Best Practice

Six aspects of effective CPD

Deciding how to focus your school’s CPD can be difficult. David Weston lists six key areas.

Now is the time when schools evaluate priorities for the next academic year. The quality of teaching and learning sits at the top of this agenda and so staff CPD is a priority. However, it’s not always easy to decide where to focus. Here is a snapshot of six areas in which schools in the TDT’s National Teacher Enquiry Network get appraised and supported.

Leadership and culture

In the most effective schools, CPD is championed and monitored by a specific member of the senior leadership team. All leaders take responsibility for prioritising it and modelling good teacher-as-learner behaviour. A specific member of the governing body is responsible for monitoring CPD processes.

Teachers and learning support assistants have regular, dedicated and uninterrupted time during term to carry our collaborative and reflective development; conversations about pedagogy and evidence are common. Staff collaborate to decide key whole-school CPD areas and these inform the school development plan and performance management.


The most effective CPD (and performance management) maintains a laser-like focus on benefit for pupils and learning, rather than simply changing teacher behaviour. Resources and time are allocated based on a detailed understanding of colleagues’ strengths and needs; subject knowledge is inextricably linked to subject pedagogy and curriculum development is seen as a CPD activity that focuses on improving pupil understanding.

Evaluation of impact

Every CPD activity needs to have a targeted benefit for a specific cohort of pupils in a specific area. The most effective schools ensure they have baseline assessments and measures so that they can track the progress made during CPD and use the on-going evaluation formatively. Teachers use subjective judgements and observations moderated with standardised assessments, where available.

Support and challenge

The most effective CPD uses sustained, collaborative in-house processes that are supported by external expertise, whether in the form of courses, consultancy, resources or research. It is important to engage with experienced practitioners who can give a different perspective and challenge any orthodoxies and group-thinking. The best schools have a network of experts and schools who they use for support and challenge.

Processes and systems

The most effective CPD involves significant collaboration repeated over a long period. Processes for allocating resources and opportunities must be transparent and well-understood with an emphasis on high expectations and equal opportunity of access. The best CPD leaders maintain a level of challenge for staff using mentoring and coaching, secondments, shadowing and job-swaps. Accreditation is used to challenge, recognise and reward progress. There are clear peer-mentoring and induction systems in place for new staff and programmes for both statutory and non-statutory training all the way from trainee teacher to leadership development.

Research and evidence

The best schools engage in a continual programme of research to locate best practice and arrange frequent opportunities for all staff to view, explore, implement and evaluate ideas. Schemes of work are developed and school spending is informed using research-based evidence. Pupils are extensively involved in the setting of research questions, planning of approaches, gathering data, evaluating and refining approaches.


With so many aspects to CPD, I’d advise schools to pick one and focus on it for a year before moving on. It’s a good idea to partner with other schools for mutual support and challenge. The TDT has free resources to help you (see link below).

• David Weston, a former teacher, is chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, a national charity for effective CPD. See the TDT’s free CPD database at

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.

Register now, read forever

Thank you for visiting Headteacher Update and reading some of our content for professionals in primary education. Register now for free to get unlimited access to all content.

What's included:

  • Unlimited access to news, best practice articles and podcasts

  • New content and e-bulletins delivered straight to your inbox every Monday


Already have an account? Sign in here