Case study: An effective plan for CPD

Written by: Daniel Jones | Published:
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How does your school plan and implement effective professional development? Drawing on his work at Springfield Junior School, Daniel Jones shares the main principles and logistics behind their approaches to using CPD to develop and sustain high-quality teaching

There are two excellent pieces of research that I look to in order to illustrate the importance of CPD, and there is one professional standards document that gives us as headteachers the licence to prioritise it.

First, a Sutton Trust review (2011) informed us that disadvantaged pupils can gain 1.5 years’ worth of learning with very effective teaching compared with 0.5 years progress made with poor teaching.

Then in 2014, Kraft and Papay showed us that teachers’ professional learning and practice can begin to plateau after three years in the job without the right conditions. When analysing the impact upon pupil outcomes, this can lead to a deficiency of 40 per cent against colleagues who have received regular and effective CPD by the time teachers have completed 10 years on the job.

These two findings very clearly emphasise the need to focus rigorously on professional development to ensure that teachers continually improve and that pupils access the highest quality of teaching possible. This is validated and underpinned by the Department for Education’s Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development (DfE, 2016), which states that “professional development must be prioritised by school leadership”.

Sources of evidence on the effective delivery of CPD, such as the Teacher Development Trust’s report Developing great teaching (Cordingley et al, 2014), underline the importance of having regular sequential slots to develop teaching as opposed to spending a September INSET day on an initiative, then returning to it halfway through the year. Teachers are most likely to improve when:

  • CPD is sustained and rhythmic – rather than one off sessions, the best programmes provide opportunities to trial, revisit and evaluate and last for two terms or longer.
  • Their experience, needs and vision of pupils’ success are taken into account when designing CPD – less one-size-fits-all and more effort on helping teachers to apply and contextualise new ideas to the particular demands of topics and pupils that they teach.
  • They get opportunities to discuss with each other both the theory and practice of new ideas, feel trusted to trial these in their classrooms, to see practices expertly modelled and to receive expert feedback on their own efforts (e.g. through formal, pedagogical coaching).
  • They are clear on the intended impact of development upon pupils and use formative assessment to gauge the impact of ideas and practices, adapting their approaches (with expert guidance) accordingly.
  • They engage in processes that both disrupt and deepen their thinking – this is most likely to occur when some external ideas, support and challenge are included in the CPD activity so that staff are not just having the same discussions and reinforcing the same orthodoxies and biases.

Clearly the research, aligned to the DfE’s professional standard, establishes the absolute imperative to prioritise CPD to develop and sustain high-quality teaching. The challenge for us as senior leaders then becomes how to create a culture and environment to facilitate and optimise this. It is essential to create the time and space for this to happen within the myriad time pressures of a school situation.

Springfield Junior School

At Springfield Junior School in Ipswich, on the final Friday of every month pupils take part in an enrichment afternoon which we call our “Apprenticeships”.

It is run predominantly by support staff and enhanced by visiting experts, for example a dance teacher, puppeteer and cardboard sculptor, who come in to share their specific skills and experience.

All sessions complement our curriculum and are based on PSHE themes, following a rolling programme over the year. This enables our support staff to deliver sessions that are linked to areas of their own interest too.

This happens eight times across an academic year and creates a regular time slot for teachers to have a dedicated CPD meeting. On occasions somebody external from the school may deliver some input, but usually we will draw on our own range of expertise from within our staff as an established Teaching School. This time is safeguarded for high-quality learning (administrative or procedural tasks are confined to email).

By meeting each month, teachers are able to share the exact way they are implementing new shared approaches. There is room for discussion and adaptation all within a collegiate and supportive environment. When teachers are all working on the same improvements, then the depth of professional conversation and support is extensive.

A common challenge schools face is ensuring leadership is delegated throughout the strata of the staffing structure. Middle leaders often have to compete with the core subjects for staff meeting time. Our additional CPD afternoons enable our middle leaders to have whole-school influence when they lead a session focusing specifically on their subject.

In-school research

For school improvement to be meaningful, colleagues must then have enough time to adapt strategies to pupils in their class and fully evaluate the impact of the change. Our deputy head recently led on improving our feedback practices, to ensure that feedback is effective, timely and also manageable for teachers.

She researched evidence-based approaches for gathering and delivering feedback, and then worked with a teacher from each year group to trial the three selected methodologies over the course of an academic year, while supporting them to carefully adapt them to our school context.

By trialling a new approach in one class in each year group she was able to compare and contrast the impact with control groups (made possible by there being three classes in each year group). She monitored the effectiveness of each method, taking into account impact on pupils’ learning and then the implications on teachers’ time and energy.

Over the course of the year there was plenty of time for reflection, refinement and evaluation. At the end of this considered and deliberate process we were able to settle on one particular method for providing feedback. The policy was ultimately easier to embed as the staff had all been part of the consultation journey, involved in exploring the different options and providing insights and expertise along the way.

Support staff

My work visiting and auditing schools’ CPD practice as an expert advisor for the Teacher Development Trust has highlighted to me that support staff are often an overlooked group when it comes to professional development opportunities.

The Education Endowment Fund’s research work has impressed upon us the impact that support staff can have and the necessity to ensure that they are well trained. It is important that this part of the workforce also have regular, precise CPD.

To achieve this at Springfield, we have a support staff meeting each week. We adopt exactly the same principles as we do for CPD for teaching staff. The safeguarded time shows staff that their development is valued, provides a regular forum through which they can contribute and a key opportunity for meaningful collaboration.


Our school’s message to all staff is that we value their professional development and this is demonstrated first and foremost by this time commitment. In the often challenging climate in which we all work, this enables CPD to be the vehicle that sustains the highest quality teaching to deliver the most exciting curriculum and achieve the best results for our pupils. 

  • Daniel Jones is an expert advisor for the Teacher Development Trust in Ipswich and a systems leader in education for Springfield Teaching School Alliance. Since writing the strategy which won Springfield Junior School the National Pupil Premium Award in 2017, he has undertaken Pupil Premium reviews of other schools both in Suffolk and across the country.

Further information & resources

  • Improving the impact of teachers on pupil achievement in the UK – interim findings, The Sutton Trust, September 2011:
  • Can professional environments in schools promote teacher development? Explaining heterogeneity in returns to teaching experience, Kraft & Papay, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, January 2014:
  • Standard for Teachers’ Professional Development, DfE, July 2016:
  • The Teacher Development Trust is a national charity for effective professional development in UK schools:
  • Developing Great Teaching, Cordingley et al, Teacher Development Trust, September 2014:

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