Continuous Professional Development is essential

With recent changes to the curriculum and with technology developing at a fast pace, there is a constant need for teachers to develop new skills and subject knowledge. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that supporting and developing their teachers is high on the agenda for all schools. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) courses and in-school training programmes, are popular ways of providing these development opportunities.

As recently quoted in the Telegraph, ‘Poorly-trained teachers unable to deliver new curriculum’, it’s crucial we support our teachers during this era of change. 

Alice Phillips, president of the Girls’ Schools Association recently said, “A generation of new teachers have “little or no grounding” in many key aspects of the curriculum being introduced for the first time. Changes in education are constant, and with a new National Curriculum underway it’s fair to say that teachers may well be feeling overwhelmed, not only from a content perspective but with the need to deliver lessons in subjects they may not be wholly familiar with, such as coding. It is essential that we support our schools and develop our teachers as this clearly directly impacts on a child’s progress and development.

Keren Prior, Head of Professional Development at Essex Education Services, part of Essex County Council explores the role of CPD and how schools can develop their teachers to be the best.

The provision of teach2

CPD for all staff should be part of the whole school planning process.  In an ideal world, a school will have a rigorous CPD policy in place for its entire staff. This will be linked to the school improvement plan, but would also be linked to individual needs, and have development priorities identified for each member of staff.

CPD needs to be planned on a long-term sustained basis. It is important that teachers are provided with training and development opportunities that are progressive and build on their current knowledge and skills. Evidence shows 15 hours per year is the absolute minimum needed to develop a teacher’s practice and knowledge in a particular subject area; but 50 hours of CPD is ideal. Essex Education Services has recently undertaken a large scale research project looking at school effectiveness, and the research clearly shows effective CPD is active and evidence based.  It should be sustained over at least two terms with a clear focus on teachers’ knowledge of subject content and how students learn it, with continuous feedback of impact on teacher improvements.

The research also clearly evidenced that for schools to be truly effective they need effective strategies to recruit and retain staff, as well as develop quality teachers.  It can be quite an investment for schools to develop their teachers and support staff but there are ways that this can be done without too much cost, and the benefits are clear.  There are many ways that effective CPD can be delivered, it doesn’t always have to be face to face; it can be done through distance learning, using webinars or via e-learning modules which can be a lot more cost-effective, and time efficient.  Schools can buy in training to be delivered locally in their schools or group together as consortia to maximise their purchasing power when it comes to CPD and maximise the benefits of collaborative practice, also shown by the research to be important.

The benefits of CPD

Highly trained, well equipped and resilient professionals make a huge difference to a child’s progress.  We must ensure teachers have access to high quality development opportunities regardless of the point they are in their career.

Technological changes

Classrooms today have moved from blackboard and chalk to iPads and laptops, and one area where teachers look for training and development is in the area of computing and programming. One of the key focus areas for Ofsted from September 2014 is in ensuring that a school’s curriculum is appropriately broad and balanced to help prepare young people for life in modern Britain. The use of technology is one way in which a school can open up Britain and the world to its pupils.

Making use of technology allows students to discover knowledge for themselves. Teachers need to be trained in both the use of computers to support pupils to access this information safely and the way that computers work.

As is the case with any sort of training, schools will need to find the time to fit it in. It is imperative that CPD is seen as an essential part of a teacher’s work, rather than an add on.

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