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How to retain top international staff with quality CPD

An international head gives his top five tips for a successful CPD programme and explains how it has helped to keep his best teachers

A plant growing to signify career development

I sometimes hear international leaders in the mid-range market say that they can’t keep their best staff,  who move on to premium schools for better packages.

There's no denying that money does talk. But it's not the only thing.

I am now five years into my international experience after 15 years in the UK. When I interview heads of school and deputies (often from the UK), I do hear questions around money and packages, but I've also found a lot of people who are more interested in developing their skills than boosting their bank accounts.

Tes Institute CPD for schools

Keeping hold of good staff is vital

We all know there is a worldwide shortage of teachers. If you are not an international premium school, staff recruitment and retention is becoming more difficult (particularly in certain subjects and regions).

So, we need to keep our best teachers.

We need to ask ourselves: how are we facilitating staff development? What are the systems and processes we need to make people better? If we have clear answers to these questions, we have a better chance of retaining our best staff.

Here are my 5 tips for international senior leadership teams.

1. Ensure your CPD plan matches your strategic plan

Too often, staff are asked to choose their own development programmes, and this may not link to wider school strategy.

If learning has common strategic goals, this enables CPD to be more streamlined and allows staff to work together.

It also stops staff being overburdened with CPD and gives them a focus, creating a sense of worth and team spirit.

2. Let your best staff be creative

You shouldn’t shackle your outstanding staff. They are your creators and thinkers and they will push boundaries and find areas of development you never thought possible.

Yes, they need to support the wider focus (which they can do by taking coaching roles, for example), but tell them to spread their wings and take risks outside of the framework.

Give them something that excites them, and they will take ownership and make a difference.

3. Differentiate your CPD

Having CPD that supports a wider strategy doesn't mean you have to run one-size-fits-all programmes. CPD should be differentiated according to need.

Go through your staff and work out (using evidence) what people need to get to their next level. 

I call these "personal improvement plans" or "booster plans", creating a sense of personalisation and care which may mean that staff stay longer.

4. Join forces with other organisations

Think of creative ways that you can run action research programmes with universities, or support staff with supported or paid MA or leadership programmes.

It may be cost-heavy, but your staff will stay longer and you reap the benefits. It may cost to add staff to paid programmes but long term it always pays off.

5. Share and collaborate

Encourage staff to create links and share ideas with other schools and groups. It may feel like you’re giving away trade secrets, but sharing will always come back positively and improve your school.

We want to have the edge on competitors, but helping staff feel like part of a wider learning community gives greater purpose to their teaching. Which you and your staff can only benefit from.

Iain Sallis is campus principal of Tenby Schools Penang in Malaysia and author of the Leading, Reflecting, Improving blog

Tes Institute CPD for schools

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