The Big Question: Is CPD working?

Each week, we speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world. Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate.

This week’s question: Is CPD working?

Nearly two-thirds of teachers feel that their continuing professional development needs have not been fully met, says a new survey.  Most of the teachers who said this were male, aged 30-49 years of age, and taught in secondary schools.    

An inquiry has now been launched into the effectiveness of CPD training by the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee.. 

The 2007 survey  by the General Teaching Council, also found that teachers with more than three years service were more likely to say their continuing professional development (CPD) needs had not been fully met than those with under three years service. 

Some of the reasons given for this include lack of opportunity to attend sessions, particularly among supply teachers, shortage of time and lack of funding.   

Furthermore, an earlier study by the training and development agency (TDA) showed that nine out of ten CPD coordinators in schools lacked the time to organise training, and 75% said they needed more training on professional standards for teachers.

Here are some thoughts from the education community:

“CPD is an essential element of any teacher’s cycle of improvement.  How can we teach learners if we forget how we ourselves learn?

“The real problem with the contemporary delivery of CPD is that too much is done “in house” and therefore all that really happens is the recycling of known information often from tired or jaded staff.

CPD should be about new knowledge, skill acquisition and reinvigorating of the staff and teams. The demise of the additional professional qualification that may take two or three years to gain is to be deplored. Short term training for a quick fix does not do the profession or service any good and only devalues the quality of provision.”
Dr Len Parkyn, secondary school special needs teacher, in Vines Cross, East Sussex


“With so many government initiatives e.g. modern foreign languages in primary schools, new primary strategy, virtual learning environments, assessing pupil progress, and now the new primary curriculum  these have a real impact on teachers in small primary schools where it’s very often the same person who is responsible for several, if not all, of these areas. It’s the luck of the draw as to the quality and effectiveness of the training and I personally am very reluctant to spend so much time out of the classroom unless I can be certain that there will be a positive impact on teaching and learning. Still, there are  courses given as ‘optional’ twilight sessions e.g. language upskilling and even if these are not compulsory it still begs the question ,’ If this CPD is so beneficial, why is it outside the normal working day?’ What happened to work life balance?”
Carol Green, assistant primary school headteacher, in Norwich, Norfolk


“I have come across the notion that newly qualified teachers shouldn’t need CPD for the first few years! This is bizarre as clearly they have needs just like any other member of staff. This particularly affects PGCE students, who often say that their coverage of the curriculum has been rushed and quite scanty in some areas. In my experience, as NQTs, they often lack confidence in areas such as teaching P.E. and Music.”
Melissa Smith, primary school teacher in Lancaster


Is CPD working? Are courses accessible and relevant? Does CPD meet your professional needs? Share your views below.

Previous Big Questions:
Do the recommendations in the Rose report go far enough?
What do inspections really tell you?
Should skills tests for trainee teachers be scrapped?