SENCOs have an important role to play in providing continuing professional development for their colleagues in schools. A recent Ofsted survey lists recommendations for improving practice.

An Ofsted report, The Logical Chain: Continuing Professional Development in Effective Schools (1), published during in July 2006 (see below for information about the methods used) scrutinises the arrangements that schools make for the professional development of their staff. Given that SENCOs have a key role to play in providing training for colleagues, the following findings will be of particular interest. (2), (3)

Key findings

The key strengths in the survey schools

  • Continuing professional development (CPD) was most effective in schools whose senior managers understood fully its potential for raising standards and were committed to using it as key driver for school improvement.
  • The best results occurred where CPD was central to the schools’ improvement planning. Schools which integrated performance management, school self-review and development, and CPD into a coherent cycle of planning improved the quality of teaching and raised standards.
  • Primary and special schools, in particular, recognised the full part that support staff could play in raising standards and gave such staff good and varied opportunities for training and professional development.
  • Staff benefited where a wide range of different types of CPD were on offer. The very best schools selected the types of CPD most appropriate to the needs of the school and of individuals.
  • Most of the survey schools used their five professional development days well to support their improvement plan.
  • The schools had sufficient resources to provide the CPD which staff needed. Even those schools whose budget was limited had set aside funds for CPD, and all of them used local and national schemes to augment their resources for CPD.
  • Newly qualified teachers were supported effectively throughout their induction year.

Areas for development

  • Few of the schools evaluated successfully the impact of CPD on the quality of teaching and on pupils’ achievement because they did not identify the intended outcomes clearly at the planning stage.
  • The schools did not have an effective method for assessing the value for money of their CPD.
  • Arrangements for identifying staff’s individual needs were too subjective in about a third of the survey schools. These schools relied too heavily on staff’s own perception of their needs and on the effectiveness of individual subject leaders to identify needs accurately.
  • In the schools where identification of individuals’ needs was too subjective, planning for their personal professional development was also weak. It was unusual to find individual training plans in these schools and, consequently, relevant CPD opportunities were sometimes not identified or provided.
  • The schools made insufficient use of coaching and mentoring as a form of CPD.
  • In about one third of the primary schools visited by subject inspectors, the arrangements for CPD in the subject they were inspecting were inadequate. This was partly due to the emphasis on literacy and numeracy and partly due to managers’ failure to detect important subject-related issues.
  • Most of the schools had not considered how the time made available by workforce reform could be used for CPD.

Recommendations

To improve the professional development of teachers and support staff, the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) should work with schools to:

  • enhance managers’ skills in evaluating the impact of their CPD arrangements
  • devise easy to use practical tools to enable schools to assess the value for money and cost effectiveness of their CPD
  • encourage more subject-specific training and development in primary schools
  • disseminate effective methods for identifying staff’s individual needs and provide models of individual training plans for schools to adopt or adapt
  • make more effective use of coaching and mentoring.

The report concludes that the most effective practice can be described as a ‘logical chain of procedures which place continuous professional development at the heart of schools’ planning for improvement’ (frontispiece).

Although the report is not special educational needs (SEN) specific, it makes frequent references to SEN issues and exemplifies good practice in mainstream and special schools. It is also worth noting that all of the recommendations noted above about improving CPD for staff have a direct bearing on the ways in which SENCOs might provide training for their colleagues.

The survey sample

The survey was carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI). Between the summer of 2005 and the spring of 2006, they visited 13 secondary, 14 primary and two special schools whose section 10 inspections had identified good practice in managing and using CPD. The evidence from the HMI survey was supplemented during the same period by evidence from Ofsted’s surveys of National Curriculum subjects in over 130 schools. On these visits, inspectors considered the effectiveness of CPD in the subject they were inspecting.

Notes

  1. Ofsted (2006) The Logical Chain: Continuing Professional Development in Effective Schools, Ref: HMI 2639. www.ofsted.gov.uk
  2. The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (DfES, 2001) identifies contributing to the in-service training of staff as a key responsibility for SENCOs (see p50 and p65, paras 5:32 and 6:35. The government’s current strategy for SEN, Removing Barriers to Achievement, also highlights the role of the SENCO in influencing colleagues and in the developing policies for whole school improvement (see p58, para 3:14).
  3. The key findings and recommendations listed here can be found on pp4-5 of the report.
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