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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

CPD and the year ahead – the view from the TDT (Part 1)

'Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.' – Albert Einstein

There are few people out there with as much interest and involvement in the continuing professional development of teachers as David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust (TDT). In the two years since the TDT was founded, it has worked to raise the profile of professional learning and bring about improvements in the training that teachers access. I caught up with David to find out about the development themes that are having an impact right now.

Elizabeth: Let’s start with the basics… What does effective CPD look like?

David: Effective CPD is about young people succeeding and teachers thriving. Some of my lowest moments as a teacher occurred when I felt that I wasn’t growing or progressing in my career, when I was overburdened, and when I felt like I was under-nurtured. These are some of the many reasons why I set up The Teacher Development Trust in 2012 – to campaign for powerful professional development that helps young people to succeed and teachers to thrive. Effective CPD IS possible and can be realised within a teaching community that is based on collaboration, sharing of best practice and using expertise effectively. Our research at the Teacher Development Trust for our 2014 Annual Report demonstrates a desire for professional development that engages teachers and ensures impact. However, it also highlighted that the outcomes of children and young people are being negatively impacted by the barriers that are facing the professional development of our teachers.

EH: So what do we know so far about the blocks to great CPD? Why are we still battling them?

DW: School leaders and teachers are facing stubborn barriers to prioritising CPD, despite the strong impact it has on raising student attainment and improving the quality of teaching. Issues around finances and accountability are having a devastating impact on strategic decision-making in schools. There is far too much emphasis on 'telling' teachers what to do. There’s also a serious lack of time and too much focus on the observable performance of teachers. Our research showed a staggering 53.4% (rising to 60% for secondary schools) have found it harder to meet teachers’ development needs in the past 12 months because of financial pressures on the school. Accountability measures in England are also influencing decisions around how to develop our teachers and leaders. This is impacting on schools’ strategic decision-making abilities with cost considerations moving to the centre of many decisions around professional development rather than what it should be about – pupil need and pupil impact.

EH: Many may feel these blocks are intractable. What can we do to eliminate them?

DW: We need to help leaders and teachers to understand what really effective CPD actually looks like. This can be helped by creating a teacher career structure that incentivises growth and development and we have a fantastic opportunity to do this via a chartered, member-led College of Teaching. We also need to refine our approach to accountability and leadership training, and ultimately help schools to understand how others are overcoming these blocks by developing practice collaboratively. A number of schools are bucking the trend and becoming beacons of best practice in CPD including Wroxham School, Cramlington Learning Village and Wellington College. These schools are part of the Trust’s National Teacher Enquiry Network (NTEN) – a collaborative partnership of over 110 schools and colleges that are focused on improvement through highly effective and evidence-based staff professional development. Until the barriers to effective and sustainable professional development are removed, teachers and school leaders will remain limited in their ability to transform outcomes for children.

Find out more about the Teacher Development Trust on their website. You can also follow them on Twitter at @TeacherDevTrust. Part two with David Weston will follow soon. You can follow David on Twitter at @informed_edu.

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