Trust-wide CPD: ensuring value, impact and sustainability

David Weston, CEO, Teacher Development Trust

With cost pressures from energy bills, salaries and wider inflation, every trust is taking a close look at its budgets: how much impact is each ‘pot’ really delivering? But continuous professional development is almost unique in improving outcomes, morale and retention both rapidly and in building sustainable longer term impact for your trust. If done well, CPD is not a cost, but an investment in the organisation, its staff, and for securing high quality learning for pupils over time.

It’s not easy, of course. When we at the Teacher Development Trust train leaders on our flagship NPQ in Executive Leadership, one of the most common questions is: how do I coordinate this so that there’s enough coherence and enough autonomy, enough impact and enough flexibility?

There are some different models being taken:

  1. Entirely centralised: all schools’ CPD budget is amalgamated and held centrally. A central director liaises regarding requests from schools and commissions centrally wherever possible.
    • Pros: can potentially give high levels of coherence and lead to strong central programmes and commissioning of external work
    • Cons: can lead to a one size doesn’t quite fit anyone approach and leave individual schools feeling disempowered
  2. Entirely delegated: all schools make their own decisions on CPD once their budgets are agreed with the trust, with groups of school leaders ‘buying back in’ to central offers
    • Pros: highly empowered school leaders, discussions about joint purchasing can lead to coherence across school plans
    • Cons: schools often prioritise their individual needs over collective, can reduce coherence and takes longer to align things across schools, relies very heavily on high levels of CPD leadership expertise in each school
  3. Half-and-half, part central, part local: there is some centrally held budget for agreed cross-Trust core programmes and the rest is delegated back to schools
    • Pros: can give space for balancing local and national needs
    • Cons: any split won’t work for all schools, e.g. a school in need of intensive improvement may need very different approaches; each budget could end up slightly too small for big programmes; leaves open the possibility of central programmes being circumvented as schools use their own slice to buy an external alternative

Of course, this is the very same challenge that school leaders have faced for years when contemplating delegating CPD budgets within a school to middle leaders! Ultimately, each of the models relies heavily on the highest quality collaboration between schools and a trust’s central team, and between school leaders, with high levels of expertise in CPD leadership and commissioning and deep understanding of each other’s contexts and needs.

In order to achieve value, there are some tactics that all trusts should certainly be considering:

  • Make systematic use of the full government funding for NPQs. We’ve heard from Trusts using our NPQs systematically that they’re finding the added benefit of everyone ‘being on the same page’ in terms of approach and evidence. For example, as all of our NPQs start with modules on implementation, culture and communication, this can underpin shared thinking on effective change planning and gaining and sustaining buy-in. Another important, free element to make extensive use of here is the new Early Headship Coaching Offer which gives free coaching for any head in the first 5 years of their post.
  • Make good use of the apprenticeship levy: this can be particularly beneficial to look at building skills for administrative, support, catering and site staff and you may find that local businesses that are not using their levy may well donate up to 25% of their unused levy to you.
  • Undertake rigorous commissioning of external CPD, considering the scale and scope of its reach (including number of staff and over what period the engagement will be), the price per participant, the evidence base underpinning it, as well, of course, as looking at feedback from peers who have undertaken the external training.
  • Invest in your school and trust’s CPD leadership: by helping each school have at least one leader with detailed understanding of needs analysis, the leadership of CPD culture, processes and systems then you can significantly reduce the risk of unimpactful spending and processes, and ensure that CPD is much more effectively aligned to (and impacting upon) improvement plans. A number of school and trust leaders engage with our TDT Associate Qualification in CPD Leadership, for example.
  • Generate shared understanding of how your schools vary in their CPD leadership, cultures and processes and produce action plans for schools and trusts to carefully target and improve these. There are a number of tools available including the TDT CPD Diagnostic Review and also Dr Sam Sims’ Teacher Working Environment Survey

Finally, all of these ideas rest upon the highest quality executive leadership across schools, so it is worth ensuring that current and aspiring executive leaders take full advantage of the high quality professional development available. For those new to Executive Leadership or establishing themselves in post, the new national NPQs in Executive Leadership bring the latest evidence on leadership, professional development and impact across your organisation. And, it’s important to remember that the learning doesn’t stop after NPQEL, and, for those established in post, ongoing professional development networking, such as Forum Strategy’s Education Executive membership, offers a vital next step for continuous learning and improvement at this level.

David Weston is the CEO and founder of the Teacher Development Trust. Find out more about the NPQ in Executive Leadership that he co-facilitates with Sir Steve Lancashire.

Teacher Development Trust is part of a ‘paid for’ partnership with Forum Strategy. Forum Strategy also chooses its partners based on their ethos and expertise.



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