CPD Quality Framework

Teacher Development Trust has developed a CPD Quality Framework that lays out what makes effective CPD. It is split into seven sections. This framework is the basis for our CPD Diagnostic Review and we have grouped our resources around this.

Use the toggles below each heading to find further guidance on each statement.


Click here to find resources and tools to support you with this area of the CPD Quality Framework.

a. Leaders model and participate in CPD both formally and informally.

Why Is It Important For Leaders To Model CPD?

It is important that professional development is prioritised and valued within school. Effective CPD has a powerful impact on pupil outcomes, it can help teachers thrive, and it can bring about school improvement. It is not unlikely that some teachers will have had poor experiences from ineffective CPD at some point; often it is necessary to promote the value of CPD.

Nothing does this more powerfully than leaders clearly making the time, prioritising and taking part in their own professional learning. This shouldn’t be limited to career development, leaders should be lead learners, also engaged in developing their practice in the classroom.

To build a supportive and trusting culture, it is also important to demonstrate that leaders are also prepared to be vulnerable and are also seeking to improve – no one is ‘done’ in terms of improving their practice.

How Can Leaders Model Their CPD?

  1. Engage in CPD processes that other staff engage in, not just by delivering the CPD, but by participating fully.
  2. Make yourself vulnerable and build trust and confidence in your staff by participating in potentially vulnerable processes (e.g. peer observation etc.)
  3. Talk about any professional learning you are engaged in with colleagues.
  4. Share learning from any accreditation you or colleagues might be part of (e.g. MA, leadership training etc.).
  5. Prioritise professional learning by providing time and providing cover, as well as making it key to your vision for the school.
b. Staff feel that they can contribute to the decisions made about CPD across the organisation.

Why is it important for staff to feel that they have an input into decisions around CPD?

There are two reasons here. First, staff are more likely to engage in professional learning that they feel is relevant and when they have had input. Second, and more importantly, those who spend the most time with students, parents and the community (teachers and support staff) are best placed to identify student needs. Professional learning should be driven by student and staff needs and it is important that staff have the opportunity to drive their own professional learning but also feed into the wider school direction. Collated school data only reveals so much and gathering the insight of staff on the ground is vital.

How can staff have an input into CPD?

  1. Staff will have a variety of experiences and areas of expertise and therefore it is important that all staff feel that they can contribute and deliver CPD on their own areas of expertise. This contributes to a learning culture. Even 15 minute forums where staff share brief aspects of practice can contribute to this.
  2. Ensure that appraisal and line management conversations are fed into CPD, where appropriate.
  3. Surveys and focus groups are a good way of gathering staff input.
  4. Having a Teaching and Learning Group made up of staff with a range of different experience allows for more staff input.
  5. Encourage and empower staff to identify needs in their classroom and use this to focus their own CPD.

This articleTeacher choice in whole-school CPD, explores this further.

Blog, David Weston: Overcoming Barriers to Professional Learning – Top down decision making.

This blog explores how top down decision making processes can be a barrier to effective professional learning.

c. Staff feel free to take risks and innovate in their practice.

What Do We Mean By Disciplined Risk-Taking?

  1. In order to develop and make changes to your practice, you need to feel confident trying things out, being innovative and, on occasion, trying things that don’t work. It is important to build a culture of taking risks and trying things out.
  2. Yet you don’t want everyone trying out lots of different things for no reason. You need to build an evidence-informed culture so that colleagues innovate using approaches that have a strong evidence-base behind them.
  3. Finally, after trying something new, colleagues should be evaluating the impact of the approach, refining it and embedding it so that it becomes part of the way that they work.

How Can You Support Disciplined Risk-Taking?

  1. Celebrate trying out something new, even if it does not work. It is just as important to know what doesn’t work as what does.
  2. Model innovation and risk-taking in your own practice.

Particularly if this is new to people, encouraging ‘innovation weeks’ or ‘innovation lessons’ can prompt people to consider new ideas and strategies.

d. There is a culture of teaching and support staff welcoming peer observation and feeling welcomed to peer-observe.

Why Is It Important That Peer Observation Is Welcomed?

Peer observation is often well established in schools, but often the culture is not truly developmental. If colleagues do not welcome peer observation, it means that:

  • they don’t see it as a valuable process;
  • they often don’t feel free to innovate and take risks in their practice during an observation; and
  • they feel threatened and the lesson becomes an unrepresentative lesson from which limited learning can be taken.

