Professional development: the expert view

CPD can play a vital role in helping teachers improve their skills. In this blog, we’ll explore the views of two leaders in the education sector on professional development, hopefully inspiring you to re-evaluate the CPD offering in your school.

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Continuous professional development (CPD) can play a vital role in helping teachers improve their skills, pupils get better learning outcomes, and schools foster a more positive, collaborative culture. 

However, CPD is often perceived negatively within the sector. According to a recent TeacherTapp survey, only 34% of teachers and 39% of headteachers believe CPD and performance evaluation plays a crucial role in teacher practice. What can be done to help schools embrace the potential of CPD more openly, and what does best practice around CPD look like?

To find out, we recently staged a webinar where two leaders in the education sector shared their views on professional development: Jo Lynch, Product Consultant for Juniper Education; and Pepe Di’Iasio, Headteacher of Wales High School in South Yorkshire and ASCL President 2021-22. In this blog, we’ll explore some of their views, hopefully inspiring you to re-evaluate the CPD offering in your school.

The current state of play

One key topic the experts covered was the root cause of the negativity that surrounds CPD. Drawing on her experiences with industry professionals, Jo explained that the association with inspections is holding CPD back.

“A lot of the negativity from schools comes from professional development being considered part of the observation process. There is still a big dread around Ofsted inspections and the stress that they bring. They don’t need to be as connected as they are, and in a lot of the conversations I have with schools, we help them see that professional development doesn’t have to be a stick to beat teachers with.”

Jo Lynch, Product Consultant, Juniper Education

Pepe also praised the value that digital CPD platforms have given him and other headteachers, allowing them to build more flexibility into how development programmes are delivered. “I think CPD has a bad reputation because it’s often applied at the end of the school day when teachers aren’t feeling very receptive,” he said. “Now, with the use of software and CPD platforms, teachers can do it at times which are more suitable for them.”

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The importance of culture

Both Jo and Pepe were keen to stress that CPD has a leading role to play in helping schools develop a positive culture where people feel valued and work together.

“As a leader and as a headteacher, we must recognise that staff are the most precious resource that we have in the school,” Pepe said. “And if you’re going to improve the outcomes of students, if you’re going to improve the day-to-day offer for students, that needs to be done through staff who are open, reflective and looking to improve their practice.”

Jo added that giving staff the opportunity to grow and develop can help them feel better about themselves, personally and professionally: “Having a positive CPD programme within a school really lends itself to building a good culture. Anything that goes towards staff feeling more valued and part of a community helps them feel more positive, supports students better and is a benefit for everyone. If a teacher feels more valued, they’re going to want to come into work more, and get a morale boost.”

Group professional development training session

Making CPD relevant

Getting CPD right demands a focused approach that resonates with individual teachers. A broader strategy will leave teachers disengaged as they feel that the support being offered isn’t relevant to them, and doesn’t address their particular needs.

“I think professional development needs to be recent and evidence-based, relevant to the people you’re talking to, and it needs to be delivered from a person that’s respected. I would want staff to be hearing things they can use for real in the classroom, and get takeaways that are useful and they can connect to their world.”

Pepe Di’Iasio, Headteacher of Wales High School in South Yorkshire and ASCL President 2021-22

Pepe went on to share the ways in which CPD is applied at his school, explaining that variety and inclusion were the keys to success. “I think a good model for CPD is a hybrid, varied one,” he explained. “At our schools, we use short, five-minute CPD sessions on a regular basis as part of our Monday morning briefings, so that we can drip-feed new ideas over the course of the year. But we also have whole-day sessions on our inset days that focus on bigger issues or whole-school priorities, and then we have the hour-long or half-hour sessions after school, too. What’s important is our staff get a say in what their CPD is about, alongside the whole-school priorities. CPD is something done with them, not to them.”

Professional development – are you just ticking the box?

Our panel discuss the CPD and performance management approaches most commonly followed today and examines why a substantial proportion of those working in schools are not seeing value in their approaches to teacher professional development.

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