This is an Ofsted survey carried out by Her Majesty’s Inspectors (HMI). Between the summer of 2005 and the spring of 2006, they visited 13 secondary, 14 primary and two special schools whose section 10 inspections had identified good practice in managing and using CPD.
The aims of the resource
The report was undertaken to advise government and schools on the strengths and weaknesses of CPD at a time when schools had taken on the responsibility for a wide range of support staff whilst the TDA now oversee the coordination of CPD for all school staff nationally.
The report describes CPD arrangements in the schools as ‘a logical chain of procedures’ which entails:
- identifying school and staff needs
- planning to meet those needs
- providing varied and relevant activities
- involving support staff alongside teachers
- monitoring progress and evaluating the impact of the professional development.
Key findings or focus
The survey found that CPD was most effective when senior managers understood the connection between each link in the chain. Good quality CPD involved careful planning that selected from a wide range of CPD activities. Examples of successful development days in primary and secondary schools are outlined. Weaknesses in subject based CPD were attributed to the domination of numeracy and literacy in primary schools and an over strong emphasis on examination award bearing bodies in secondary schools.
There were also problems in performance reviews which could be uncritically subjective and based upon personal ambition rather than taking into account departmental or whole schools needs. The impact of CPD was not always evaluated appropriately and the potential opportunities afforded by CPD due to workforce remodelling were not yet being exploited. The positive contribution of ITE providers was outlined.
The quality, authority and credibility of the resource
This is an important survey because it has significant implications for how schools should manage their professional development activity. Ofsted identified ‘schools with effective CPD’ as the focus of their study, and because of this they have to be circumspect in any criticisms they make that arise from this closer inspection. This sometimes results in language that challenges common sense: “In the 2005/06 surveys of subjects, inspectors found that the arrangements for CPD in the subject they were inspecting were inadequate in about one third of the primary schools they visited. This did not mean that the school’s arrangements for CPD were unsatisfactory, but usually that there had been little or no recent professional development in the subject being inspected” (page 16).
The implications for ITE tutors/mentors
‘Schools do not know what they do not know’, particularly in specialist areas. This is a key finding of the report that challenges the parochialism that can be found in some schools that assume that schools alone ‘know what they need and should be just left to get on with it’.
The findings from Ofsted make it clear that schools need to draw on external forms of support if they are to have effective CPD. There is a need for strategic direction based on extensive subject and specialist knowledge that can inform in-school development. Not all schools have this expertise ready on tap and will need to link into external sources of expertise. This often takes the form of Local Authority staff but can also, significantly, include the critique and challenge that is often found on HE courses.
The weaknesses found in individual performance reviews could be assuaged through the move towards more evidence informed assessments of need. The potential of the TTRB and sister sites to support this process is significant. Recent evaluations of these sites are good stimuli for professional development amongst trainees and tutors. Materials are currently classified according to existing QTS standards and can be easily selected and viewed using these standards. A development where these resources are re-classified according the progression of professional standards for teaching looks feasible and would be a powerful resource to facilitate more evidence informed CPD. The distinction between mentoring and coaching is outlined and advocated as a key aspect of successful planning.
The relevance to ITE students
It is clear from these findings that NQTs will make a stronger case for CPD if they couch their requests in terms of school and departmental development plans and relate their needs to an evidence base, such as that found on the TTRB. They may also benefit from registering on an NQT programme, accredited at Masters’ level, with a HE institution.