Tackling retention with CPD

Could on-the-job career development help keep teachers from leaving?

Tes Marketing

Can You Tackle Retention With CPD?

Now, more than ever before, schools need to keep hold of their teachers. 

The well-documented recruitment crisis – and the lack of new entrants coming into the profession – makes replacing any teacher who leaves your school more difficult than ever. 

So, in a market where teachers are in demand, and cash incentives or promotions are dangled as incentives, how do you persuade someone to stay?

Well, continuing professional development might be a compelling bargaining chip. 

A new challenge  

Let’s be realistic: you are not going to be able to persuade everyone to stay and, often, trying to make them is not the best decision for anyone involved. But for that teacher who wants a new challenge or feels they are becoming stagnant, a targeted course of professional development may be of benefit to them and the school. 

This should be above and beyond the standard CPD at the school. For example, Robert Petrie, headteacher of Cockermouth School in Cumbria, has provided “acting up” opportunities for staff who feel they would like to move into more managerial positions in the future. 

“Recently, a couple of teachers were looking to progress into middle leadership and, by supporting them by arranging job shadowing where they were able to ‘act up’ to a senior role, it has meant that both are now successful middle leaders in our school,” he says.

Meanwhile, some schools are offering opportunities for staff to develop expertise in areas such as behaviour or pastoral care. This means that the staff member can add skills to their CV but it also helps out the school by having that expertise in-house. The staff member will then also be able to provide training to other local schools. 

At Ashlawn School, a secondary academy in Rugby, an extensive CPD programme has been developed with the view not only to develop staff to fulfil their potential but also with the explicit objective of maintaining a stable workforce.

Jude Hunton, deputy head of Ashlawn, explainsthat “it is inspiring when your CPD is evidenced and subject specific; it provides you with scholarly autonomy in your classroom to tackle barriers to teaching. It makes you feel trusted to teach, and not want to speculate about how green the grass may be elsewhere.”

Indeed, schools report that development opportunities have been a really useful way of retaining staff who would have likely sought a new challenge elsewhere. They will often move eventually, of course, and development opportunities of this kind often do not come cheap, but holding on to them for that extra year or two can make a huge difference. 

CPD dos and don’ts

What is clear is that it isn’t enough simply to point staff towards a generic CPD package. Instead, headteachers must listen to their staff and tailor the CPD they offer for the development the employee is looking for.

DON’T focus on the short term. One maths teacher with an interest in behaviour approached her headteacher about applying for SLT jobs elsewhere. The headteacher offered her half a day in a local pupil referal unit in return for the delivery of staff training. This may cost the school in the short term, but in the long term, it has enabled the headteacher to keep a valuable member of staff and has improved in-school training.

DO put aside your fears of losing a member of staff. Stuart Lock, executive principal of Advantage Schools, advises leaders to be “be 100 per cent supportive of colleagues who decide they want to move on. Having that reputation encourages your team to stay with you until they are ready, and will also attract new staff.”

DON’T make it into a burden. The nature of school life means that work can suddenly have a rush of deadlines followed by quieter periods; any CPD that your staff member takes on should be flexible enough to fit in around their current post, not the other way round.

DO think outside the box. For one primary school teacher in a special educational needs school, the promotional posts that interested her lay outside a school setting and in the child mental health sector. Rather than lose an experienced teacher, her headteacher arranged a one-day teacher swap with another school, and supported the teacher while she studied for further qualifications relating to her area of interest. Subsequently, she has stayed as a part-time teacher, and is working part-time in the mental health sector, all of which saved the school an expensive recruitment drive.

Find out about how Tes Institute can support your teachers’ development with our range of CPD courses.​

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