Too much CPD is ‘one size fits no-one’ – we have to do something about it

4th September 2015 at 12:43
As the Department for Education forms an expert panel on professional development, its chair outlines plans to learn from the most effective approaches

Research shows that the academic success of children and young adults is determined more by the expertise of the individual teachers they get than by the school they go to. But too many teachers are being left isolated, with inadequate opportunity to learn from each other and share the best approaches.

Many teachers are given too much generic and superficial advice and too little time to collaborate with colleagues and experts on applying more relevant, in-depth expertise in lessons.

However, some schools are pointing to a much better way. I’m grateful to have been invited by the Department for Education to chair an independent expert panel to learn from the most supportive and effective approaches and put together a new Teachers’ Professional Development Standard for educators, school leaders and training providers.

We’re inspired by schools who are making time for teachers to engage in joint planning and supportive peer observation, who engage with high-quality research and expertise and who create an environment where staff flourish. These schools see workplace learning not as an "add-on" to the job but as a fundamental part of a supportive and professional environment, driving school improvement for our pupils and improving morale and expertise for our staff.

We’re building on high-quality research about better ways to support teachers, including the recent Developing Great Teaching report from the Teacher Development Trust by Philippa Cordingley et al. The research highlights the ineffectiveness of generic "one size fits no one" CPD and shows how we need to find ways to give teachers opportunities to engage in carefully designed collaboration that is actively supported by school leaders in an environment of trust and respect. It highlights how effective teacher learning combines a high-quality in-house approach with access to external expertise and support.

We want to formulate a new standard for professional development that is valuable and helpful for all of our professional colleagues in every school. Our priority is to listen carefully to teachers, school leaders and CPD providers to understand everyone’s aspirations, concerns and suggestions so that the new standard represents the best of our profession, inspired by the best ideas and firmly rooted in the practical realities of busy school life. We’ve already consulted carefully with all the teacher and headteacher unions and we’re looking forward to casting the net wider with this call for evidence.

Our hope is that by working together with colleagues from across the sector we can create a standard that helps all of us grow and develop so that we can continue to achieve our potential as society’s most important professionals. The members of our expert group are drawn from a range of sectors and phases, both mainstream and alternative, from different areas of the country and different job roles. Each of us will be focused on listening carefully and respectfully to our colleagues across the sector to get input to our work.

We urge every teacher, school leader, provider and organisation to contribute to this process by submitting a response to our call for evidence. You can do so at before 16 October. We will be carefully considering all of the responses before drafting the new standard. Our plan is to then begin trialling and refining and further consulting on the new standard from early 2016, to make sure that it is achieving its aims.

As The Learning Curve, a 2014 report by Pearson, points out, England has one of the world’s strongest education systems and we have a huge amount to be proud of. I hope that we can now look to lead the world in the way that we develop each other as teachers, and make sure that we all get the support that we need to do the best for our pupils.

David Weston @informed_edu

David Weston is chair of the DfE Teachers’ Professional Development Expert Group and chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust. He is a former maths and science teacher and a governor of both a primary and a secondary school

More thoughts from members of the expert panel

Hélène Galdin-O’Shea @hgaldinoshea

As a classroom teacher I feel it is essential to be engaged in the best professional development to improve my practice, year-on-year. Schools and CPD providers need guidance about how to design this development that is based on high-quality evidence about what works. I helped to found the grass-roots researchED movement as a result of a genuine desire to reclaim our professionalism and it quickly became clear that many colleagues have the same thirst. We hope that the new CPD standard will support everyone involved in teachers’ professional learning and be a positive force for our profession.

Hélène is vice-chair of the expert group. She is a teacher and research advocate at Park High School, a secondary school in London, and a co-founder of ResearchED


Simon Knight @SimonKnight100

The intellectual demands of being a highly effective teacher should not be underestimated. To ensure that the children we work with are educated by the very best and that we have the capacity to respond to the changing demands of the classroom, we need to continue to build a collective understanding of how to better develop ourselves professionally. The development of a new CPD standard creates an opportunity for us to become more effective critical consumers of our own professional development, focusing our time more efficiently in order to maximise the impact we can have on the children that we teach. To make the most of this opportunity I really hope that all phases and sectors of education will contribute fully to the call for evidence.

Simon is a member of the expert group. He is deputy head of the Frank Wise School in Oxfordshire and associate director of the National Education Trust


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