CPD for Teachers and Leaders

Sara Spinks 18 September 2023 4 min read
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In this article, Sara Spinks takes a look at the released report on Teacher workload, using data from Spring 2022 and focuses on the impact of continuous professional development (CPD) highlighted in the report.

Released April 2023, Working lives of teachers and leaders - wave 1: core report surveyed 11,177 teachers and leaders during one week in the Spring 2022, post-pandemic. Chapter 10 of the report is dedicated to covering the participation levels (time spent, subjects covered), satisfaction with the quality of CPD, the topics in which teachers and leaders would welcome CPD in the coming 12-month period, and the barriers to participation. So with that in mind, in this article I reflect on the main findings around CPD.

Early Career Teachers (ECTs)

Let's start by looking at how prepared Early Career Teachers (ECTs) feel they are for their first teaching post following their training.

Just over three-quarters (77%) of ECTs were satisfied with their Initial Teaching Training (ITT), with 29% very satisfied, whilst around one in eight (12%) were dissatisfied. There was a slightly higher satisfaction from ECTs who had trained using the School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT) route (80%) than the Higher Education Institution (HEI) route (74%).

Most ECTs reported feeling that their training prepared them well in terms of professional conduct (84%), pupil safeguarding (83%), planning effective lessons (74%) and, for secondary school ECTs, preparing them for teaching their specialist subject (74%).

However, in comparison, fewer ECTs reported that their training prepared them well for managing the different needs of pupils: 46% felt well prepared for teaching pupils with SEND, and 37% felt well prepared for teaching in a multi-cultural or multi-lingual setting. The responses were consistent by those ECTs working in primary or secondary settings. Just over half (54%) of ECTs reported feeling well-prepared for managing poor behaviour or disruptions in class. One in six (17%) felt badly prepared for this, with one in twenty (5%) saying they felt 'very badly' prepared.

At first glance, these statistics may not seem to present a particularly worrying picture. However, when we look closely we do have to acknowledge that a quarter of respondents did not feel their training equipped them to plan effective lessons or to teaching a specialist subject. More concerning is that although safeguarding scored fairly high, preparedness for working with SEND pupils was poor, less than half of the sample cohort. Given the known connection between safeguarding and the higher vulnerability and risk factors pupils with SEND, the responses of 5,141 ECTs raise questions around the actual true level safeguarding preparedness. Similar could be said for preparedness in the management of poor / disruptive behaviour.

CPD for the wider teaching profession

The report showed that 98% of teachers stated that they had undergone some form of CPD over the last 12 months.

46% of all teachers and leaders have spent up to 20 hours on formal CPD within the last 12 months, with those working in primary settings spending the most time. 25% of leaders, across all phases, said they had spent 51+ hours on formal CPD compared to 11% of teachers. Interestingly there is a direct correlation between the higher amount of time spent on CPD with higher self-ratings of job performance and job satisfaction.

Types of CPD undertaken

On average, teachers and leaders had undertaken approximately 4 different CPD activities within the last 12 months, this was slightly higher for primary teachers and leaders compared to secondary colleagues.

The study towards professional qualifications and frameworks, such as NPQs, was less common than other more informal forms of CPD. Only 12% of all teachers and leaders reported studying for an NPQ and only 5% were studying for more formal qualifications such as a master's degree. Unfortunately, the report doesn’t record the number of participants who, although having commenced such studying, had withdrawn from study. Inclusion of such data would be helpful to understand the reasons for withdrawal and to identify practical solutions. Interestingly commenting on this, Sam Preston (Safeguarding Director at SSS Learning), who completed her masters degree many years ago, reported that she was the only member of her cohort to graduate.

Primary teachers and leaders were more likely than secondary teachers and leaders to have had CPD that is:

  • designed and delivered by an external provider
  • within a network of teachers
  • designed externally but delivered in their school or multi-academy trust (MAT)

Leaders reported significantly more hours spent on CPD and undertook a wider range of activities with the exception of observation activities.

