Do you spend time faithfully planning a continuing professional development session only to be faced with a sea of empty chairs? Do the teachers who do attend sit at the back, avoiding your gaze? Is the clock getting a complex from all the staring?
If all this rings true, then perhaps your school has a CPD image problem. It can happen without you even realising.
After all, if your CPD has always taken a particular format of teachers listening to the senior leadership team reading from a presentation, a consultant brought in for a training day or someone attending on a one-off course, it's easy to let it carry on like this for years.
That, though, can make staff feel that CPD has little benefit and is just another meeting that could have been covered with an email.
This is no small issue. You need to get staff buy-in and you need to create a sense of ownership and a shared culture for learning so that CPD is seen as something worth attending.
Fundamental to this is changing perceptions and beliefs of teachers so they see themselves as lifelong learners who are both entitled – and duty bound – to pursue professional development and learning.
This is crucial not just for them to become the best teachers they can but for our young people, too.
The Education Policy Institute recently conducted a review of the evidence into the impact of teacher professional development and a key finding in the report is that ‘high quality CPD for teachers has a significant effect on pupils’ learning outcomes.’
This must be the fundamental aim that should be at the heart of all professional development – driving improvement in the classroom to improve outcomes for our pupils.
With all this in mind, it is clearly worth taking the time to get your CPD delivery right – and that includes asking tough questions of your school’s current approach to negate any image problem it may have with staff.
1. Do you have a clear CPD focus that addresses the school development plan?
CPD content should directly support the needs of your pupils and teachers and, as such, link directly to your development focus. Have one clear focus for the whole school CPD and develop this.
2. Do you sustain the input over time?
Effective CPD is iterative and is a long-term programme; plan for a two- to five-year model for successful implementation.
3. Does it address the needs of individual teachers?
Teachers at different stages of their careers have varying needs. Provide autonomy and ownership. You can empower teachers by allowing them to drive their own development through models such as disciplined inquiry or tailor their development through coaching programmes.
4. Are the right people delivering the courses?
It’s often the case that the SLT leads CPD courses and, on paper, this seems logical. However, CPD that appears top down and ad hoc is not appealing to classroom teachers slogging through a five-period day on a full timetable.
Furthermore, SLT members are not always the ones with the most recent, relevant experience and are not automatically the experts.
Utilise experts to deliver where you can – it doesn’t always have to be bought in. Take advantage of your in-house assets. You will have amazing teachers in your school who are relatable and engaging.
Develop these staff by empowering them as experts and as part of your succession planning: strengthen your future team or add generously to the wider pot if they move on.
By putting these four questions at the heart of ongoing assessment of your CPD delivery, you will have the best chance possible to ensure it is delivering both for staff and pupils.