The links between CPD and ITT


The recommendations of the government-commissioned review of initial teacher training could also apply to schools’ CPD strategies. Bridget Clay explains.


The Carter Review of initial teacher training gives an overview of the state of the current options for initial teacher training (ITT), and includes 18 recommendations for both government and the profession.

It is striking how many of the given recommendations could be related to on-going teacher development, as well as ITT. 

The Teacher Development Trust, a national charity for teacher CPD in the UK, offers support, advice and guidance around CPD for both providers and schools, much of which is echoed in the Carter Review. So how much should ITT and CPD overlap, and what are the differences?

First, it is clear that there are many similarities between high-quality ITT and high-quality CPD. For example, the Carter Review states that “ITT course content should have a relentless focus on pupil outcomes”  and, similarly, research shows that effective CPD is especially focused on pupil outcomes, rather than changes in teacher practice alone. CPD that starts with an identified pupil need, for example, is more likely to then have an impact on that need.

Both CPD and ITT have also been shown to have similar areas for development and improvement in some schools and organisations. 

The Carter Review highlights how ITT often supports trainees to research their own practice, through action research and similar processes, yet trainees are not necessarily supported to access and engage with research itself.

Many teachers are in a similar position; reflecting on one’s own practice, using action research or processes such as Lesson Study, are increasingly common in schools, as they should be. However, teachers, like trainees, do not necessarily engage with or access existing research, and many feel under-confident in doing so. Perhaps this is because it was not included in their own ITT.

Similarly, the review highlights that subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogy should be represented more in ITT, compared to general pedagogy. There is a similar picture in schools, possibly as general pedagogy is relevant to more staff and therefore CPD on this appears better value for money, yet research suggests that this limits the effect on pupil outcomes. 

Finally, the review also highlights the importance of effective mentoring, of understanding the nature of assessment, and the benefits and nature of effective observation. These are all strands that are key to effective CPD of teachers later in their career, too, and are often neglected by schools in their CPD programmes.

It should not be that surprising that effective ITT and effective CPD have similar requirements; both are the learning and development of teachers. The review itself suggests that the two could reinforce each other better, claiming “the link between ITT and professional development is often weak in the system”. 

Not only are CPD and ITT similar, meaning therefore that there could be a smoother transition between the two, but ITT should also support trainees to prioritise their CPD when they become qualified teachers. The review suggests that “ITT providers, teacher educators and mentors should be ... emphasising to trainees that they will need to develop further as an NQT, in their early career and beyond”. 

It is a point worth reiterating – effective CPD is crucial to effective teacher practice, and has been shown to help both children succeed and teachers thrive. Consequently, it is important that the habits of CPD are instilled from ITT, and that CPD is entwined and embedded in the very definition of teacher professionalism.

Therefore, if ITT and CPD follow similar models, should include similar themes, and should also follow on from one another, are there any distinctions at all? Yet the two are often seen as distinct.

It is clear that an experienced teacher of many years will have very different development needs to someone just beginning their teaching career.

Research suggests that CPD needs to be sustained and focused, and that teachers should focus on only a few aspects of their practice over a sustained period to bring about real change. 

However, trainees need to develop all the many facets involved in effective practice, and therefore often find they are trying to improve everything in a short period of time. 

The Carter Review suggests that “there may be a case for a better shared understanding of what the essential elements of good ITT content look like” and recommends that the Department for Education “should commission a sector body (for example, the Teaching Schools Council, a future professional body (College of Teaching), or another sector body) to develop a framework of core content for ITT”.

If it is possible to determine a “core content” for ITT, should the same apply to CPD, or should more experienced practitioners be able to direct their own development more flexibly? Either way, it would certainly seem that a new ITT framework should be closely studied by ITT providers and trainees, as well as more experienced practitioners and those who lead CPD for staff.

  • Bridget Clay is a former maths teacher and programme manager of the National Teacher Enquiry Network at the Teacher Development Trust. Visit

Further information
The Carter Review of initial teacher training:

Photo: MA Education


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