A new report from Ofsted appears to confirm what many teachers will already be well aware of: professional development which is owned by teachers is important for performance at work. But what else do we need to be aware of?

Accountability breeds response-ability.
Stephen R Covey

In this CPD Update we dissect the report to get to the heart of what we need to know about CPD in schools.

Good professional development in schools: how does leadership contribute?
Between 2008 and 2009 Ofsted took a sample of nursery, primary and secondary schools and one special school, with the aim of identifying features of good practice in continuing professional development. The schools were chosen because their practice had been deemed ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. The report usefully identifies key strengths which currently exist in CPD, including:

  • the strength of commitment senior managers have to developing staff
  • the way in which professional development is aligned with performance management, self-review of the school and the priorities for improvement which have been identified
  • the way time and resources are used flexibly
  • the way institutional and individual needs are successfully balanced.

None of this is groundbreaking or original. Here at CPD Update we have been highlighting these features and many others for years, based on real experience in schools, and it is encouraging to see that more formal research now supports these ideas. So, what else did Ofsted find of use and value to other schools seeking to improve the quality of professional learning? These are just some of the features identified by the study:

  • Great CPD comes from strong CPD leadership.
  • Staff are trusted and involved in identifying and implementing any necessary improvements.
  • Consistently high standards in teaching and learning come from clear policies.
  • CPD is made available to the whole school workforce.
  • School-based CPD is supported by ‘judicious’ use of external support.
  • Learning is discussed openly and reflected on.
  • Coaching and mentoring is made effective use of as part of CPD programmes.

Interestingly, the report (which can be downloaded – see below) identified three key barriers to improvement in CPD. These are:

  1. Weaknesses in the evaluation and assessment of the value for money of CPD.
  2. Teachers’ knowledge of subjects other than English and maths was rarely developed, particularly in primary schools.
  3. Some school staff lack adequate skills in self-evaluation and in dealing with weaknesses so help is needed before CPD needs can be met.

So how can we address these identified weaknesses, or avoid them altogether? Ofsted recommends that schools (and professional development leaders) ask themselves about:

  • the extent to which CPD is integrated with school improvement
  • how well schools’ policies and frameworks support consistency and quality
  • the extent to which staff expertise is used in CPD
  • how well the school monitors and evaluates CPD.

Find out more

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2010

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.