This week, the Secret Teacher shares their thoughts on in-service days, and why for many in education the mere mention can be enough to set eyes rolling.

In-service days can very occasionally be quite good. 

It’s like one of those classic rock bands who are constantly churning out albums. Occasionally you get a good song, but more often than not it’s like the recent Rolling Stones album. 

I hate them. 

More often than not you get put onto these really patronising, pointless school initiative Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses. I’ve been to one or two that have been really special and helpful, but they are the exceptions. 

The Herald:
I remember one of the first in-service days I attended when I was a student. This guy stood in front of all the teachers in the school with an empty cup in one hand and an open can of Coke in the other, and he said: “did you know that students have a lot on their mind?”

“You might just be thinking about your subject, but imagine this… It’s a difficult morning. Maths (pours Coke into cup). Geography (pours more Coke). English. Lost a pencil. Fell out with a pal…”

By this point he’s making a mess and there’s Coke all over the floor. 

I remember turning round and looking at my colleague, and she was working on this beautifully drawn, shaded sketch of a phallus. That’s how bored she was and how useful she found it. 

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You don’t work in a school within a deprived area without an awareness of the fact that our kids are living in awful circumstances a lot of the time. What tends to happen is that schools have to do these things so that they can say they’ve done them. It’s a tick-box exercise to back up something that already exists, but there’s this obsession with evidence. 

The Herald:
It can be very admin-heavy, with form-filling and self-evaluation tasks that overcomplicate what should be a simple process. Whether you’re evaluating a lesson, a year or results, self-evaluation should be as simple as looking at it and asking ‘what’s good, what’s bad and how can I learn from this?’. It’s as simple as that. 

Instead, it becomes this very contrived, overly bureaucratic task which takes up a lot of time and you just sit there twiddling your thumbs, thinking about all the things you could be doing instead. 

Another issue is that really noble things are given far too much time. I don’t need to listen to an hour-long presentation to know that Skills Development Scotland are doing a lot of good things for our school. 

It’s that classic adage: ‘this could be an email’.

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Maybe it wouldn’t sting so much if there was a better balance in terms of teaching time commitment and non-contact time, but right now the bureaucracy just appears to get in the way of it. 

There should be CPT, but I would love it to be more of a streaming service model where we can pick and choose. There’s got to be a better way than dragging your entire staff through these things. 

I would anticipate that any teacher reading this would have their own Coca-Cola story to tell. The in-service day is something people roll their eyes about, as much as it’s nice to be able to wear your jeans…