December 2014

The know zone

  • Number lessons
    ASCL’s new training DVD aims to give people a deeper understanding of budgets and balance sheets and so help avoid clashes over spending, says Val Andrew. More
  • A window on work
    Karleen Dowden offers five ways that schools and colleges can bring students together with employers to gain insights into the working world. More
  • To grade or not to grade?
    Tony Thornley shares his insights into what an outstanding school looks like and why best practice demands more than ticking Ofsted’s boxes. More
  • Maximise the benefits
    Are you and your staff getting the most out of continuing professional development (CPD)? More
  • ASCL PD events
    ASCL PD runs a number of CPD courses to help school and college leaders motivate their staff. More
  • Last word
    No one in their right mind would join a club and sign up to its regulations and then claim that the rules don’t actually apply to them, would they? So why do some people think that instructions issued by schools can be treated in such a cavalier fashion? More
  • Stronger together
    Exploring how one charity believes it’s possible to rebuild the lives of both bereaved pupils and schools. More
  • Unbalanced view?
    Workload is becoming an increasingly serious problem in schools and colleges. What is your view on this important issue – do you have a healthy work-life balance? Is an increasing workload something that is affecting you and your staff? Here ASCL members share their thoughts. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    More than half of ASCL members are now in academies and many are from independent schools – this month, the hotline has taken several calls from members in these sectors. Below are just a few of the questions our hotline staff have answered, although clearly in the answers there are messages for all members regardless of sector. More
Bookmark and Share

Are you and your staff getting the most out of continuing professional development (CPD)?

Maximise the benefits

Many of us will have attended a course or training event of some description during our professional lives. We may engage to learn a new skill, to increase competency in an area, to receive advice and guidance or to find out about new legislation. But, do we really understand what continuing professional development (CPD) is? And how can we make the best use of CPD opportunities as they arise?

By definition, CPD is a process of documenting skills, knowledge and experience; it means keeping a personal record of what has been experienced and learnt, as well as how learning has been applied. The aim should be developmental and the focus should be on an individual’s own learning and on allowing them to reflect and review in order to embed what has been learnt.

To be wholly successful CPD needs to be driven by each individual and engagement in different types of CPD should be encouraged; remember that both formal and informal CPD experiences all ‘count’ – if the engagement helps an individual to develop and progress professionally then it’s CPD. So, as a member of the senior leadership team (SLT) how can you ensure that those you lead and manage get the best from their CPD?

First, make certain that the CPD programme you offer is planned as part of an ongoing cycle of institutional, team and individual self-review and development. Set aside time to capture staff needs – a CPD audit may help.

Provide staff with a framework to record their CPD experiences. Your school or college may use a piece of software to collect this information or you may have developed your own recording mechanism. Reflection and review are key to CPD success, so whichever mechanism is used it should be easily accessible and clear for all.

Think, too, about how you may access and collate this information in order to inform your strategic plan. Be clear that individual and team plans should indicate clearly the CPD required to support improvement strategies.

Ensure that everyone understands the differences between training and CPD as, often, these are transposed. Training allows individuals to learn or practise a particular skill and it tends to be specific in nature, whereas CPD can be thought of as progression from the basic to the more advanced. Think about the different processes someone may go through if, for example, they were being trained to use a new piece of equipment, as opposed to learning about managing and leading staff. As part of an ongoing personal development plan, both training and CPD activities have their place.

Mixed model

Give your staff the opportunity to develop a personalised CPD plan and provide them with a range of CPD opportunities, both formal and informal, which reflect their needs. Try to have a mixed-model approach so that people are engaged in both internal and external activities of different lengths. Evidence indicates that to change practice, engagement in CPD should occur regularly over a long period. Exposure to as much different practice as possible, coupled with an opportunity to discuss and reflect, will provide stimulus and challenge to staff.

Encourage your staff to feed back about their CPD experiences during department meetings. Set the expectation that this is the norm and that learning is for all and not just for the students they teach. Encourage them to think about and record the impact of CPD on them as an individual, on their department, their students and the wider school or college community.

Make clear the link between performance management and CPD for both individuals and departmental teams, as evaluation of performance can identify development needs. Encourage networking with others, allow shadowing of experienced staff or introduce a coaching and mentoring scheme. 

Above all, engender a culture where your staff know that you value their ongoing development and that participation in relevant development activities is both an entitlement and a responsibility for all.

Further reading

  • ASCL Policy Paper on Continuing Professional Development Allison, Shaun, 2014, Perfect Teacher-Led CPD, Crown House
  • Bubb, Sara, Earley, Peter and Hempel-Jorgensen, Amelia, 2008, Staff Development Outcomes Study Report, Institute of Education (IOE) and London Centre for Leadership in Learning (LCLL),
  • Wellcome Trust, 2006, Believers, Seekers and Sceptics: What teachers think about continuing professional development,
  • Leaton Gray, Sandra, 2005, An Enquiry into Continuing Professional Development for Teachers, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Villiers Park Educational Trust,