The Real Trust is run by schools for schools and has gained Leading Aspect Award Status for continuing professional development and collaborative working. CPD Update looks at its work.

Much has been written about the importance of collaboration in CPD if it is going to have a widespread, lasting and useful effect. In Rochdale the local authority have, with all of the nursery, primary, special and secondary schools, established a charitable company and educational trust whose aim is to ‘advance education through encouragement, identification, discussion and celebration of best practice’ and to ‘enable educational professionals to network on shared activities including courses, school action based research, curriculum development projects and disseminating good practice.’

The Rochdale Educational and Learning (REAL) Trust provides a Professional Development Programme based on themes identified by trust members, producing a ‘Treasury of Best Practice’ to help them share and locate good practice easily. It has a networked learning community funded by the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) and has been recognised by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) as one of the eight best practitioners in the country in terms of disseminating and sharing good practice.

The local authority makes a substantial commitment to working with the trust but it is run primarily by schools for schools.

Schools and services pay an annual subscription to the trust, which then entitles all staff access to all the services provided. This includes international opportunities, networking opportunities and all conferences and courses. Being a charity also enables REAL to access external funding agencies locally, nationally and internationally.

The purposes of the trust include: – challenging all the partners in the education service to be creative practitioners – enabling educational professionals to network with colleagues where best practice has been identified – enabling groups of schools to work together on a range of shared activities, eg. workshops, seminars and conferences – promoting and supporting school-based action research to advance teaching and learning strategies – encouraging and developing partnerships between schools with identified similar needs – funding small-scale curriculum development programmes not covered by national or regional initiatives – facilitating conferences and seminars throughout the Borough of Rochdale – supporting accredited professional development programmes

– accessing funding to support its work.

Its portfolio of services now include: – a Professional Development Programme – a Treasury of Best Practice – a Brokerage Service – individual Support for Schools – support for Collaborative Network Development work – international opportunities – charitable company status

– CPD guidance.

How the trust works with schools

The REAL Trust depends to a great extent on continued cooperation with and support from schools. All Rochdale schools receive funding for school improvement. The cost of providing the entire support included in the Personal Professional Development Programme equates to 15% of a school’s allocation for school improvement.

This entitles all school staff access to all provision included in the programme throughout the year. Membership subscription to the REAL Trust Personal Professional Development Programme is itemised in a service level agreement between the trust and a school.

Subscribing schools are entitled to make individual or cluster applications to the trust to support new initiatives, especially involving networked learning and working with other schools. Schools are also entitled to an individual visit to help develop their CPD plan and capacity for improvement.

If a school wishes to devise a CPD plan or policy the trust will: – Step one: email a copy of a model plan or policy for CPD – Step two: visit the school to support the process of filling in the details of the plan or policy

– At step three the school customises the policy.

We have included here examples of both the model policy and the proforma for auditing current practice. They are only part of an array of documents, advice and guidance offered by the trust.

The trust also provides guidance for governors on the value of CPD and, as part of a wider group that includes the local authorities of Bury, Bolton, Blackburn and Darwin and Oldham, it has devised guidance and support for the role of CPD leaders, including a role specification and recommended standards for leaders of CPD in schools.

The December/January issue of CPD Update outlined some questions to consider if drawing up a job description. We called for information on this role and it is interesting to see that these local authorities also believe that it should be ‘undertaken by somebody in senior management with the leadership influence to ensure that CPD is central to school improvement’. They also refer to the need for a CPD strategy of which planning, dissemination and impact evaluation are crucial components.

The guidance and support for leaders of CPD that the authorities have compiled contains a section that applies specifically to leaders working in the separate authorities. This means that the larger group can draw upon experience and expertise from a wide area while maintaining the individuality of each authority. The same applies for Rochdale within the REAL Trust. Schools working together have considerable experience and expertise upon which to draw. They are also in a position to customise plans, policies and provision to meet individual school needs.

Pledging to school staff

One of the questions that REAL puts to its members is ‘Why not pledge to value and support your staff by promising that every member of staff will be entitled to go on one course or opportunity per year?’ They link this to performance management and school improvement. In order to help make this happen the trust has arranged a range of opportunities, including full-day, half-day, twilights, weekends and holidays for supply teachers and learning assistants.

Thanks to Martine Sinker of the REAL Trust for help in compiling this article and for permission to use the CPD policy model and the whole school audit. CPD Update is always interested in examples of how individuals, groups and partnerships formulate policy and provide guidance and support for colleagues.

Model of a CPD policy

Continuing Professional Development Policy for School 2005-06 See DfES publication 0071/2001

Rationale: School believes that the key function of our CPD plan is to create a climate and culture where continuous self-improvement is seen as a positive and beneficial opportunity.


1. We aim to have an efficient and effective policy and practice for managing professional development and supporting the CPD of individual staff. 2. We aim to have our own systems for monitoring, audit and review in place. 3. We aim to provide a range of opportunities for staff to receive relevant, focused, effective CPD to increase the quality and impact of their teaching. 4. We aim to build on our audit of current practice, which evaluated and reviewed the effectiveness of our practice. 5. We aim to enable the CPD coordinator to use these materials in a variety of ways: – as a basis for whole-school training based on identified school needs – as an action plan for CPD – to work in collaboration with other staff – to guide individual teachers in selecting development activities that will have the greatest impact on teaching and help them learn from each other – to guide each teacher in the formation and upkeep of their own CPD record – to produce a definitive School CPD record – to collect evidence of achievements and experiences and provide a mechanism for thinking about school practice in a planned and systematic way. This enables us to demonstrate and reflect on skills learned, identify future learning needs and priorities and inform and plan development and further improvement

– to work with the REAL Trust to access the most appropriate training opportunities for staff from the trust portfolio of services.