CPD: Improving career paths for your staff


Access to career development opportunities is often a key priority for teaching staff. David Weston offers seven ways schools can meet this need.


We are more motivated in work when we have professional autonomy and recognition. 

At the Teacher Development Trust we audit schools in our National Teacher Enquiry Network for the quality of professional learning. Across our member schools, we often find that making career development opportunities available is in itself an area for development. Many staff feel that such opportunities are unevenly spread and they often feel stuck, not knowing where to go next.

However, we also see some schools demonstrating fantastic and forward-thinking practice in this area. Here are seven ways you can learn from these schools and give all staff more – and better – career development opportunities.

Annual career coaching

One of the discussions all staff need each year is with an informed colleague who can help them decide on what their career aspirations are and then look at the opportunities and training available that could be requested to move in the right direction.

These data should then be collected centrally to inform budgeting and CPD provision planning. If these conversations will be part of line management or performance management, it is important that staff are well briefed on the coaching opportunities and potential coaches are given adequate support to develop effective coaching approaches.

Creative career development

When developing a strong CV many teachers will want to take on some whole-school opportunities, or the chance to work with colleagues in other schools. A good way of structuring such opportunities is to consider offering job-shadowing (following/assisting a more experienced colleague for some time), job-swaps (getting experience in another school or different team by swapping jobs with a similar-level colleague), and secondments (e.g. temporary secondment to a leadership team).

Whole-team or whole-school projects, if resourced properly with time and appropriate teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) points, give staff the opportunity to “zoom out” and see issues at a team or organisational level. This can be equally beneficial to both support staff and teaching colleagues.

Formal accreditation

The most common professional accreditations available are in leadership, for example the National College NPQ awards that are available through a local Teaching School Alliance. Other accreditations include the Lead Practitioner award from SSAT and various opportunities from subject associations (such as Chartered Science Teacher, for example).

Alternative options come in the form of programmes such as Teaching Leaders or Future Leaders, for example.

Opportunities for colleagues who don’t teach are more limited, but SLE (specialist leader of education) designations are available for other professionals, including school business managers. Teaching assistants, meanwhile, may wish to explore the higher level teaching assistant programmes.

There are a variety of ways to engage in these, with different mixes of practical enquiry and personal study alongside formal input or virtual teaching. 

Many forward-thinking schools invest time and funding to make these opportunities available to staff, knowing that this can improve practice and retention as well as making the school a more attractive destination for the best new recruits.

Academic study

While tighter funding seems to have put pressure on Master’s and Doctoral-level study in schools, we still see many schools who resolutely protect the budget for these. Typically speaking, some schools will part or even fully fund study where it relates directly to school priorities, while others make Master’s-level study a guaranteed entitlement of early career development (i.e. within the first five years). Occasionally, government funding is available for some areas of study, particularly around SEN and disability.

Many schools we encounter have made undergraduate-level study available to staff who do not have a degree, for example offering degrees and PGCEs to teaching assistants who wish to change path along a teaching route.

Stay aware of your champions’ needs

Many schools are looking to save money and boost engagement by using their own staff to deliver INSET and training to other colleagues in the school (or to nearby schools). While we speak to many staff who appreciate this opportunity, we often find a level of frustration that they are no longer being developed themselves, and no longer able to get the same opportunities as other staff as they are busy delivering CPD.

It is important to put aside time to keep stretching and developing your most experienced colleagues. Many are very loyal and might not complain, but everyone appreciates new challenges and the opportunity to reflect with others.


An important part of career development is settling in new recruits. The quality of induction can be a key factor in future success and is an opportunity to build trust and good relationships as well as the right habits.

An effective induction programme is constantly refined, getting feedback from recent recruits about what they might have needed to help them, as well as drawing on leading practice. Simple things like maps, photos and names of colleagues, agreed procedures for behaviour, financial, illness and catering arrangements are all very helpful. Every new inductee, whether experienced or not, needs proper training and mentoring around school systems and policies. In the induction process, try and find out the recruit’s aspirations for their career path at the school so that you can start planning ahead and avoid mismatches in expectations.

The future: a College of Teaching?

While there are a number of opportunities that schools can put in place, it is clear that the teaching profession would benefit from more clearly defined and nationally respected pathways. An idea that has been mooted since 2012, the creation of a professional College of Teaching, is a exciting opportunity with lots of potential. 

In consultations so far, the consensus that has emerged is for a voluntary body with no compulsion to join to exist that will focus on professional and career development as well as establishing a repository of professional knowledge for the most effective approaches in the classroom.

Popular ideas include giving teachers access to career accreditations (e.g. chartered status) and an entitlement to support from peers, a flexible and life-long portfolio of professional learning and access to research and knowledge through a database and regular online publications.

The idea is being spearheaded by the Claim Your College coalition of teachers and organisations, which will be responding to the recent Department for Education consultation paper where ministers are exploring how they might support the start-up of such a member-led body while ensuring its independence from them.

The next steps are a number of public meetings in January followed by a public response to the consultation. 

This would be followed by an open appointment of practising teaching professionals to a project board (and eventually trusteeship) to oversee the transfer of a Royal Charter to the new body. 

Nothing is set in stone and the idea simply cannot take flight without the support of thousands of teachers across the country. 

Find out more about the history and future plans for a new College of Teaching and have your say on what it should do and look like (see link below).

  • David Weston is a former teacher and chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, a national charity for effective professional development in schools and colleges. Visit http://TDTrust.org/

Further information
Claim Your College: http://ClaimYourCollege.org


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