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The pandemic has changed the landscape for CPD providers forever. Put that on top of budget pressures, policy and accountability change, and there are big challenges for anyone providing training, consultancy and conferences for teachers and school leaders. David Weston explores, ahead of the TDT’s CPD Provider Summit 2021 (10th March, online).

This has been the year where everything has changed. With unprecedented operational challenges for both schools and providers, the only way to support schools has been through flexibility, moving learning online. School funding remains very tight, even with the promise of more in future.

In the face of all of this change, what are the key trends to be aware of?

  1. Online first: providers rapidly realised that there’s no guaranteed date where in-person delivery will recommence, so there has been a frenzy of activity to move things online. This has seen everything from synchronous (e.g. webinars, Zoom meetings, MS Teams, etc.) to asynchronous (e.g. online learning platforms, support via email, etc). In the process, even the most tech-nervous schools and teachers have been forced to make this approach work, making online delivery suddenly much more appealing as a product for schools. In addition, many schools have had very positive experiences, with more flexibility, less time on travel and more sense of ‘ownership’ by staff.
  2. Free content: if online-first delivery provided opportunity, it has also provided competition. Many organisations responded to the lockdown by providing completely free, expert videos and webinars. Most of these are still available online and a number of schools have asked themselves the question ‘if there’s so much free, why would I even consider paying?’ This is a huge challenge for providers – how can you ensure that any session will be more valuable than a YouTube recording?
  3. Funding remains tight – the most recent CPD spending figures show more bad news for providers. Average CPD budgets fell between 2018-19, and far more schools cut their budget than increased it.
  4. MAT centralisation is a continuing trend – central teams are looking to leverage their own expertise and commission work centrally to try and make savings. This presents an opportunity to partner with some Trusts but also presents a challenge for the system with groups relying on their own best practice rather than necessarily seeking out the best expertise in the country. There are sometimes tensions between central team priorities and provision and what individual schools and headteachers are trying to do – providers can get stuck in the middle. Similarly, providers commissioned to work across groups of schools may be providing greater perceived value for money, but individual schools can be less bought in to the training and may see it as less relevant to things they individually commission.
  5. Teaching Schools are changing – we’re on the cusp of the announcement of the new Teaching Schools Hubs that will shake up the landscape. A big focus of these hubs will be development and training, from ITT, the new Early Career Framework, the new NPQs, subject-specific training, and so on. This is an attempt to consolidate the recent proliferation of local providers, hubs, alliances, partnerships, and so on. This presents challenges for providers who’ve partnered with individual alliances and challenges for schools who have to navigate another change in the local market.
  6. New DfE policy, frameworks and pathways – following the roll-out of the Early Career Framework, the new National Professional Qualifications will be coming online from September 2021 along with new funding. In addition, DfE has announced a new Institute of Teaching which will provide yet more competition for established providers in these spaces.
  7. A future quality assurance system – we’re right at the end of the major pilot of a new CPD quality assurance model. Led by the Chartered College, funded by the Wellcome Trust and with the partnership of my organisation, Teacher Development Trust, work has been done to explore the potential of a quality assurance system that can help school leaders make better commissioning decisions when looking for expert CPD input.

At our event, we have speakers from the Department for Education, Chartered College of Teaching, British Educational Suppliers Association and a number of market experts exploring trends in demand, school spending and commissioning. We’ll be exploring the use of technology and reflecting on how schools, MATs and others are changing the way they commission CPD. We’ll also be offering opportunities for providers to network and learn from each other.