Rising Stars

Your school will probably support a wide portfolio of CPD approaches including attendance at courses and conferences, in-school training using your own staff, accessing an external consultant or adviser for support, shared visits to other schools, research opportunities, and distance learning. All of these choices cost and many are far from cheap – an outside inset provider can charge big bucks for their death by Powerpoint and pearls of wisdom. Some are just a waste of money.

But wait, CPD isn’t just the school’s responsibility; it’s yours too. So where do you go to access high-quality CPD training and resources that are affordable, have credibility and can be taken at three in the morning if that’s when you learn best? 

Rising Stars has teamed up with the Guardian Teacher Network to offer a 24/7 CPD solution that gives you many of the benefits of face- to- face training without having to leave your class in the hands of a supply teacher for the afternoon. The CPD is all delivered online and at the moment there are three KS2 courses available: Strategies for raising attainment in mathematics; Supporting the more able in mathematics; and Improving grammar, punctuation and spelling. They cost a very reasonable £75 each for four hours training, which excellent value is for money when you compare that against other training options.

Once you have signed up and logged in, you are shown a video presented by the course leader who explains what you will learn. Slides outline the objectives, the course structure (there are four modules), and provide pointers on how to navigate the programme. A nice feature here is the option to make personal notes, post comments and view comments made to questions and ideas by other users. This makes the course less solitary and opens up discussion and debate with colleagues from far and wide.

If you are up to your neck in work and haven’t got time to complete a module then you’ll be pleased to know the software is set up so you can stop at any time and continue from where you left off – so top marks for flexibility. You could feasibly start a module in your PPA time at school, continue on the bus or train, carry on at your favourite coffee shop and finish off at home.

Each module is well written and contains clear guidance on necessary preparations, thought-provoking tasks with which to engage, free resources to download, written and audio case studies, drag and drop activities, summaries and further reading. You also get access to resources via the Guardian Teacher Network – all in all there’s a lot for your money. At the end of the course you receive a certificate, which can only be a good thing for your portfolio of achievements.     

Course feedback? Well, the quality of presentations by the course leaders could be better. Some are reading from notes or an idiot board and so fail to engage or inspire the viewer with any confidence. I would expect much better given that the leaders are no strangers to presenting. Upbeat, smiley and natural presenters with on-screen enthusiasm are a must for motivating you and setting the right tone.

For me, the content in the three courses I viewed is very well written and would certainly expand and deepen your knowledge and understanding of key issues. I think the links and resources are fine, but these could be more far reaching and up-to-date in some cases, especially when it comes to useful websites. I’d also like to have seen video evidence of real classrooms and real teachers putting the course material into motion.       

Obvious tweaks and teething problems aside, I like the approach taken by Essential CPD and with time I can see lots of improvements and edits being made. It’s a radical rethink of the traditional inset day model and it fits perfectly the dual responsibility of school and self to commit to CPD as a driver to raise standards.

Our Verdict

Stay on the ball

As teachers, we have a professional duty to adapt and improve our teaching over time, and accessing training that is fresh, accurate and relevant is paramount. Essential, on-demand CPD by Rising Stars can play a very important role in keeping us on the ball and I look forward to seeing more courses being produced that cover new subjects. Get your CPD coordinator to take a look and pass the word amongst your colleagues because you can take a free trial, and register on the website to access a free course on using iPads in your classroom.

Pie Corbett