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Double Act developing staff on campus

Cagney and Lacey, French and Saunders, now Clayton and Strupinski - a double act is shaping up on campus. And it was the prospect of forming this alliance that attracted the two new Staff Development Officers to Sussex. "It's quite rare to have two people involved in staff development," says Sue Clayton, "and it's a real opportunity to do something exciting." Sarah Strupinski agrees: "I feel so much more confident about being able to achieve things because there are two of us and we have very similar experience."

In fact, both of them worked just along the Academic Corridor - Sue at Brighton College of Technology, and Sarah at the University of Brighton. But in double-quick time, the dynamic duo have made their mark at Sussex. After only a couple of months in post, they've already visited all Deans and directors, have a summer programme of training opportunities in place, and are formulating a plan for staff development during 2000-2001. So let's hear it.

"Well," says Sarah, "we've identified about 12 core staff-development priorities for the next five years, in line with the University's strategic plan, and we've used these core headings to design the in-house staff-development programme for the next academic year. Our remit is to provide staff development for all types of staff, and this plan reflects that."

But presumably teaching and learning is one of the core areas? "There are a range of issues related to teaching and learning," says Sue, "and there's a move nationally to raise the profile of teaching in universities and also relate that to the student experience - particularly because we're getting a wide variety of students coming into the University, which means that teachers may need to reflect and review the way they teach. Technology influences that as well."

Does this mean that academics should all be rushing to join the Institute for Teaching and Learning (ILT)? (The summer programme includes a course on fast-track accreditation.) "We hope to support academic staff to understand what the ILT is about," says Sarah, "and to help them to become members. And the Teaching and Learning Development Unit [TLDU], Staff Development Unit and USIE are going to work jointly to create more professional development opportunities for teachers."

Sarah and Sue will also be working with staff in the Language Institute and Library on enhancing learning resources, and with Student Services and the Career Development Unit to support student retention, achievement and progression. In fact, there hardly seems to be anybody that they're not working with. "We're developing really strong partnerships with a number of other units that deliver staff development - the Computing Service, TLDU and so on, says Sarah. "We need their support, and we need to be talking the same 'staff-development language' as them, to get across a message of consistency."

And this is where the strategy comes in, together with a forthcoming staff development 'prospectus'. As Sue points out, "Once you have got a plan, it is important that people know about it and that it is accessible. It will be a handbook about what staff development is, what we do and also how to access staff-development opportunities."

Tell us more, Sarah. "We'll be building up a framework that gives potential opportunities for all categories of staff, and the core priority areas reflect that. For instance, we will be introducing a number of pathways of learning opportunities for administrative, clerical, technical and manual staff during 2000-2001, and we'll build on these in future years."

Sounds good. "There will be clearer criteria about entitlement to staff development, how to access those opportunities, and how applications for funding will be judged. And over the next two years, we'll be reviewing and revising - in collaboration with colleagues - the processes for induction, probation, appraisal and annual review."

Although Sarah and Sue will be working jointly on all major staff-development projects, they have decided to split the University in two, with each taking a particular set of Schools or units to give support with more local staff-development issues. "The main rationale for taking this 'patching' approach," says Sarah, "is to ensure that Schools and units have a key contact with whom they will be able to build up a trusting relationship and gain consistent, individual support."

They'll be busy for a little while yet, then. "Staff development and its processes are everyone's responsibility. It shouldn't be seen as 'something out there', but should be integral to all our work and future development." So watch this space.


the staff development team

From left: Sarah Strupinski, secretary Alison Lyner and Sue Clayton. Alison held the fort from September 1999 until the two new Staff Development Officers started.


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Friday 5th May 2000


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