Continuing professional development: an overlooked asset in boosting performance


School leaders are investing less in providing teachers with continuing professional development as budgeting cuts and financial strain lead schools to direct spending towards other areas, new research indicates. 

According to statistics published by the Teachers Development Trust, spending on CPD in schools dropped by £23m year-on-year for the 2016-17 school year. 

Schools in England spend just 0.5% of their budgets on CPD on average, with research revealing that 10.5% of secondary schools and 4.5% of primary schools spent no money at all on continuing professional development in 2016-17.

The Department for Education cites CPD provision as an essential element in bolstering school success and urges that “professional development must be prioritised by school leadership.”

Yet financial strain appears to preventing schools from offering CPD activities, with a government teacher survey last year finding cost to be the most commonly cited barrier to teachers accessing effective CPD.

The lack of quality development opportunities available to teachers as a result is noted by the OECD, which states that “the quality and nature of continuing training available [in UK schools] is very uneven”. 

91% of teachers affirmed that the were prevented by barriers including cost and workload from accessing continuing professional development in a Department for Education survey last year.

This lack of access is particularly concerning given that widespread research has confirmed the benefits of CPD, with statistics showing strong links between CPD provision and improvements in pupil outcomes, staff morale and retention rates.

An extensive 15 year study on learning influences by University of Auckland professor John Hattie found CPD to be in the top 20 most influential elements in improving pupil outcomes out of 138 practices analysed.

In order to reap the benefits of professional development provision whilst adhering to a tight school budget, school leaders must be selective in finding good value and cost-free approaches to incorporate CPD opportunities into their management systems.

Choosing the right training 

One key criticism often levelled at CPD as a strategy is the broadness of the term. 

Comprising any activity that helps workers develop their skills and knowledge, and enhance their professional practice, CPD can take a vast range of forms in schools — from accreditation courses, training and workshops, to in-school mentoring schemes and peer group exchanges. 

A CPD strategy can encompass on one hand activities as small-scale as individual teacher reading and reflection and on the other involve intra-school visits, education conferences and widescale network collaboration.

As a result, the sort of strategy chosen by a school is hugely significant to CPD’s effectiveness in terms of both results and time and cost efficiency.

TDT chief executive David Weston warns that “a large swathe of training has no effect whatsoever on pupil outcomes,” adding: 

“The training most schools choose is often poorly chosen and ineffective, and the evidence about how to fix this is not widely known or understood.”

Research shows that CPD is most effective when it is targeted, evidence-based, collaborative, sustained over time and subjected to periodic evaluations. 

In particular, collaborative techniques such as implementing networks for topic-specific best practice sharing both within and across schools can be very effective in improving pupil outcomes.

These networks offer a low-cost way to bolster professional development and staff support and strengthen ties between colleagues, pooling resources and uniting staff on common goals in areas like special educational needs, maths and English teaching.

One MAT head notes that implementing system leader networks “reduces our resource needs by creating a synergy and network of people working together.”

This activity in particular provides staff with an opportunity to build their leadership and initiative skills, fostering the next generation of school leaders and improving job satisfaction.

In addition, collaborative efforts can be surprisingly time effective, with technology allowing networks to communicate remotely and for free via chat groups. 

Time efficiency is another key concern in prioritising CPD strategies, with many school leaders reluctant to add to staff’s heavy workloads with mandatory courses or trialling of new teaching methods.  

In its 2018 school snapshot survey report, the Department for Education found that 51% of over 1,000 teachers surveyed did not feel they had time to take up significant professional development activities such as courses.

Therefore when selecting their CPD offerings, it is imperative that schools focus on those that maximise time efficiency alongside cost considerations.

Incorporating CPD into existing performance management strategies, such as via 360 degrees performance appraisals, is one option.

Additionally, schools are advised to ensure that their chosen CPD offerings dovetail as neatly as possible with the school’s specific development goals, so that time spent on development has a tangible impact on improving outcomes and doesn’t feel to teachers like a gratuitous additional activity.

External experts and evaluations

Whilst in-school strategies such as peer networks and incorporating CPD into existing performance management policies offer cost-effective and time-effective results, research suggests that offering teachers some training from external experts is important and can significantly boost CPD’s effectiveness.

