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Top Tips For A Successful INSET Day training workshop

school inset training

Most schools will have planned an INSET day for the beginning of January. INSET days come in all shapes and sizes:

  • Some are chiefly for information sharing – ‘Let’s remind ourselves of our school improvement plan targets and see how we’re doing against them’.
  • Some are used to improve work-life balance, for example giving themselves over to parent teacher consultations or report writing days.
  • Others are intended to provide professional development for staff.

With budgets being so tight, these INSET workshops might be delivered ‘in-house’. For example, by a subject leader who is cascading training that they’ve previously attended. Whilst this person will know their stuff, they may not be that confident to present, in an engaging way, to their workmates.

Alternatively, an external facilitator might be bought in. This person, you hope, will be able to motivate the team; deliver an agreed message in a new way and make sure that everyone is ‘on the bus’ as it journeys into the term ahead.

As a Head, I always tried to plan at least one highly interactive, engaging training day in September, to get everyone excited for the academic year. Then, with the dark days and wet plays of January, February and March ahead, I also felt it was really important to inspire people in the spring term, at the start of the new calendar year (and, in this instance, at the start of the new decade).

As a Laughologist, I’m now one of the people that are bought in. So, I’ve seen what makes a great INSET day from both sides. These are the things that seem to work the best:

Having a chat beforehand

Before the day, make sure time is made for a phone call, especially if the INSET day is going to address an area for improvement in the school. If you give the facilitator as much information as possible and share the outcomes that you want to achieve, they will be able to personalise the messages and learning to your team.

Letting everyone know what to expect

When you work as a Laughologist, for a company called Laughology, some folks can enter the room a little sceptically, ‘I’ve got loads to do, and they want me to effing laugh all day!’

Yes, we do aim to have a giggle, as we know people learn better when they’re having fun. But our content is grounded in neuroscience – hence the ‘ology’. By letting people know that the day’s training will, for example, help them to understand and manage their own and their pupils’ behaviour more effectively, folks are more likely to be on board right from the start.

Being ‘present’ in the room

We know that, for training to be most effective, leaders need to be in the room, joining in with the activities. Preferably without their phones on the table.

Referring back to the learning, often

In order to get the best value for money, an INSET day should be a catalyst. They should provide the opportunity to think about and discuss new ways of working, which are then agreed, introduced and embedded over time. If leaders are ‘present’ and hear the same messages as their teams, they are then able to refer back to these on a regular basis, in order to drive forward whole school improvement.

Involving the whole school team

Sometimes it isn’t appropriate to invite the whole school team to an INSET day – and people can get grumpy if they can’t see how the training relates to their role!

However, if the day has been planned to address a whole school target, for example becoming more resilient and solution focused, then everyone will benefit. If some people can’t attend, make sure they receive the presentation and have the opportunity to catch up on the learning with their line manager.

Mixing it up

People are drawn to others who look, think and behave in a similar way to them. This is never more obvious than when folks attend an INSET day. Groups enter the room together, seemingly joined at the hip, and bags are put on chairs to save them for a mate.

Whilst people like to be in their comfort zone, some of the best feedback comes from schools where people are mixed up and have the opportunity to get to know someone they might not ordinarily chat to as much. It always helps to explain why you’re doing this.

There are lots of ways of mixing people up. For example, you might ask people to arrange themselves in birth month order and then split them into groups of six from this.

Making it affordable

With budgetary constraints, continued professional development (CPD) can be one of the first things that becomes compromised. Yet we know that great CPD is a motivator in recruiting and retaining staff, as well as being one of the main ways to ensure ongoing improvement.

When I was buying in an external company I used to look at the cost per head, which always gave an indication of whether or not I was getting value for money. Another thing that I did was join forces with another like-minded school that was on a similar journey to us. Not only did share the costs, we enjoyed getting to work with other people on the INSET day itself, and the school-to-school support continued long afterwards.

Getting commitments from everyone

Life’s busy! However great an INSET day might be, it can be easy for people to take their notes, put them in a drawer and for them never to see the light of day again. Similarly, whilst they might have the best intentions of doing things differently, without regular practice people revert to their old habits.

By asking people what they will stop, start and continue, related to the training, and then pairing them up with a buddy who will check on them throughout the coming weeks, you are more likely to see a shift in behaviours.

Asking for feedback

After a great day of training, one of the last things that you want to do is fill in a lengthy evaluation form. However, it is important to find out what people enjoyed/ weren’t so keen on and how things could be better next time.

There are now many ways for people to give feedback digitally, which might appeal more than an A4 sheet. Otherwise a green slip for something that went well and an orange slip for something that could be improved usually brings out some insightful stuff.

Thinking about the whole experience

Feeling uncomfortable just makes it really difficult to learn and enjoy ourselves. We’ve probably all sat in a school hall shivering our bits off on an INSET day, so ramp the heating up for the start of term.

Where schools might have provided lunch in the past, many now can’t justify this. However, having some sweet treats on tables and asking everyone to bring in a dish to share at lunch can add to the collaborative experience.

And last, but not least, we all know that the first day back after a holiday can be tiring. Also, people often want to spend some time in their room, so that they are well-prepared for the week ahead. Make the times of the day manageable and, if you say that it is going to finish at 4pm, finish at 3.45!

Hopefully these top tips will help you have a productive, purposeful and enjoyable INSET day after the Christmas holidays and from now on. And, if you want a Laughologist to do all of the above and more, then give us a ring on 0844 800 1701 or email Vicky. 


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