Alison Kitson, programme leader in CPD at the TDA, discusses the kinds of questions that you might wish to ask if you were beginning to draw up a role specification for a leader or director of professional learning

Why is the leadership of CPD in schools important?
There is increasing recognition that effective continuing professional development (CPD) of the whole school workforce is a significant element in school improvement, and that CPD leadership in schools is fundamental to this. Key policy developments that have created the new context, in which CPD leadership is of increasing significance, include:

  • new teacher professionalism, which:
    • recognises and supports teachers as professionals committed to their own professional development and the development of others
    • promotes a culture where all
  • teachers are engaged in effective professional development that enhances pupil attainment and teachers’ job satisfaction
    • supports school improvement and teachers’ career progression
  • support for new teacher professionalism through revised performance management arrangements for teachers due to be introduced in autumn 2007, revised professional standards for teachers and greater CPD opportunities
  • a greater emphasis on school self-evaluation, which includes evaluating the impact of CPD, an area that many schools find difficult and where they need support
  • workforce remodelling, with its focus on the whole school workforce and the increase in support staff numbers from 136,500 FTE in 1997 to 305,500 FTE in 2007
  • the Every Child Matters initiative, with the bringing together of children’s services in LAs and a greater emphasis on personalised learning in schools.

The introduction of revised performance management arrangements for teachers in September 2007 has provided a particular driver and opportunity to promote this area of work. The national training provided by TDA and local authorities (LAs) on the new performance management arrangements has raised awareness of the relationship between performance management, professional standards, CPD  and school improvement and has put the spotlight on effective CPD leadership. It is also essential to workforce development that CPD leaders understand their broader role and are able to develop effective strategies and policies for professional development across the whole school workforce.

The role of TDA

With this in mind, TDA devised a pilot project on support for CPD leadership that ran from January to June 2007. Its primary aim was to build an evidence base of the ways LAs, TDA and others currently support and develop CPD leadership in schools and to consider the potential for them to develop effective support further in the future. In the letter to LAs launching the project, Liz Francis, director of the Teachers Directorate at TDA, stated: Recent developments, including workforce remodelling, revised performance management arrangements and an increased emphasis on evaluating the impact of CPD, provide the context for this project. They have made the role of CPD leader in schools a more challenging and critical one and consequently, TDA wishes to develop its strategy to support CPD leaders nationally. An essential starting point is to establish what kinds of support already exist within local authorities and what additional kinds of support might be desirable and effective.

The findings of the pilot project

In general terms, it would appear that the majority of CPD leaders are now members of senior leadership teams and that, while some schools still have a narrow perception of CPD, an increasing number have extended it to the whole school workforce and are increasingly looking to exploit its potential within the school rather than rely solely on external courses.

Barriers and challenges

CPD leaders face a number of barriers and challenges. These can be categorised as:

  • cultural: changing staff perceptions of the value and nature of CPD
  • capacity: using resources such as time and money effectively
  • operational: identifying the needs of the staff, developing CPD opportunities and evaluating impact
  • specific: addressing current initiatives such as performance management, new professional standards and extending CPD to the wider workforce.

Understanding these challenges is essential to shaping the range and nature of support to develop effective CPD leadership.

Support for CPD leaders

Analysis of the support currently available to CPD leaders indicates that much has already been produced to address the cultural and operational challenges. In particular, there is a large amount of support available locally, although the level of support varies considerably across LAs. In some LAs, support is largely centred around general advice and guidance on CPD, rather than support targeted at the role of CPD leadership.

Where there is direct support, it includes, for example:

  • training programmes
  • conferences
  • networks   
  • newsletters
  • websites and online forums
  • individual and peer support
  • various types of supporting documentation.

The variety of documentation includes:

  • sample policies and entitlement statements for schools
  • sample job descriptions outlining the requirements and responsibilities of CPD leaders
  • guides for governors and parents
  • outlines of the range of CPD opportunities available, and progression or learning frameworks
  • standards for CPD and CPD leadership to help with self-evaluation
  • materials to facilitate planning, needs analysis and impact evaluation
  • checklists to facilitate self-review of CPD leadership
  • case studies of effective practice.

In a number of regions this documentation has been brought together as a toolkit.

As TDA’s pilot project moves into the next stage, one important aim is to ensure that the best practice at local level is shared so that this kind of high-quality support for CPD leadership is available everywhere. There is also some support available at a national level. Here are three examples.

  • TDA has recently published a range of CPD guidance on its website that complements its existing guidance on performance management and information about the professional standards.
  • The General Teaching Council in England runs a virtual network for CPD leaders called Connect and members also receive a regular newsletter.
  • The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), working with the National Strategies, published Leading and Supporting CPD in Secondary Schools in 2005. It provides some very helpful guidance and support materials.

Where are schools at the moment? Broadly speaking, the key issues facing schools, whether they be primary, secondary or special schools, appear to be similar. Schools seem to be moving along a continuum.

FROM CPD coordination as an administrative role TO CPD leadership of a more strategic nature   

FROM A focus on teaching staff TO A focus on the whole school workforce

FROM Dependence on external provision and courses TO The use of a range of methods but with an emphasis on what the school itself can provide, particularly through coaching and mentoring

FROM Needs identified in a range of ways TO Needs arising from performance management and balancing the needs of the individual and of the school

FROM Ad hoc evaluation of the immediate impact of CPD TO Monitoring and evaluating the short- and long-term impact of CPD on staff and pupil performance

The place where a school is along the continuum in these five areas determines the needs of that school in moving towards current expectations about CPD and CPD leadership.

Who provides the leadership?

Those responsible for CPD leadership in schools operate under a plethora of titles. ‘Inset coordinator’ is still used in some schools while ‘CPD coordinator’ is the preferred title in others. ‘CPD leader’ is becoming more popular but other titles, such as ‘staff development coordinator’, ‘leader for professional learning’, ‘workforce learning leader’, ‘school development leader’ and ‘workforce development leader’ are also emerging.  As stated earlier, evidence from the pilot project suggests that the majority of people with responsibility for CPD leadership are part of the school leadership team, many of whom have additional responsibilities. The evidence also indicates that in a number of schools, particularly secondary schools, CPD leadership responsibilities for planning, administering, monitoring and evaluating CPD are sometimes shared across a range of staff. In addition to headteachers, deputy and assistant headteachers, those involved include senior administrators, higher level teaching assistants (HLTAs), bursars and business managers. This suggests that, as the nature of the job develops, it may be worth sharing the responsibilities for planning, administering, monitoring and evaluating across more than one person, particularly in large schools. It also emphasises that many staff in a school have a responsibility to lead CPD, whether in their department or team, and that there is value in considering and developing models of distributed leadership.

What is TDA doing next?

The success of the pilot phase in reinvigorating the development of support for CPD leadership locally presented a convincing case to continue the project into a second phase. We will therefore continue to work with LAs across the country to develop the outcomes of the pilot phase further and to strengthen the support available for CPD leadership in school. This time, there will be a greater emphasis on the need for LAs to collaborate with each other and to share effective practice, both within and across regions so that CPD leaders have access to effective support wherever they work.

We are also beginning to explore a number of national approaches to developing and supporting CPD leadership. One of these, the development of a designated space on the TDA website specifically for CPD leaders, will shortly be underway. This will provide an effective starting point for all CPD leaders, whether new or experienced, by providing a wealth of useful material and links to other relevant and effective resources and sites.