To build a welcoming culture of peer observation:

  • ensure that leaders model best practice around professional learning and take part in the process themselves;
  • ensure that the observation is focussed on pupils and on some pedagogical learning, rather than judging the teacher themselves; and
  • emphasise the learning and developmental nature of observation, including taking the learning from things that don’t work in the way that was expected.

You can find out more about using peer observation through collaborative enquiry and Lesson Study elsewhere on the Portal.

Lesson Observation Without Grades

The Teacher Development Trust, has engaged extensively in the debate on effective Lesson Observation. Harsh grading and formalised rigour can be demotivating, while there are many other ways which can be effective. The links below are excellent starting points for thinking over how Lesson Observation can be a force for good rather than dread.

Beyond Lesson Observation – Mary Myatt (lead inspector for Ofsted, adviser, writer and trainer) shares her four suggestions for schools to create evidence which is robust, fair and does not rely on individual lesson observation grades.

O’Leary, M. (2012) ‘Time to turn worthless lesson observation into a powerful tool for improving teaching and learning’ InTuition p.16

e. Staff feel comfortable and encouraged to share and discuss practice.

It is important to develop a culture where all staff feel confident sharing ideas and practice. This does not only rely on having structures and processes to do so, but also a confidence amongst staff. Sharing practice on its own is not sufficient to have an impact on students, but it is an important part of a developmental culture that needs to be in place before other more complicated processes can work.

  • One way to build this is to encourage newer or beginning members of staff to contribute and show that all contributions are valued.
  • It is also powerful when leaders model this behaviour and show that they are prepared to be vulnerable and open to critique.

Once this culture is in place, it is then important to build beyond sharing.

  • Staff should begin to feel comfortable criticising one another in a productive way (e.g. challenging the evidence-base etc.)
  • The risk of sharing practice is that it never gets beyond being shared and isn’t embedded or refined – build in follow up reflective practices to ensure that there is an impact on pupil learning.

Blog, David Weston: Teach Meet Collaborate

Blog, David Weston: Should schools be required to schedule staff collaboration time?

f. Peer relationships, formal and informal, are seen as valuable, helpful and fruitful.

Again, peer relationships on their own will not benefit student outcomes. Unfocussed collaboration is not necessarily a good use of time. Yet without trust and positive peer relationships, focussed collaboration is not possible.

It is important to build trust and a culture of sharing and collaborating:

  • Provide time and/or cover for staff to peer observe one another,
  • Use meeting time for collaboration and celebrate different ideas and contributions from staff, so that staff feel welcomed to contribute.

Ensure there is space for staff to meet, both informally over breaks or for focussed planning or discussion.


Click here to find resources and tools to support you with this area of the CPD Quality Framework.

a. Staff feel that their CPD across a year allows for focussed, sustained and iterative changes to key areas.

The Developing Great Teaching report suggests that CPD should have a clear focus, and should be sustained over time with iterative opportunities for input and development. Too often, we see teachers who feel that they have too much to focus on and that there isn’t time to develop and embed their practice.


Research shows that for effective professional learning to have an impact on pupil outcomes, colleagues need to be spending c.30-50 hours and our recent report found that the most effective CPD lasted at least 2 terms, more usually a year. More limited change on very specific learning tasks could be achieved through shorter-term interventions, but to transform general practice, longer duration seems key. However, longer duration in itself is not sufficient – the use of time in a longer term programme is key.

  • School leaders must ensure that staff are given time to engage with longer term programmes – to cover not only a programme’s initial input but also subsequent in-class experimentation and collaboration with colleagues.
  • Leaders must support an approach to professional development in which staff are encouraged to focus strategically and meaningfully on particular areas of learning and practice over time.
  • When engaging with external facilitators, leaders should move away from a model of one-off, one-day support – and consider how to embed sessions within a longer programme of support and engagement.


Research shows it is important that professional development programmes create a “rhythm” of follow-up, consolidation and support activities. This process reinforces key messages sufficiently to have an impact on practice. The specific frequency of activities varied across studies, but the key aim remained constant – teachers were able to grasp the rationale that underpinned the strategy being explored, and use this understanding to refine practices and support implementation.

  • School leaders should plan iterative, cyclical development opportunities over time, to allow staff to develop, refine and improve on a focussed area.
  • When engaging with external partners, leaders should look for programmes that allow for frequent, meaningful engagement from participants. Programmes must be underpinned by strong evidence and a clear rationale; time must be taken to surface participants’ own theories and align these with those of the programme. Providers should consider how they develop participants’ skills to critically engage with this knowledge base, and balance this with opportunities to implement and apply to practice.

Read more

b. CPD meets the needs of pupils and teaching staff in relation to subject pedagogy and assessment.

