Do you own your own learning & CPD? – the rise of ‘Guerrilla CPD’! @ottleyoconnor

In my 30th year as a teacher, 25th as SLT & 13th as a head teacher, #pedagoohampshire16 will be my first Pedagoo or Teachmeet type CPD.  Although I’ve previously considered participating in this type of event, it took @MartynReah & the #teacher5aday team to push encourage me to engage.


Over the years, I’ve attended countless school based meetings and CPD events; however, I’m scratching my head to remember more than a handful of sessions that really impacted upon my development.  The standard ‘one-size fits all’ approach to CPD is dead…or at least it should be!

I’ve recently come to the realisation that I’m evolving from supporting & perpetuating a ‘spoon-fed’ culture of CPD for the masses to one of ‘Guerrilla CPD’!  If you like, a self-led approach to CPD, often sourced & performed in an impromptu/informal way to really meet the bespoke needs of individuals.

As a head, I thought that I ensured all staff accessed relevant & engaging CPD, until I realised the arrogance of that viewpoint.  I might as well have said to staff, ‘I know what’s best for you & you’’ll take your medicine whether you want to or not!’   Although some whole school CPD (e.g. safeguarding) is essential, it shouldn’t be the dominant approach.

Last week I was privileged to speak at the 3Es Conference @ISHCMC in Vietnam.  Teachers & leaders from SE Asia & Australia came together for CPD to ‘Enthuse, Engage & Empower’ each other.  The 250+ delegates, who approached their own learning with the same gusto & passion that they have to enthuse, engage & empower their students, enjoyed bespoke CPD owned, directed and delivered by participants.  It provided a powerful & multi-faceted blend of ‘Inspire Talks’ & workshops dovetailed with networking & reflection opportunities.  Although the brainchild of Head of School Adrian Watts, a team of talented leaders including @Shettattsam @HelenPhilip & @Suzanne20433725 coordinated an inspirational ‘Google-esque’ participant owned CPD event.

So…without realising, I appear to have migrated from much of my early traditional style formal learning through M.Ed. & NPQH towards the experiential style of SSAT Aspirant, New, Experienced & Executive Head teacher qualifications, to what is now a much more flexible & collaborative bite-sized approach to my own CPD.

My own CPD is now blend of:

  1. Facilitating sessions & programmes for quality organisations such as @FutureLeadersCT & @TeachingLeaders;
  2. ‘Sharing the love’:
    1. by engaging & collaborating with powerful personal learning networks on Twitter such as #SLTchat #UKGovchat #teacher5aday (including its many spin-offs), etc.
    2. by coaching & mentoring many aspirant, new & experienced middle leaders, senior leaders & head teachers
    3. by engaging with online educational research & blogs
    4. …and apparently now dipping my toe into a Pedagoo!

As a head I now try to model learning behaviours to inspire & empower staff to seek the most impactful training opportunities for their own development.  One person’s ideal format for CPD might be another’s nightmare!

Leaders should stop ‘doing’ CPD to staff!  Instead we should establish & communicate a strong values driven vision with clear priorities and then genuinely aspire to enthuse, engage and empower staff to seek the best way to make a difference for learners.  Instead of accepting the spoon-fed diet of a dated ‘one-size fits all’ model, the expectation should be that staff take ownership of their own CPD.

Although my view is still evolving, I believe that the competencies & characteristics demonstrated by a colleague who owns their CPD should be:

Has a values based vision:

  • Has passionate conviction
  • Enjoys personal challenge

Prioritises own learning:

  • Is a strategic thinker
  • Keeps focus
  • Drives self-improvement

Perseveres & is resilient:

  • Seeks disruptive innovation
  • Learns from mistakes
  • Prioritises wellbeing

Has a simple approach of Plan – Do – Review – Repeat:

  • Is analytical & a critical thinker
  • Uses initiative
  • Is a team player
  • Develops own potential

Gathers information & gains understanding:

  • Seeks new learning opportunities
  • Asks questions
  • Makes sense of knowledge
  • Collaborates & shares

Finally, whilst leading an academy out of Special Measures last year (in category for over two years), the HMI wrote in his report,

Curriculum leaders told me that you have ‘liberated’ & ‘freed them’ to lead .” 

One leader wrote in a leaving card,

“…you are an empowerer & enabler of people to become their wild, courageous, brilliant selves and I thank you for that.”

I like these reflections of my leadership approach to CPD!

I’m optimistic about what I’ll take from #pedagoohampshire16 and hope that it will continue to shape my approach to my own CPD.

I’ve just started as the Interim Principal at Essa Academy, so I hope that the staff will hold me to account for this approach and help create to a bespoke staff-owned culture of CPD!


Patrick Ottley-O’Connor

Founding Director: Collaborative Leadership ltd


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