Speed Learning – a new form of CPD

Written by: HTU | Published:

Speed Learning is a new concept in grass-roots, profession-led CPD, offering practical and high-impact ideas. Fiona Aubrey-Smith explains

Inspired and run by a national group of headteachers, Speed Learning is an innovative way of enabling schools to share professional knowledge about current challenges, strategies and practice. The Speed Learning ethos is fast-paced, freely accessible, and unapologetically focused on classroom impact.

As primary head Jane Ratcliffe explained: “The expertise to lead and teach in primary schools already exists and particularly in light of new-found autonomies it’s more and more important for us to come together to share practice, collaborate on solving shared problems, debate issues and support each other.”

In April, Cholsey Primary School in Oxfordshire hosted the first ever Speed Learning event, running for 90 minutes, usually after school from 4 to 5:30pm, the Speed Learning format begins with a 15-minute keynote on a matter of whole-school relevance. At Cholsey this was delivered by Russell Prue and gave attendees practical and engaging ideas for bringing innovation to every classroom.

Practical and relevant ideas

Following the keynote is the fast-paced “speed-dating” style sharing that gives this concept its name. There is an hour-long carousel, with 10 tables, and the hour is divided into six slots of 10 minutes, such that teachers prioritise what they will engage with.

Each “table-host” provides a three-minute input which ranges from a presentation, work or resource sharing, demonstration or activity, followed by a six-minute discussion which provides opportunities for professional discussion, debate, questioning and extension. This means that both table-host and participant benefit.

At Cholsey, colleagues shared mathematical strategies, with Ladygrove Park Primary sharing early years expertise. St John’s Primary shared their methods of marking children’s work which were recognised recently by Ofsted as being exemplary. Other table hosts shared ways for teachers to bring interactive resources into the classroom, and free ways to begin to use school radio to extend collaboration and literacy skills.

Leadership table hosts talked about strategies for monitoring teacher quality, distributed school leadership, and the outcomes of research showing strategies to raise the attainment of White working class boys.

Nicky Hughes, deputy head at Cholsey, said: “The event surpassed everybody’s expectations in terms of the buzz and excitement of sharing good practice, the numbers of colleagues in one room and the smooth running of the event. It was an intense, but exciting and energising learning experience. The event was extremely fast-paced but highly effective.”

Extending professional thinking

Reflecting on the experience of being a table host, Ms Hughes added: “It was exciting to be able to share something that you felt proud of and knew was working well in your school and to help colleagues think about how it might work for them in their schools.

“Through the table discussions we also found that we reflected back on our own practice and received new ideas about how to move it on. Colleagues were keen to take away handouts and contact details so that they could contact the table hosts to find out more after the event, and it was brilliantly organised to make sure everyone networked effectively together.”

Planning for Impact

The closing 15 minutes of the twilight session saw a “Planning for Impact” section, where all attendees were taken through structured reflection and action planning. Ms Hughes added: “There and then we wrote action plans about how we would move our ideas forwards in our own schools and classes. This ensured that the event was both brilliant fun, as well as high-quality professional development with a clear focus on making an impact on children’s learning.

Many headteachers are now using Speed Learning as the weekly staff meeting, and one head noted that “my teachers were thrilled by the care and individual consideration taken in this opportunity to address their training needs”.


Teachers found that the buzz of colleagues learning from one another was highly motivating, and at one primary school the teachers were using the marking methods they had learnt at Speed Learning later that week; bringing immediate impact to their children’s learning.

Yet another of the attending schools reported back that they had dedicated their next staff meeting to deciding which actions from the event they would like to take forward.

Ms Hughes added: “I would thoroughly recommend hosting and taking part in the Speed Learning series. It is rare to get such good CPD for your staff in such a short space of time and to have the opportunity to hear about innovative practice from colleagues in other schools. Sharing practice in this way encourages collaboration and partnership between schools which is exactly what we have been looking for.”

• Fiona Aubrey-Smith is head of primary networks at SSAT.

Speed Learning
Cholsey Primary School’s Speed Learning event is part of a national free-to-attend series organised by SSAT’s Primary Network. If you would like Speed Learning to come to your school or local cluster of schools, contact fiona.aubrey-smith@ssatuk.co.uk or visit www.ssatuk.co.uk/speedlearning.

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.

This material is protected by MA Education Limited copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code
Sign up Headteacher update Bulletin
About Us

Headteacher Update is a magazine, website, podcast and regular ebulletin dedicated to the primary school leadership team. We tackle a wide range of leadership issues, offering best practice, case studies and in-depth information, advice and guidance. Headteacher Update magazine is distributed free to approximately 20,000 primary school headteachers.

Learn more about Headteacher update


Register to receive regular updates on primary education news delivered free to your inbox.