CPD should include time for staff to contextualise their professional learning to their specific subjects. CPD content should include a focus on formative assessment so that teachers can see the impact of their learning and work on their pupils. Generic pedagogy is often insufficient to have the full impact on pupil outcomes.

  • Make sure that any CPD activities include discussion of what assessments you might use to measure the impact of that CPD.

Be really specific – summative tests tend to be too broad to diagnose specific aspects of the curriculum or specific skills (such as decoding).

c. CPD meets the needs of pupils and teaching staff in relation to subject knowledge.

This criteria is designed to identify which aspects of CPD staff feel are being met and which aspects perhaps are not. There should be opportunities for staff to develop their subject knowledge in terms of content and specific knowledge around common misconceptions and prior learning of students.

d. CPD meets the needs of pupils and teaching staff in relation to general pedagogy and evidence of how pupils learn.

This criteria is designed to identify which aspects of CPD staff feel are being met and which aspects perhaps are not. There should be opportunities for staff to develop their knowledge of key pedagogical ideas around how children learn and retain their learning.

e. CPD meets the needs of pupils and teaching staff for development around curriculum/exam knowledge.

This criteria is designed to identify which aspects of CPD staff feel are being met and which aspects perhaps are not. There should be some opportunities for staff to develop their knowledge of exam specifications, although this should not be the only aspect of subject knowledge that they develop.

f. There is effective CPD in relation to wellbeing, behaviour and attendance. For example, for form tutors and those with particular pastoral roles.

This criteria is designed to identify which aspects of CPD staff feel are being met and which aspects perhaps are not. There should be opportunities for all staff to develop their pastoral expertise, not just those staff who have particular pastoral roles. There should also be routes for staff to develop into a pastoral role, should they wish to.

g. There is effective CPD available for those support staff who work directly with children.

Teacher development is becoming a huge priority for the most effective schools but we need to ensure that support staff aren’t missing out. CPD for support staff who work directly with children, such as teaching assistants and pastoral workers, shares similar key principles to CPD for teaching staff. In fact, it is often appropriate for support staff to collaborate with teaching colleagues, particularly when they are working day-to-day with the same children with the same needs.

  •  Cultivate a culture of learning. Make sure time and resource is provided for support staff to collaborate, ensure effective performance management structures are in place and cultivate a belief that professional learning is valued, where staff feel safe to experiment and try things out, and where staff feel valued as professionals.
  • Ensure professional learning is driven by and linked to pupil needs. This means that support staff who work with children, just like teachers, should engage in identifying pupil needs and directing their learning accordingly. Throughout any professional learning activity, staff should consider the pupils who they expect to benefit, and then in their practice they should experiment with new strategies and evaluate whether it has met the expected impact.
  • Engage in the theory and the practical context of your learning. Effective professional learning includes both engaging in the theory and evidence, as well as contextualising and embedding it in your own practice. This can be supported through collaboration with HEIs, direct engagement with research, input from experts, using research summaries or colleagues in school to support the dissemination of research.

Enable opportunities for expert input. All staff should have access to external input and challenge, including opportunities to visit other schools, access to evidence-informed input, and the opportunity to seek out different approaches and strategies. The National Association of Professional Teaching Assistants, the Teaching Assistant Standards, subject associations, the Specialist SEND Association, and the EEF Teaching Assistant Guidance can all be helpful sources for this.

h. There is effective CPD available for general support staff (including office, finance and admin)

General support staff who do not work directly with children are often neglected in terms of professional development. Some things to remember are: 

  • Opportunities to gain new knowledge and use the most evidence-informed up to date approach.
  • Time and support to take back any new knowledge from a course, lecture etc. into their regular practice.
  • Performance management and appraisal that supports their professional learning.
  • Career development, considering further accreditation, job shadowing, mentoring and coaching etc.
  • Chance to share best practice, model best practice and collaborate. Often support staff don’t have meeting times.

Sadly, it is quite rare to see non-teaching staff given much role in school improvement projects and action research. Yet, when schools have done this it can result in significant engagement and improvements. For example, one colleague at a large school was given the time to research how different organisations approach performance management. With a team of colleagues, she then re-designed how appraisal works to be more in line with evidence-informed approaches. Similarly, in another school, the school receptionist was encouraged, after giving feedback, to re-design how school events worked, which resulted in higher parental attendance and the day went much more smoothly.

Needs Analysis and Evaluation

Click here to find resources and tools to support you with this area of the CPD Quality Framework.

a. Teaching staff feel supported to analyse and feedback the needs of their pupils to inform the school’s CPD.

