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The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Elizabeth Holmes

The Standard for Professional Development: a timely reminder for all

The Standard for Professional Development is clear about the importance of effective training to effective teaching. What are its most important messages?

The recent publication of the Standard for Professional Development offers us the impetus to focus on CPD with a fresh perspective and renewed commitment in the academic year ahead.

If we give it some space and time its simplicity may be a guide for reflection. What do we currently do? What’s the distance between our practice and the standard? What steps can we take with immediate effect towards meeting the standard more effectively?

The standard

The standard, as described in the new guidance:

  1. Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.
  2. Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.
  3. Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge.
  4. Professional development programmes should be sustained over time.
    And all this is underpinned by, and requires that:
  5. Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership.

In itself, the standard does not break new ground and will come as no surprise; it is what good schools have always been striving for. Yet the overall culture in the field of professional learning is in the process of shifting more consistently towards a specific focus on outcomes beyond the vagueness of ‘learning’ – any learning – being good.

Questions such as ‘precisely how does this support progress?’, ‘what evidence underpins this approach?’, and ‘what impact can we expect on pupils?’ are now more routinely being asked, and links are being sought between professional learning undertaken and outcomes seen in children.

Direct and indirect professional development

The standard, and the guidance that was published alongside it, make the distinction between direct professional development and indirect professional development. Direct seeks directly to improve practice and pupil outcomes whereas indirect may improve, for example, the running of the school or offer support around particular procedural tasks.

Programmes and activities

It distinguishes between programmes and activities too, making the point that professional learning programmes that involve many activities designed to sustain and embed practice may well have a more lasting impact on pupils.

David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust and member of the independent expert group responsible for the creation of the standard, is clear about its potential for schools and the lens through which we might most usefully view it. He explains that,

The new CPD Standard sets out an approach to professional development that helps teachers to help their pupils. We have put great emphasis on the three-way relationship; the teacher's role as a reflective practitioner must be supported and given sufficient resource by school leaders and must be aided and channelled with the right external expertise.

In addition, David is keen to stress what does not constitute CPD:

We are clear that performance management, administrative briefings and statutory updates are not core professional development; we hope that this leads to a realignment of opportunities for teachers and, ultimately, a greater professionalism in schools that helps the next generation succeed.

Making it work for us

Both the Standard and the supporting guidance deserve our time and attention over the coming months.

We cannot expect to transform the quality of CPD that teachers access overnight, but we can make commitments to discussing it in our schools, to weeding out that which hinders and boosting that which supports, and to giving CPD the highest priority through our recognition that it has the potential to transform practice.

As a stimulus to inspire change, there’s little better out there!

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