External experts offer not just evidence-based training and insight, but also bring a fresh perspective from outside of the school to identify and correct bad habits which may have become widespread across a school.

When choosing workshops and courses, schools are advised to be selective — aiming for a few, well-chosen, longer term courses directly related to practical school development objectives rather than a wide array of one-off workshops on a variety of subjects.

Research suggests that schools can achieve better results with training which takes place over a sustained period of time and which is more hands-on in nature, in part because allowing teachers to practice new skills is crucial to enforcing new techniques.

One-off sessions and out-of-school events such as conferences are therefore less likely to have an impact on teaching quality than more personalised, hands-on courses where smaller groups of teachers receive training support over an extended period of time. 

For similar reasons, training should be as targeted as possible, concentrating on a small set of focuses to allow teachers to thoroughly extend their knowledge and key skills on a specific subject and to practice what they learn during sessions.

Analysts advise against superficial focus on ‘tips and tricks’ and bought-in lesson plans, as such techniques are less likely to build teachers’ own skills and confidence and so improve the long term quality of their teaching.

In addition, school management should strive to evaluate the effectiveness and progress of CPD offerings should after training is delivered. 

Whilst this may in the short term add time and cost to the process, in the long-term such evaluation is key to ensuring that a school’s CPD provision is as streamlined and effective as possible. 

At the moment, only 3% of UK secondary schools evaluate the impact of CPD on student outcomes and attainment, promoting a scattershot, inefficient, hit-and-miss approach to training investments and making it difficult to know which offerings are truly proving to be the most valuable.

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Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.

 Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

 To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on carolfrench@educate.co.uk  or call 020 3411 1080.



Support for teachers central to improving schools

The government has pledged to provide more support for teachers, as measures to aid those in the early stages of their career form a central focus of new policies to boost teacher performance and improve recruitment and retention rates within the profession.

In January, government officials announced an “ambitious” new strategy for the teaching profession,with an additional £130m a year to be put towards providing a two-year support package for new teachers under the newly created Early Career Framework

Education Secretary Damian Hinds says that his department’s new approach is based on a “commit[tment] to supporting teachers – particularly those at the start of their career – to focus on what actually matters, the pupils in their classrooms.”

As well as a longer period of initial support, teachers have also been promised improved access to mentoring, a better provision of professional development opportunities and a reduced workload – with less emphasis on non-teaching tasks.

The Department for Education has also outlined aims to make part-time working easier and take a simpler approach to recruitment, in order to encourage strong candidates from all backgrounds to apply.

Whilst some concerns have been raised regarding the altering of recruitment strategy — withNASBTT leaders saying that undue pressure has been placed on training providers to accept lower quality applicants — the news of a renewed commitment to providing better support for teachers has been overwhelmingly welcomed by the education sector.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton has noted that plans for an early career framework have “the potential to be a game-changer”, whilst NAHT chief Paul Whiteman similarly projected that the framework could “transform the reality of teaching in England”.

The strength of response to the framework underlines the centrality of good teacher support to school performance and pupil outcomes. 

From a management perspective, providing adequate professional support to teachers is one of the most significant factors in determining a teacher’s performance.

In order to get the most out of teachers at the beginning of their career and beyond, school leaders should seek to implement management policies that support their teachers at all stages – nurturing talent, offering flexibility and providing a clear path for professional development.

Improving accountability practices

Accountability practices in education are one area of performance management often criticised for undermining teachers, with experts warning that teaching suffers from the “audit culture” of today.

The emphasis of the current school accountability system on data and inspections has been linked by research to negative effects on teacher performance and job satisfaction, with some feeling that the overly numerical and punitive approach is unfair on teachers and undermines good teaching.

New policies have made some progress towards recognising that a less stringent, punitive approach to accountability is necessary to enhance teacher performance, with plans to simplify the accountability system and remove floor and coasting standards from Ofsted inspections announced this year. 

The education secretary meanwhile has voiced concern that teachers are in some cases “spending more than half their time on non-teaching tasks” as a result of the administrative burdens of collecting data and accounting for pupil outcomes – to the detriment of their performance.

To ensure that accountability strategy is as supportive of teachers as possible, schools should ensure that their internal policies do not overly emphasise data-collection or numerical outcomes where possible. 

