The future of professional development (PD) opportunities has never been as accessible for school officers and services staff, with COVID-19 forcing schools to accept and adapt to online training and learning technology.
School officers and services staff have typically encountered many barriers to accessing quality employer-provided PD.
In addition, training options have at times been limited or frustrated when it comes to:
- relevant or specialised content needed for specific support staff roles,
- the timing of training e.g. fitting into the disrupted work schedule of part-time or term-time support staff; and
- accessing appropriate technology infrastructure and support.
More content and time
Due to social distancing regulations, professional development and training providers have pivoted to increase the type, quality and quantity of courses they offer through remote or online delivery.
Not only are there more options for self-paced pre-recorded sessions, many industry experts have amped up their live-stream webinars and software companies have worked to make hosting platforms highly interactive.
More tech support available
The rapid adaptation to online remote-learning for students means that most schools have now established highly effective and efficient Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure (if they did not already).
These networks will undoubtedly still be used heading into the future of classroom teaching but this also means staff can access and are trained to use the technology in place for professional development purposes.
Online PD also overcomes geographical distance barriers for remote or rural employees, significantly decreasing the associated costs of accessing quality PD.
Collective agreements encourage and require support staff PD
Historically, school officers and services staff have often struggled to access good quality employer-provided PD despite most collective agreements containing clauses that encourage and promote participation via provisions such as paying for endorsed course fees and allowing paid time for training.
This year, Queensland Catholic school employers have recently re-committed to quality PD for school officers and services staff during negotiations for a new collective agreement.
The in-principle agreement comprises an updated provision relating to PD that must be made available to school officers and services staff and ensures that an annual PD plan is developed with each employee.
The updated clause will also promote PD opportunities in addition to standard compliance training.
Provisions ensuring guaranteed access to quality PD opportunities need to be rolled out across agreements in all sectors so that school officers and services staff have careers they can count on.
Quality PD critical
Quality professional development ensures staff further enhance their skills, knowledge and expertise while also benefitting the entire school community.
School officers and services staff need more than meetings about school policies or mandatory compliance training.
The nature of our schools and the work support staff undertake is ever evolving.
Quality professional development is essential to:
- Continually update work skills, knowledge and expertise to ensure staff can better tackle the challenges of modern schools.
- Enabling staff to realise their full professional potential.
- Provide an opportunity for all school officers and services staff to build meaningful, long-term careers in our schools.
Union support in accessing PD
Members are encouraged, in the first instance, to identify professional development and training opportunities that are relevant to their roles and which align with their school’s professional development policy (if one exists).
If members are having difficulty identifying or accessing quality employer-provided PD, they should contact our union for support.