The content of CPD

The most common content for CPD was safeguarding (81%), followed by activity on subject or phase-specific pedagogy (60%). Other common themes reported were the teaching of students with SEND (49%), assessment (38%), curriculum development (30%), classroom management (25%) and the use of technology for teaching (24%).

Primary teachers were more likely to undergo CPD on pedagogy, whereas secondary teachers and leaders were more likely to have training on classroom management, SEND and assessment. Leaders reported a higher incidence of CPD on topics to do with school culture and management.

Interestingly, the report also focused on 'Topics teachers and leaders would like training/development in over the next 12 months'.

There was a relatively higher demand for the coming 12-month period for how to use technology (both whilst teaching and at the school more generally), for working in partnership with parents and carers, and for teaching in a multicultural or multilingual setting.

As expected, there were differences in preferences in topics for the coming 12 months by school phase and role, particularly between teachers and leaders. Subject or phase-specific knowledge or pedagogy topped the preference list for teachers (43%), but it was further down the ranking for leaders who, instead, showed a high preference for training/development activity that focused on leading the school culture (40%) and/or curriculum design and planning (35%).

Those who described pupil behaviour in their school as 'poor' typically selected more topics for training over the coming 12 months, and were more likely than others to want training and development on classroom management (22%), working in partnership with parents (22%), student assessment practices (21%), teaching in a multi-cultural or multilingual setting (17%) and dealing with persistently disruptive and/or challenging pupils (16%).

School approaches to CPD

57% of teachers and leaders thought that their school prioritised training and development for all staff. Primary colleagues (60%) were more likely than average to believe this. Generally, amongst teachers, ECTs were the most positive with 59% agreeing that their school prioritised CPD compared to 51% of other classroom teachers.

Those staff in lower Ofsted categories were more negative; 38% of those in Ofsted categories of serious weaknesses or special measures disagreed that their school prioritised CPD compared to 17% of those in the schools rated good or outstanding.

The quality and effectiveness of CPD

Looking at the impact of CPD, the report highlighted that teachers and leaders had mixed views on the impact of CPD, giving an average score of 6.1, using a scale from 1 (no impact) to 10 (extremely positive impact). However, those in primary (37%) and special schools (38%) were more likely to give a score of 8+ compared to secondary colleagues (22%) and nearly half of leaders (46%) gave a score of 8+ compared to 27% of teachers.

When focussing on the quality of CPD, 57% of teachers and leaders agreed that their manager gave them feedback which was clear, sufficient and actionable, with 56% of them agreeing that good quality CPD helped them to progress in their career. 54% agreed that lesson observations were an effective part of their professional development.

However, 29% of teachers, who were not ECTs, disagreed that lesson observations were an effective part of professional development, twice the level reported by leaders.

By age, teachers and leaders under 35 were the most positive across all the professional development statements. For example, 60% of teachers and leaders under 35 agreed that their manager gave them sufficient, clear and actionable feedback, compared to 47% aged 55+.

Delivering and designing CPD

The report shows that half (50%) of teachers and leaders were involved in organising, designing, or delivering CPD in their schools, with higher involvement amongst primary teachers and leaders (59%) compared to secondary (40%). A large majority of leaders were involved (92%), and almost all heads (97%).

Barriers to accessing CPD

66% of teachers said that the biggest barrier to accessing CPD was the lack of time due to workload and other competing priorities. The cost and availability of funding was reported as a barrier by 42% as well as the lack of cover (41%).

In conclusion

It is clear that high-quality CPD is an important aspect of professional development for both teachers and leaders. However, time and budgetary restraints have led to many staff struggling to undertake this important aspect of development.

There is always a balance to be made between the CPD wishes of staff and the demands of external or governmental priorities to set a CPD plan which can meet all expectations and meet the needs of both the school and individuals in an ever-tightening financial situation.

Details of the SSS Learning CPD training package, including courses, CPD INSET and webinars, can be found on the SSS Learning website.

Sara Spinks

SSS Author & Former Headteacher

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