Individual teacher performance objectives and assessment criteria should not rely solely on numerical outcomes, as this can negatively skew both the teaching of a teacher and the accuracy of their performance evaluation, causing damage to both pupil outcomes and employee job satisfaction.

Instead, assessment strategy should centre around building strong relationships between teachers and managers, instilling self-confidence in teachers and providing a culture where they are able to voice problems, access managerial support and work together with managers on solutions.

Any changes to existing assessment and accountability criteria should be agreed by both managers and teachers as far as possible. 

Allowing teachers to give input on how they are held to account will help to ensure that the benefits of implementing new accountability measures are properly weighed against their impact on teacher workload, whilst also promoting a shared vision of performance aims to improve teacher motivation and job satisfaction.

In this way, a more collaborative, less punitive approach to accountability will enable teachers to perform their best and take initiative, while enabling them to approach management with challenges if they arise. 

As Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT notes, a less burdensome secondary accountability system would benefit school leaders in the same way, “free[ing] school leaders to concentrate on what matters most, and that’s delivering for pupils.”

Mentoring and flexible working support

In addition to avoiding punitive policy and lessening the administrative burden on teachers, schools can see significant performance benefits from directly improving their support provisions for teachers.

Commenting on the Early Career Framework, Geoff Barton of the Association of School and College Leaders notes: 

“Providing teachers with support and development during the first few years of their career and helping them to flourish in the classroom […] can help to raise the status of teaching to where it deserves to be: as a life-enhancing vocation.”

In terms of support, mentoring schemes for example can not only improve new teacher performance but also provide opportunities for new and experienced staff alike, offering established teachers CPD opportunities via the chance to train in mentoring their colleagues.

For new staff, mentoring provides insightful and challenging feedback from colleagues who have been in their position, promoting a trusting and communicative working environment which in turn can build infrastructure for wider school performance initiatives.

To harness this collaborative potential, schools should aim to assign a dedicated mentoring lead if possible to oversee mentoring strategy. In addition to specific training for mentors, leads could also provide basic guidance on how to counsel colleagues to all staff, so as to create a network of support and collaborative solution-seeking across the school.

Another way that schools can create a supportive environment for their staff is by offering flexible working options.

Flexible working conditions and job share opportunities have both proven successful in schools, with NASUWT leaders asserting that the promotion of flexible teaching “makes a positive contribution to the workplace.”

The Department for Education acknowledges evidence that providing flexible working options can help schools “to get the very best out of their teachers”, stating in guidance:

“[Flexible working] improves employees’ work-life balance and well-being, helps to attract and retain staff, particularly those with caring responsibilities, increases productivity and

reduces costs.”

Schools are advised to be open-minded when considering flexible roles and consider cases on an individual basis. 

For recruitment purposes, flexible working can widen the pool of highly qualified, available candidates, whilst for retention, the practice can be offered to defer the retirement of experienced teachers and help teachers return to work more quickly after parental leave, easing the impact of staff transition periods on pupils in both cases. 

Accommodating teachers in job-share roles is set to become easier for schools, with the government having announced plans to introduce a new match-making service for teachers seeking a job-share.

Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on carolfrench@educate.co.uk  or call 020 3411 1080.

Performance boosted by prioritising development

Performance management researchers are heralding the rise of ‘coaching’ styles of management performance, as studies suggest that a focus on individual employees’ development and progression is key to boosting overall workplace performance and productivity. 

Surveys suggest that managers who focus on getting to know and understand workers’ individual strengths and maintaining individual employee engagement are likely to see the biggest improvements in performance, as modern workers seemingly respond better to a mentoring style of leadership than a more fixed, traditional approach.

 Employees list ongoing feedback, opportunities to learn and grow and accountability among their top needs from managers.

Despite this however, the majority of organisations appear to be lacking an emphasis on employees’ personal and professional development in their performance management strategies. 

More than 8 in 10 employees report that they do not properly discuss their career progression with their manager, with 70% feeling that they are not adequately involved in setting their own objectives.

Without proper emphasis on personal objectives and career progression, workers are more likely to lose motivation, feel unable to achieve their performance aims and ultimately leave their role. 

