Five ways to manage Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in MATs

When it comes to personal and professional development and climbing the career ladder, CPD is crucial. Regardless of the sector, it is a vital part of a successful organisation; the more engaged, challenged, and appreciated employees feel, the greater chance the business will thrive.

The education sector should be no different, right?

Sadly, not. With teachers facing increasing workloads and time pressures, it is often their CPD that is sacrificed. And if teachers are forced to neglect their CPD, what is the knock-on effect for schools, and more importantly, for students? The issue becomes even more pertinent when we consider this from the perspective of a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) where the issue affects several schools, hundreds of teachers and thousands of pupils.

Fortunately, there are ways that MATs can effectively manage and support their teachers’ CPD, and in turn, manage student learning.  Here are our top five tips:

1. Cultivate a learning culture 

Last year, The Guardian ran an article on how to create a culture of excellence within schools. An interesting read, it highlighted that what is needed is ‘a culture of excellence that permeates every classroom, department, and school; a focus not on simply getting the best grade, but on getting the best education and creating a lifelong passion for learning’. The most effective CPD processes are dependent on developing this positive attitude towards learning within the schools. School leaders and headteachers have a responsibility to cultivate a belief that professional development and learning is important and something that should be valued by everyone.

Organising simple, but regular, consultation evenings with teachers to check-in with them and see how they are doing is a great first step. These allow for issues to be flagged and CPD plans to be discussed. It is important for CEOs of MATs to be visible and accessible to all staff, especially across larger Trusts – these consultation evenings are a perfect way to achieve this visibility.

2. Provide level specific training 

When it comes to CPD, one size does not fit all. To increase the uptake and impact of CPD on offer, schools should ensure that it is as relevant and personal as possible for those that are availing of it. For example, behaviour management in primary schools will be significantly different from that in secondary schools; CPD training in this area should cater to both groups of teachers separately. Similarly, there should also be senior leadership team (SLT) specific training on offer.

3. Assign responsibilities

Giving teachers roles and responsibilities within the schools’ CPD programme is another good way to encourage uptake. For example, schools could assign a designated ‘safeguarding lead’, whose responsibility it is to ensure that everyone’s safeguarding training is up to date. You could also assign one teacher the responsibility of attending external training and then relay the messages internally to other teachers; across a large MAT, this could prove incredibly useful as it would potentially present teachers with vast amounts of CPD every year.

4. Incorporate technology 

Schools schedule an average of five inset days per year. However, for time-poor teachers ,these are often used to manage their ever-increasing workload and administrative tasks. Technology can be used to alleviate teacher workload, freeing them up to partake in important CPD.

However, it is important to note that adding technology alone does not automatically equate efficiency. It’s important for schools to ensure they have direct communications with their technology solution developer so that they are aware of any pain points. Mutual understanding between schools and providers can reduce the time that teachers spend on trial and error learning and administrative burdens.

Technology can also facilitate alternative methods of CPD which can be seamlessly incorporated into their everyday teaching life, allowing them to expand their knowledge without even having to leave their desks. And some technology providers even run the certified CPD courses, making the process even more seamless.

5. Ensure performance management systems are in place 

In 2013, performance-related pay was introduced in schools. While MATs have autonomy in this area, ensuring that they are in place can help with CPD uptake. Through performance management systems, annual objectives are agreed and set; completing various CPD training can (and should) also be included as part of this.

Research regularly shows that the top performing schools and MATs are those that prioritise CPD. All too quickly, however, and due to no fault of their own, it can slip down the priority list. Schools and MATs need to ensure that their teachers are supported when it comes to CPD, not only for their personal and professional development, but for the benefit of their students.