We all know that it's not just children who are learning every day. Adults also continue to learn and develop. When working in early years it's important that practitioners keep up to date, reflect on practice and continue to develop as individuals. The early years field is constantly changing. New children and families arrive in our settings, research is published new frameworks are introduced. Keeping up to date and taking part in continual professional development (CPD) can sometimes be challenging and finding the time or the type of CPD that is helpful can be tricky but it is important to continue to learn, develop and reflect in order to provide high quality care and education.
The Education Inspection Framework (EIF) grade descriptor for Leadership and Management refers to professional development. The first point in the outstanding grade descriptor says: ‘Leaders ensure that they and practitioners receive focused and highly effective professional development. Practitioners’ subject, pedagogical content and knowledge constantly builds and develops over time, and this constantly translates into improvements in the teaching of the curriculum’ (p41, Early Years Inspection Handbook May 2019).
We should never do something just to get a particular grade but we should always aim to be the best that we can be. In order to do this we need to take time to reflect on, evaluate and develop our knowledge, skills and practice. When we do this well there is an impact on practice and may consequently affect the grade received following an inspection. The PACEY Building Blocks survey 2018 reported on CPD and found that:
- Around 46% of childminders and 52% of group practitioners reported doing over 20 hours per year.
- Practitioners in Ofsted graded ‘outstanding’ settings were more likely to have done more than 20 hours per year.
(Building Blocks, PACEY, 2018)
The Study of Early Education and Development: Good Practice in Early Education Research report says: ‘High quality settings prioritised on-going continuing professional development (CPD) to develop professional practice; to keep up-to-date with new research on effective practice; to build networks and share good practice and to support staff retention’. (p 62 SEED research report. January 2017)
Some of the challenges of undertaking CPD include it being too expensive, finding the time, being motivated as well as finding good quality and relevant CPD opportunities. It's important to remember that CPD does not just mean attending a training course or gaining a qualification, although these can be important and informative, it can include anything that helps you develop practice, knowledge and skills. When we think about CPD in this way it is possible to look at how we can overcome some of the challenges what we may face.
Some of the planned activities we can do that count towards CPD include: visiting another setting and learning from it; reading a relevant book, publication or blog; attending a webinar; researching a relevant topic; taking part in discussion with peers; taking part in online learning; peer to peer observations or mentoring others. If you work in a team then using part of supervision and team meetings is a cost and time effective way of participating in CPD e.g. Has one person done some research or read an article that they can present and lead a discussion on at a team meeting?
Before undertaking any CPD it is important to plan and identify what you need and why. If you work in a team this needs to be done across everyone so that you are ensuring that individuals and the group are developing and complementing each other’s knowledge and skills. This is important so that you make then most of any budget you may have, that you have identified where you all need to develop a particular aspect together as a team, where one individual needs input on a particular area and at a particular level and how you cascade knowledge and skills from one practitioner to another.
It is also important to think about the impact that the CPD activity is going to have on your practice. How will you know this and how will you evidence it?
It is helpful to keep a CPD log evidencing what you have done, when you did it, why you did it, what you learnt and the impact it has had on your work, and the children’s well-being, learning and development. If you work on your own this is a helpful record and prompt for you. In a team it helps the person coordinating CPD to see what has been done, assess the impact is it having and plan what needs to be undertaken and when e.g. when First Aid certificates need renewing.
The Education Inspection Handbook says: ‘Inspectors will gather evidence of the effectiveness of staff supervision, performance management, training and continuing professional development, and the impact of these on the children’s well-being, learning and development. (p20, Early Years Inspection Handbook May 2019). Think about how you will explain to the inspector the impact that CPD has had for you.
We started by thinking about how we are all learning something new everyday. There are challenges to this and sometimes reflecting on practice and changes can be challenging. But the benefits are worth it – our knowledge and skills grow, we develop both personally and professionally and this has a positive impact on ourselves and our practice. Yes it is good for our CV, but the less tangible but most important benefit is that we are a positive role model for children, families and colleagues who will see that we are all continually learning and developing.
The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you - BB King
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