Currently, research indicates that 79% of workers feel that their performance is not managed in a way that motivates them

Schools urged to heed career progression needs

In education specifically, there is a clear need to develop more supportive managerial practices, with campaigners, the government and industry leaders all underlining the lack of career progression support available to teachers. 

Despite education ministers noting a “growing culture” of professional development within teaching, figures show that annual school spending on CPD dropped by nearly 9% (£23.2m) in 2016-17, ending an upwards trend in professional development spending since 2011.

The Teacher Development Trust found that 4.5% of primary schools and 10.5% of secondary schools spent nothing at all on CPD in the 2016-17 school year. 

The government has acted to boost mentorship by extending the induction period for new teachers to two years, in a move which policy makers hope will “strengthen” support for QTS and further career progression.

In a consultation report published last year, the Department for Education emphasised the need for schools to offer more career progression support to staff, noting that “career development pathways outside of traditional leadership and management routes are not always visible or readily available to all teachers.”

The report expressed concern for the “very little formal provision” of support for teachers between the stages of QTS and NPQ levels, as well as for longterm, expert teachers.
In particular however, the DfE urged schools to place more focus on the “needs of teachers in their third year of teaching and the few years after this,” stating:

“This group often make up the majority of a school’s workforce, but it is also the stage at which a growing number of teachers leave the profession, which suggests that there is more that can be done to respond to the needs of these teachers.”

By focusing on performance development and individual career progression, schools may therefore have a better chance of seeing a return on their overall investment in performance management and CPD — retaining more of the teachers hey have trained and harnessing the full potential of those in the workforce who are ready to expand their subject knowledge and take on more responsibilities within the school.

Creating a coaching relationship between managers and teachers

In order to provide an effective, development-focused, ‘coaching’ style of performance management, it is important that managers understand teachers’ individual strengths and challenges, so as to be aware of what is needed to both boost performance and ensure job satisfaction.

Performance discussions between managers and employees should be held frequently in order to both develop this insight and strengthen overall relations and teamwork between managers and teachers.

These meetings should be used both for feedback and to discuss the concrete steps to be taken towards teachers’ individual development and progression, with specific goals agreed collaboratively to ensure clear performance expectations.

By instating a routine of regular check-ins, in which small, specific goals are met and replaced by new, small goals on the path to broader, annual objectives, managers can better identify and resolve issues, boost performance and even improve employee job satisfaction.

Only one in five employees report strongly agreeing that they have talked to their manager in the past six months about steps to reach their goals, according to a recent survey.

More frequent input can have a significant impact on performance focus however, with those who have discussed their goal plan with their manager in the past six months 3.5 times more likely to be engaged. 

Researchers suggest that this is because focusing on short term goals creates tangible, achievable aims for workers — making progress smaller and more easy to accomplish, boosting motivation and providing a fuller sense of what is needed to work towards more abstract, long-term goals.

As well as ensuring frequency, it is also of course important for the content of the meetings to be helpful — with clear feedback from managers leading to a 2.9 times more engaged workforce in one study.

Only 1 in 2 employees report feeling confident in knowing what is expected of them in terms of working towards their performance objectives on a daily basis, underlining the failure of many management strategies to communicate directly and effectively with workers on their aims.

To this end, the check-ins must also give the teacher the sense of being held genuinely accountable for their performance objectives. 

Research shows that 60% of workers do not feel that their manager holds them accountable for their performance goals, despite accountability being linked to a 2.5x improvement in employee engagement.

In order to ensure that employees feel able to be held personally accountable for their performance goals, the objectives and feedback given must be realistic and understanding of the individual worker’s specific circumstances. 

Only one in five workers strongly feel that their performance is measured by factors which are within their control — with this disjunct between objectives and ability linked to loss of motivation, low job satisfaction and poor performance gains.

In brief, managers should aim to provide effective feedback which is clear, points to achievable next steps, and ideally invites engagement and input from employees themselves. 

By shifting from reliance on annual performance reviews towards a more regular, progress-oriented approach, managers can benefit not only individual employee performance and satisfaction, but also the overall performance of the organisation, with strengthened communication channels and a more motivated and focused work-force.

Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.

 Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

 To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on carolfrench@educate.co.uk  or call 020 3411 1080.

To find out how Educate can support staff through performance management, book a demo or call us on 0203 411 1080.

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