hours a month, roughly equivalent in content terms to attending a two day course every month; that's 144 hours a year for £96. I don't know any training manager who would scoff at that.

It takes no time out of my day; my wife and I run a childminding setting so even booking a dentist appointment is a semi-annual struggle. These hours come through the magic of bluetooth when I am walking the dog, or time when I am alone during parent taxi runs, or on the way to the school pick up. They come when I would otherwise be staring into the middle distance and thinking about nothing. 

I would advocate this approach to all childcare professionals. It is a brilliant way to gain access to the type of high level material that might interest the experienced practitioner, but is otherwise expensive to obtain. My most recent listen, 'Brain Rules for Baby' was a book on neurological development from conception to age 5 and how to encourage it. Perfect for someone looking to select resources or design a learning environment. The one before that, 'How to Talk so Little Kids will Listen,' was a set of practical tools for handling emotions, resolving conflict and encouraging learning that I would recommend as required reading for new entrants to early years education. 

The weakness of this approach is that it only works with people who are committed to their jobs, work closely together and trust each other. Does that sound like you? Childminders, and many nurseries and pre-schools, may have no more than 10 staff on the books.  That's an investment of less than £100/month to potentially foster a culture of learning in your organisation, start a business based book club, have employees come asking incisive questions or explaining new ideas, or set one particularly good text for everyone to listen to and restructure an aspect of your business around it. 

In our childminding setting we have used this learning to redesign the setting, purchase resources and give advice to parents on areas in which we were previously no wiser than they. Our parents often tell us we are 'experts'. While this is gratifying, our goal is to become true experts. We have a long way to go. Do you have minds in your setting that need to learn? What about new employees eager for the next training course? Do you have books or theories that you espouse and need a way to teach new employees the details?  If you answered 'yes' to any of these then this might be something for you to try.

About the author

I am currently a Childminding Assistant at Rainbow Kids Childminding, which I run together with my wife. I have been in this industry for 2 years. We have been PACEY members since we set up. The knowledge of implementing these ideas in a larger organisation came from my previous job as a Senior Manager at FGH Security, where I oversaw Learning and Development for a decade.

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