After a summer break which feels like it has gone much too quickly, you come to the realisation that you will have to eventually return to school. For the majority of teachers the first day back will be INSET where you can mentally prepare yourself to transition into ‘school mode.’

All teachers in state maintained schools in England are required to attend five INSET days a year. There are examples of schools which have used all five INSET days in one week or schools which try and coincide INSET days with elections to reduce school closures. In Wales, schools will have an extra INSET day for the next three years to give teachers more time to prepare for the new curriculum being rolled out from 2022.

Headteachers must ensure these five days are used for training purposes, however, in terms of specific content it is up to each headteacher to decide the itinerary and objectives for the day. If you are interested in the legal requirements and history of INSET days we have published a support article which is included in our Knowledge Base.

There is always the debate on the quality and impact of CPD and new initiatives pushed during INSET. I’m sure the majority of teachers would appreciate more time preparing classrooms and lessons, setting up equipment and analysing class lists and timetables before the start of the academic year. Team building activities and whole-school in-depth analysis of Progress 8 scores are important activities but the delivery, timing and tone is key for how receptive teachers will be.

I’m sure we’ve all had weird and wonderful INSET days over the years. I remember one where all teachers were subjected to a slide show of Leonard Cohen concert snaps from one member of SLT who had a slight obsession with the singer. A slightly surreal opening 10 minutes but probably the most entertaining and memorable feature of the day.

For new teachers at large secondary schools INSET days can be terrifying. During my first INSET day I was told I couldn’t sit next to a particular member of staff because I hadn’t earnt the right to sit next to him. Talk about a warm welcome. They can also be very stressful, one assistant headteacher first greeted me with “Where are the schemes of work and I hope you have updated them all”, where a more appropriate “how was your summer holidays” could have been a more suitable welcome.  

The first INSET day back can be an anxiety inducing experience for NQTs to seasoned veterans. Schools will want to ensure INSET days are a productive use of teachers’ time, contributing towards professional development and teaching ‘readiness.’ No-one likes to have their time wasted and teachers can be the harshest of critics when receiving content from others. The quality of INSET will differ from school to school and one would like to think schools will self-analyse their effectiveness and take on board feedback from staff.

When the pupils return and you revert to the routine of your timetable, INSET can be a distant memory. With five days a year dedicated to INSET there is a real opportunity to have them tightly- honed and organsied, informational and entertaining where every teacher should be looking forward to them rather than being sceptical about what may be laying in wait for them.

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