Discontinuing the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) trend

Caroline Wright, Director at BESA, outlines recent research findings into schools’ investment in CPD.

“Since the arrival of the coalition government the world of education has experienced a major shift. With many changes still to come, including a new curriculum, we are all having to adjust to the ‘new world’ of education and learn new ways of working.

However, what has always set the education sector apart from other industries is the general lack of post qualification training.

Once a teacher has passed through their initial teacher training and probationary period, any CPD has been limited to in-service training (INSET) days.

It is interesting to refer back to a study carried out for the Department for Education (DfE), which highlighted the fact that many schools still equate CPD with INSET, although of course many more recent models are more prevalent, including externally provided seminars and eLearning. Historically, the value of CPD was also rarely evaluated and therefore the justification for further investment was difficult.

However, our most recent research has shown that in response to the demands of the ever-changing teaching environment, schools are starting to address this deficiency.

The BESA research comes from a survey into the opinions and trends of heads of English, Maths and Science, and key stage leaders of both academies and non-academy schools. The highly anticipated research investigated how current and anticipated curriculum changes are impacting on the level of training and CPD purchased by schools.

The survey of 608 UK schools, which was conducted in October 2012, found that the move to higher investment in CPD is being experienced to a greater extent in primary schools than secondary. Primary schools felt there was a 52 per cent greater chance of them using their budget to pay for CPD, while secondary schools are only 28 per cent more likely to invest. Although a minor difference, it appears that academies are slightly more likely to increase their investment in CPD.

CPD is widely acknowledged to be of great importance in the life of schools. Particularly in the current environment of transformation, CPD supports schools in coping positively with change by constantly updating skill sets. As the government shifts the responsibility for personal development from the local authority back to the school, the ability and insight to manage a school’s own professional growth is increasingly important.

The length of time spent on CPD is not important; it is about the experiences and ideas that can be captured. Shadowing an inspiring colleague for ten minutes can, in theory, bring more benefit than a two-day training course.

This leads us to the barriers to CPD. Cost and time restraints are commonly referenced as limiting factors; as for classroom teachers, taking time away from the school not only carries the cost of the course but also the cost of supply cover.

The need for teachers to be respected as professionals means that CPD must increasingly be a part of their career development. We hope that next year’s research will show an increasing recognition of the value of continuing professional development.”