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Prioritising CPD investment in your school: A template for success

CPD is fundamental to school improvement, regardless of budget cuts or time restraints. Here’s how to prioritise professional development for your staff.

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Amid budgetary pressures, continuing professional development (CPD) spending has dropped for the first time since 2011. But, adequate CPD for teachers is not just a nice to have; it’s a necessity. Not least because raising attainment and overall school performance is a key goal for 64% of teachers (The State of Technology in Education Report 2018/19). And, without high quality teaching, standards will fall and students will lose out.

What’s more, whilst teacher recruitment and motivation are real and pressing concerns in most schools, cutting investment in staff is only going to aggravate this problem and see more teachers leave the profession.

Ultimately, low budgets don’t remove the need for CPD, and finding ways to maximise CPD spending and make teacher training a success is vital. But how can you prioritise CPD investment in your school?

Identifying and ranking the most urgent areas for improvement

When budgets are tight, schools have to prioritise. So, to make the most of every pound, educational leaders should look at where CPD training is most needed.

This could include:

Subject-specific training

If there are certain subjects that are consistently delivering low or unsatisfactory results, it’s worth making these a priority when it comes to CPD. There is an argument that this is the most ‘valuable’ type of teacher CPD because you will hopefully see significant improvement in these areas. But it’s vital that you keep a watchful eye on those better performing subjects. The last thing you want is for them to start to decline.

Safeguarding training

Safeguarding is one of the most critically important functions in any school. As such, investing in CPD training in this area is essential in keeping children safe – especially in schools that have NQTs and/or high staff turnover.

Even if your school is lucky enough to retain its staff year-on-year, this doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. Safeguarding challenges and risks evolve, and in our modern world, this can happen quickly. So, at the very least, all teachers should receive training on safeguarding issues at least once a year.

“All staff members should receive appropriate safeguarding and child protection training which is regularly updated…at least annually.”
Keeping Children Safe in Education (2018)

Behaviour management training

Engaged, well-behaved pupils generally have higher levels of attainment and results. Poorly behaved pupils can influence some teachers in deciding to leave teaching. Investing in behaviour management CPD courses can help you to maximise ‘bang for buck’ by supporting several strategic priorities through a single course.

Training to support SEN pupils

The latest National Education Union (NEU) survey shows that many support staff are being asked to carry out the work of teachers, often because they are seen as a simple and cost-effective option. But these staff are rarely given the required training. And, according to one teaching assistant interviewed for The State of Technology in Education Report “No funding is allocated to CPD for support staff.” As a result, the numbers of support staff become fewer in the majority of schools and the burden on teachers is increased.

At the same time, according to a recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Differences, school failings are leaving dyslexic pupils feeling ‘stupid, unvalued and guilty’.

So, when it comes to prioritising CPD spend, training designed to support SEN pupils requires consideration.

Training to support EAL pupils

According to The Bell Foundation, a charity promoting intercultural understanding through language education, children whose first language isn’t English are significantly more likely to be performing poorly in assessments and far more likely to fall behind at primary school.

There are a number of reasons why these pupils are not meeting the expected targets. For example, “the removal of funding ring-fenced for EAL pupils, overall budgetary pressures, and the supply of EAL expertise in schools has declined significantly.”

For schools in culturally-diverse areas, it’s essential that teachers are given the training that is desperately needed to support EAL pupils.

Evaluating each teacher’s skills-gaps

Teachers’ confidence in school training is declining, with under 36% of teachers believing that the training they receive is adequate (The State of Technology in Education Report 2018/19).

Therefore, in addition to looking at the subject and areas that require the most improvement, school leaders can also maximise their CPD budget by providing tailored training specific to each teacher’s needs. For example, just a small fraction of teachers — under 5% — believe they receive full training on their school’s technologies.

To maximise the available budget, schools should carry out a collaborative assessment with their staff to find out the areas that need the most improvement.

Making the time available for CPD training

According to the Department for Education’s school snapshot survey report, nine in 10 teachers feel blocked from CPD opportunities, with time (or lack thereof) being a primary reason for this. So, in addition to making CPD funding available, it’s also crucial that school leaders instil confidence in staff and help to facilitate this training.

With not enough hours in the day, this may require a creative approach to establish where time-savings could be made. For example, by reducing the burden of deep marking.

The verdict

Finding the budget needed to invest in CDP – like many other requirements in the education system – can be a challenge. But the negative consequences of not training staff mean that head teachers across the UK and Ireland must find ways to ensure that the development of skills continues to take place.

From capitalising on ‘quick win’ opportunities to setting longer-term CPD strategies that will have a real impact over time, there are steps every school can take to identify areas for concern, maximise spend and improve results.