Stop cutting school CPD spending

Written by: ?Deborah Roberts | Published:

No time. No money. If schools continue to slash their spending on CPD it will only end badly for pupils, says Deborah Roberts

I recently met a colleague with whom I had worked in my first years of teaching.

We had both quickly acquired additional responsibilities and with this came expectation to attend training with a number of respected external providers.

Initially this conjured up very pleasant memories of being valued enough to be “allowed” out of school and given the opportunity to take on the challenges of new roles so early in our careers.

Though the school was challenging in many ways (and as a result did not find it easy to recruit staff) this glut of courses has a massive impact on our personal resources, including our time (which of course was already stretched to capacity).

However CPD through mainly training was accepted as part of the teaching package. Ultimately I was informed very early on in my career that if I wanted to train young people then I had to invest time into being highly trained myself.

When planning lessons to provide learning experiences for students I would say to them, “if you don’t use it you lose it”, referring of course to their knowledge. I soon learned that this was also applicable to staff.

The headteacher and the governors invested everything they could into the training and advancement of all of their staff. They were passionate in their view that to provide the best education, teaching staff must be at their peak. They also believed that the best student results could only be achieved if highly trained experts taught students.

So what’s happened to CPD provision? I ask myself this question now as a CPD senior facilitator, trainer and educational consultant.

Even when the training in question is free, teachers hit two brick walls – time and budget restraints (because even free CPD costs money).

Indeed, in January, figures from the Teacher Development Trust showed that a majority of state schools spent less on staff development in 2017 than they did in 2016. Overall spending is down 12 per cent (SecEd, 2019).

And time is being squeezed. Faculty time was once used for whole department training or the sharing of experience. Conversations about day-to-day issues were shared in the staffroom between colleagues during lunch and coffee breaks.

Information that was once shared on a casual basis in communal areas is now restricted to valuable whole faculty timetabled slots on the calendar. As a result faculty time has become so valuable that it is taken up by such items, with the agenda formally planned months if not a whole academic year in advance.

Some of the free training I provide has to be used within a year or often nine months. Though the leaders in the schools often welcome the training they physically cannot fit it into their restricted faculty time within the allocated timeframe.

This precious time is sometimes used for whole-school CPD, often delivered by staff from within the school and rarely external agencies. This means that external training sessions are almost extinct.

We must question what is happening to the teachers’ skills and ultimately the education that students are receiving.

I am a trainer for an initiative partly funded by the Department for Education. The support is completely free to some schools identified as underperforming in terms of assessment data and/or Ofsted inspection reports.

Meetings are held with the senior leadership team to evaluate the specific needs of the department. A bespoke plan is then drawn up to address these needs.

Three years ago, 12.5 per cent of the schools that agreed to the programme withdrew before the first agreed session. This trend increased to 16 per cent last year and 19 per cent this year.

During the first years that the programme was offered, more than 98 per cent of the plans were completed and the feedback on the impact of the support was very good to outstanding.

Last year, only about 70 per cent of the plans were completed (feedback remained the same). The feedback from teaching staff almost always asks for more training. But the sole reason given for not engaging in the planned sessions is that there is not enough time in schools to devote to staff training.

We need to invest in the future of our teachers. Training teachers raises standards and also their self-worth. This can only increase the profile of the profession and thus attract the graduates, academics and experts that schools need.

There have been a number of theories offered to explain why some students make more progress than others.

Recent research has identified that students who are taught by teachers in cultures where the profession is highly regarded make better progress. Students in Singapore and Finland experience a vastly different type of education yet their achievements are exceptional. Teachers in these countries are given status with good pay, conditions and sound professional development at the beginning and throughout their careers. (Dolton et al, 2018).

We might compare the teaching profession to others when considering career professional development. Solicitors and lawyers have to continue training and retraining as the law and expectations change.

Accountants and financial advisors experience the same expectations. These people are responsible for the protection of materialistic possessions including money and property and so we accept that they have a huge responsibility to their clients.

Teachers are responsible for our children and ultimately the future decision-makers of our country and possibly the world. This responsibility is evidently less important than that of material wealth...

  • Deborah Roberts, author, trainer and consultant.

Further information

  • CPD spending slashed as school budget deficits continue to rise, SecEd, January 2019: http://bit.ly/2NYovvW
  • Global Teacher Status Index, Dolton, Marcenaro, De Vries, She, Varkey Foundation, November 2018: http://bit.ly/2NYnvrG


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