CPD should be pupil focussed and staff should feel their overall professional learning relates closely to the pupils that they teach. In planning CPD, school leadership should be informed not only of staff needs, and not only from overall pupil data, but also from the professional judgements and individual data on pupils that teachers have access to. Teachers and support staff spend the most time with students so are best placed to identify pupil needs and should be supported and encouraged to do this. These needs should not relate to headline pupil figures (e.g. closing the gap, or 80% A* – C), but should relate to day-to-day experiences and aspirations for pupils.

Performance management, surveys, team and subject collaboration and informal conversations can all be used to gather this information.

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b. CPD processes are planned according to pupil learning needs.

CPD is often driven by headline pupil data. For example, school priorities might include ‘literacy’, or ‘underachieving boys’. Whilst this obviously relates to pupils, it doesn’t always translate to pupil focussed CPD. When engaging in CPD, staff should have target pupils in mind, with a view to planning to meet these pupils’ needs, and evaluating the impact on their progress.

  • Encourage staff to begin any CPD with target pupils in mind.
  • Ensure any observations are pupil focussed.
  • Ensure that conversations around CPD and performance management include discussions around specific pupils.
  • Refer to pupil data regularly.
  • Discuss ‘what success would look like for pupils’. Often CPD focuses on teacher practice (e.g. how teachers give feedback) without exploring what impact is expected in terms of pupil outcomes.

Evaluation is not possible after a process if you haven’t identified the area of need and what success would look like before the process!

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c. CPD is evaluated against pupil outcomes.

CPD should be planned for and evaluated against the needs of pupils. These needs can be academic, but can also relate to various behaviours and attitudes. This evaluation should take place at a macro level across the school and a micro level within the classroom. Classroom level evaluations should be collated to identify trends.

Examples of what you might evaluate:

  • Specific changes to student work, such as use of complex tenses, use of technical vocabulary, better long answer questions.
  • Specific measures such as attendance, lateness or behaviour points.
  • Changes in behaviour such as number of times on/off task, length of time taken to start work, number of times contributed to the lesson (peer observation of students would be important here).
  • Feedback from student interviews.

Rigorous focus on how students are achieving the curriculum and where common misconceptions are.

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d. CPD matches the needs of staff.

Meeting Staff Needs

There is often a worry amongst CPD Leaders about how to balance individual staff needs with overall school needs. Whilst there will also be personal interests and career priorities, when looking at really pupil focussed needs within a classroom, school and individual priorities will overlap. It is important to use staff input when putting together CPD priorities to help with this.

In order to monitor staff needs and adapt your CPD provision accordingly, here are some tips:

  • Don’t rely on one big annual survey of staff alone – it will most likely only reflect the most recent development opportunities.
  • Use performance management and appraisal to guide you.
  • Use focus groups and indicate that you are open to feedback.
  • Ensure that career development opportunities are transparent.
  • Enable to staff to engage in ‘teacher driven’ CPD, such as Lesson Studycollaborative enquiry, research etc.

Some key areas of need to consider:

  • How can we challenge our expectations about what is possible for students like ours?
  • What support is needed to develop the careers of staff members – e.g. developing specialist knowledge, leadership or engaging in research.
  • What expert input and support is needed to develop, deepen and update subject knowledge and subject pedagogy?
  • What training (or refreshing) is needed for our systems and policies?
  • What statutory training is needed? [Note: this shouldn’t displace other CPD activities but be in addition].
  • How can we develop and deepen our understanding of assessment and evaluation?
  • How can we develop and extend our understanding of the latest evidence about effective teaching, both general pedagogy and within subjects and specialisms (including SEND).
  • What activities will we engage in to ensure that we are up-to-date with sector policies, initiatives, technologies and innovations?
  • How are we developing leadership skills and knowledge, both in existing leaders and more widely?
e. Staff satisfaction with CPD is evaluated.

The first part of evaluating a CPD activity or programme is to identify whether staff were initially satisfied. Whilst this is by no means the extent of the evaluation, if the initial delivery was unsatisfactory anything from then onwards won’t happen. For example, if it was deemed irrelevant or if someone couldn’t hear anything that was said, there’s no way that they will have learnt anything new that will change their practice and benefit students. It’s important to check whether this stage has happened.

f. CPD is evaluated against staff learning and practice.

This is then the second stage of evaluating a CPD activity or programme. Have staff learnt anything new and have they changed their practice? It important to evaluate this over time (i.e. not just immediately after a session). It is also important to evaluate why something might not have had an impact on practice – is it due to lack of organisational support? Is it because of lack of understanding?Evaluation should include summative consideration (has this worked), as well as formative evaluation (how has this worked and could it be improved).If you’re focussed on student learning, evaluation of change in practice is not sufficient. There should also be some evaluation of the impact on students.

g. Pupil feedback is used in evaluation.

