Developing your staff to provide CPD within your school is increasingly popular with primary leaders.
Funding has influenced this trend, but more positively there is also recognition that the staff within a school have significant knowledge, experience and expertise which can support colleagues.
The opportunity to provide CPD to colleagues can also develop those who deliver the training, but there needs to be adequate planning, support and time.
It’s worth remembering that when budget is allocated to pay for external trainers to come into school, careful thought is given to what we want them to cover.
The same consideration is needed for in-house CPD. This isn’t about a rushed request for someone to give a presentation in the next staff meeting, this is about using the limited staff directed time outside of the classroom to its full potential. So, what do senior leaders need to consider?
Getting everyone on board
It’s important that all staff know that the school is going to be investing in a new approach to CPD which will rely much more on in-house expertise. Think about how this will affect teachers, and how to be inclusive of support staff in your CPD provision too.
Get people’s views and opinions early on so there is a sense of joint ownership. The SLT may well have a view on who they think should be approached to become ‘CPD leaders’ within the school but it is better to take a more inclusive approach and invite people to volunteer as well.
When can CPD happen?
Creating enough time for CPD can be challenging beyond the allocated INSET which is often dedicated to whole school needs.
Finding time for focused support for things like improving spelling in upper KS2 or developing new strategies for encouraging reception children to share resources, can be difficult.
Whilst, in an ideal world, you want all your staff to be specialists across all areas of the school the practicalities of that mean this is rarely going to happen.
Staff meetings are a valuable time for CPD, but so often all staff, from across the year groups, are expected to attend the same meetings covering the same CPD topic. If there is a need for KS1 to have a look at phonics, and KS2 to look at grammar then make the most of time and invite the relevant staff to the appropriate meeting.
Quite often an hour for a CPD session is not long enough. Do you have the opportunity to run a twilight session instead so that things are not rushed, and there is enough time for a topic to be explored by staff?
It’s also worth remembering that ECTs have extra time available for their professional development – how can they be involved?
Learning to teach adults
Teaching adults, particularly your peers, can feel very different to tackling the challenges of the classroom.
Once you’ve identified who will be the main people delivering CPD in the school it is worthwhile investing in some training to help them develop their skills and confidence as teachers of adults.
Starting with small groups can be a great confidence booster and worth considering if someone has expressed a worry about speaking in front of all staff. Some people may never feel truly comfortable speaking to their peers, however, being confident in the subject matter can make the difference for many to feel better prepared.
When we buy in an external trainer we essentially buy the time they have researched, reflected and developed their expertise in a topic, we expect it to be up to date, relevant, and engaging.
If staff are to provide CPD of a high quality they too need the time to develop and refine their thinking, research the topic, develop the learning design, and create the resources that will be used in the session.
Access to new research is also important. A good approach is to start developing a staff library of key texts, both classics and the latest thinking. Making sure staff know that you have set aside some of the budget for this can really encourage them to actively look for books, and other research papers, to add to the library.
There are useful reviews of new research in the Tes and on The Key for School Leaders. The Education Endowment Foundation also has a wealth of easily accessible research from 10 years of investigations.
It is worthwhile encouraging those that deliver CPD to share their academic references so that others can also read into the topic further if they wish.
One of the benefits of developing in-house CPD is that examples can be drawn from your own school and this can be particularly engaging. Backing this up with current research helps support staff to understand the reasoning behind the CPD that they are being provided with.
Linking teachers together
As already mentioned, it can be daunting to face your colleagues and deliver a CPD session. Something that can help to encourage volunteers is to see if colleagues wish to team up together to deliver a training session.
It also means those preparing the training can develop ideas together, share their experiences and co-create training. It can help to draw on a wider range of experience and expertise and create a deeper, more useful experience for the recipients.
Working within a carefully selected team can also help spread the workload on carrying out research and preparing to deliver the CPD to others.
Preparing for challenges
A risk with adopting an in-house CPD approach is that it is easier to postpone or cancel than an external trainer or booked a course. Be realistic about what you think can be achieved, listen to teachers about the pressures on their time.
At times, not everything mentioned above will be possible, but it’s important that changes are managed effectively. For instance, last minute cancellations of CPD sessions are going to leave staff feeling under-valued, nor will it motivate them to use precious time to develop future training.
Another issue can be staff feeling that a specific session isn’t relevant to them. Ensure the right people are invited to training and don’t assume everyone needs to be in a staff meeting. Once the right people are attending, you can also open the session up to others.
If your teaching staff are given the time, resources and support to become true specialists, they will be able to bring more weight to what they are saying to the rest of the staff in their training.
It won’t just be them talking about their own experience - which might not always be best practice – it will be research informed and aimed at supporting everyone to develop and improve their own teaching.
The use of your own teaching staff to provide high-quality CPD to the rest of your school community benefits everyone, but needs to be done in a way that provides the right tools and environment for this to happen – just as you expect teachers to provide to the children in their class.
Ben Case is Education Advisor for Tapestry and the Foundation Stage Forum. He was previously a primary teacher for more than 10 years.