Saving time: Effective and efficient CPD

Written by: Adam Riches | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Time is our most precious commodity and it is often in short supply. In this five-part series, Adam Riches looks at how we can change common practices to help save time and improve teaching and learning. Part two focuses on effective CPD sessions that can reduce workload

Every school sets up their CPD programme differently and a lot of what you do with regards to the training of staff depends very heavily on the resources at your disposal, the time available and, of course, the budget. Striking a balance between cost (time and money) and impact is also a factor that school leaders must consider.

Teachers often see CPD as an extra activity that is tagged on to an already busy schedule and, at times, the value to staff is not always clear, especially half-way through term as the work is piling up. A well set-up CPD programme, however, can allow teachers to embrace development without having a negative impact on their workload.

As such, there are a few factors that can be considered to ensure that CPD actually reduces the pressure on teachers.

Little and often

Having a schedule for CPD that everybody understands is a necessity. Sticking to the schedule and championing CPD time by protecting it from being encroached upon is also a key part of building a positive culture around staff development.

With that said, it is important to keep sessions to an optimum length. From my experience, a well-planned 40-minute session has a much higher impact than a 60-minute session. Being concise and precise with the material delivered also allows for staff to process it more effectively and efficiently – something that is of paramount importance for development, but which is also a must-have when staff have been teaching for a whole day.


I have worked with (and in) schools that have monotonous whole-staff CPD sessions at seemingly random intervals in the year. I am sure they are planned out very carefully but, for me, it is often the communication that builds a barrier between leaders and staff.

Make sure that teachers know what they are doing and why it is important. CPD (in most cases) will make up a part of a teacher’s directed time, but that does not mean they should just “turn up”.

If you want true shared teacher efficacy across the school, you need staff to opt in to sessions by understanding the collective goal.

Research has shown that the impact of shared efficacy on student progress is powerful (Donohoo, Hattie & Eells, 2018). Indeed, Professor John Hattie cites it as the most effective factor with regard to progress, with an effect size of 1.57 against an average of 0.4 (2017).

Communication leads to buy-in, buy-in leads to shared efficacy, shared efficacy leads to success for students – that is why we do CPD.


Simply sitting all of the staff in front of a speaker every few weeks will not help individuals progress. It may help a few, but affecting the collective will be unlikely, even if you have got an amazing trainer. Monotony leads to disengagement.

An instructionalist approach may be necessary for a period of time in developing schools, but the responsibility for delivering training should be shared among staff. Not only does this share the workload for staff who would deliver the training, it also allows opportunities for those who may not normally deliver (good CPD in itself) and it allows for teachers to experience a wider variety of speakers. Including more staff in delivering CPD will help you to simplify and streamline these processes as well.

Responding to need

Making CPD relevant to staff is a must. I have never quite understood how schools can set CPD programmes a year in advance. How do leaders know that in June, staff will need a session on “x”?

A different, more effective approach is to plan CPD content on a responsive basis. Delivering training as need arises reduces teacher workload as it deals directly with issues that are current for that teacher, or teachers as a collective.
However, having a good idea of what is happening in school is necessary for this to be possible, with a culture of trust and openness between staff and leaders – something that we should all aspire to as school leaders.

CPD needs to be relevant to teachers for it to have the highest impact and considering how we can be responsive is a way in which schools can make CPD more targeted and make the best use of CPD time.

Champion reducing workload

The best way to reduce workload through CPD is to explicitly show teachers how to reduce their own workload. Building a culture of efficiency and effectiveness means that teachers spend less time doing things they think they should be doing, and spend more time doing things that will make their teaching better.

The approaches that have been proven to be less effective quite often are only embedded in schools because staff have not been given the tools or explicit permission to remove them. By championing efficient practice, schools allow staff to focus on what is important – their wellbeing and the learning taking place in their classrooms.

Ultimately, CPD sessions need to be valuable and have an impact on teachers’ practice, development, and understanding of how best to do their job.

  • Adam Riches is a senior leader for teaching and learning, a Specialist Leader in Education and author the upcoming book, Teach Smarter. Follow him on Twitter @TeachMrRiches. Read his previous articles for SecEd, including in this series, at

Further information & resources

  • The power of collective efficacy, Donohoo, Hattie & Eells, Educational Leadership, March 2018:
  • Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses on achievement, Professor John Hattie, 2009 (updated in 2011 and 2017). For a useful overview of this research, see


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