Ongoing professional development vital for students and teachers

PPTA president Jack Boyle's viewpoint on the the need for balance in professional learning and development

Having a professional voice is critical

Teachers want to do the best for children. That’s why we got into the profession in the first place. It’s also why education unions are bucking the trend of decreasing membership: we know that having a professional voice is critical to make sure we have the skills to meet the needs of our young people.

We all know that’s not easy. How best to meet the needs of children is often contested, and we often go the extra mile for the kids, even though it may not be in our best interests.

Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the area of professional learning and development (PLD).

Funding for the chosen few

Unlike the highest performing jurisdictions such as Finland and Singapore, where ongoing PLD is guaranteed, New Zealand has either a user pays or a social investment approach which funds a chosen few and leaves the rest. The large majority of teachers have to find and fund the learning they need to meet the needs of the children they teach.

Despite its obvious limitations this model does work. That’s because teachers are life-long learners who care about their profession and they just box on with the unacceptable workloads and out of hours work – for the kids.

There needs to be more of a balance

Sadly, an opportunity to provide balance through the Networks of Expertise may have gone begging recently. PPTA engaged in good faith with the PLD review but recently we’ve learned that what you told us you needed – subject specific PLD – will only be available in one or two hand-picked subject associations and nothing for anyone else.

In the short term this may mean we’ll have to continue being ‘heroes’, growing our own PLD in our own time, rallying round to support new teachers on top of our own burgeoning workloads and filling the gaps in provision by propping up subject associations and the fledgling Communities of Learning.

We need to stand together 

Alternatively (or additionally), we could organise. While most of us simply want to be given the professional autonomy and professional support to get on with doing our best, sometimes we have to stand together to make this happen.

Either way, we won’t give up - because we know that a PLD system that is nimble enough to respond to the needs of individuals as well as the system as a whole is possible. Providing teachers with the conditions to grow and improve should be a no brainer really.

In fact, I’m confident we will get there – because PPTA has a history of being proven right, and the more of us who stand together the stronger we get. After all – being the best we can be is ultimately about the kids.

Last modified on Friday, 20 October 2017 10:28