It is important that evaluation should be informed by student outcomes. Student feedback might make up a component of this both in the classroom and at a wider school level. This could include student interviews or surveys to inform practice.

Internal Support and Challenge

Click here to find resources and tools to support you with this area of the CPD Quality Framework.

a. Teaching staff engage in reflective collaboration focussed on solving a pupil learning issue, e.g. enquiry, lesson study etc.

Staff should engage in some kind of collaborative enquiry in their professional learning, where they are supported to be responsive in their learning. This means that they are engaged in identifying student needs, selecting an evidence-based strategy, experimenting with and adapting that strategy and then using evaluation to refine and embed that strategy. Common models that are used to enable this are Lesson Study, spirals of enquiry, teaching and learning communities etc.

However, it can take time to build up to these models, and the culture needs to be there for staff to constructively collaborate. Some good starting points are:

  • Having an open culture where staff share practice and readily peer observe,
  • Encouraging staff to ensure that any collaborative planning or peer observation has a clear pupil focus. This tends to allow for more constructive challenge, as it is not focussed on the teacher but the pupil.
  • Allow collaborative time – meetings where staff share ideas, or share areas that they are working on, encourage leaders to model asking colleagues for feedback.

Collaboration can allow for challenge, for a trusting culture of development and it can support evaluation. When well-planned for, it is a vital part of effective CPD.

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b. CPD constructively challenges and questions staff’s existing practice and beliefs.

When you have a certain level of expertise, it is really difficult to learn something new and potentially to have your mind changed. Cognitive biases encourage us to stick with what we know and to reject new learning.

It is important to consider in any CPD activity the existing beliefs and understanding of the participants, and how they can be challenged and developed in a non-threatening way. Within a school, staff should feel that they are regularly questioning their own assumptions and beliefs, and that this is done in an open and constructive way.

External expertise often plays an important role in disrupting current thinking, but challenge can also be supported by a rigorous focus on impact for students.

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c. There is a culture of questioning and constructive challenge between teaching staff.

A learning culture will necessarily have a culture of challenge and questioning. We need to be aware of our preconceptions and assumptions to help us learn and develop. To support a culture of challenge:

  • Ensure you engage in evidence-informed practice and model how your school approach or your own practice has changed when new evidence comes to light.
  • Encourage staff to take risks and innovate in their practice.
  • Celebrate challenge.
d. High quality pedagogical or instructional coaching is used throughout the organisation.

There is a large amount of research and debate around mentoring and coaching and what their differences are. What educational research shows is that both are invaluable both for developing one’s own practice, as well as developing in one’s career. However, coaching can also be a nice but unfocussed use of time unless it’s well planned. Some tips are below.

  1. Be aware of culture

Culture makes or breaks coaching. Coach and coachee have to trust each other if it’s going to work. The ultimate coaching sin is to only use it for staff deemed to be “failing” – a guaranteed way to make the term as toxic as a Black Widow spider. Make sure that everyone has an entitlement to engage at some point and that a mix of staff, including leaders, engage in it.

  1. Get some genuine expertise

Lots of us have experienced being observed and judged by someone who has no understanding of what or who we’re teaching. Coaching is a real skill and coaches should have significant expertise if the aim is to improve teaching practice. There’s a spectrum of coaching from content-agnostic to content-expert – the former focuses on stimulating reflection in the coachee, while the latter can carefully offer external, expert reflections.

  1. Consider the source

Interestingly, a 2015 meta-analysis by Jones, Woods and Guillaume suggested that the most effective coaches are not only trained but are from within your organisation rather than from expensive external agencies. We imagine that the researchers’ inboxes can’t have looked pretty after publishing this. It’s best when the coach isn’t your line manager to reduce the tension between accountability and development, however, this shouldn’t stop line managers from using coaching techniques within regular discussions and appraisal conversations.

  1. Coaching is more than collaboration

Talking is good! Collaboration is great. But you can’t turn these into coaching by just sticking a “coaching” label on them. Lots of forms of conversation and collaboration might use techniques similar to coaching (reflection, observing practice, observing student learning, etc) but are not actually the same process. A pig with lipstick is still just a pig. A chat labelled as coaching is still just a chat. Ultimately, research shows coaching can effectively improve performance and development. It’s worth doing it right.

e. The organisation has clear and transparent systems in place for career development and promotions.

This criteria is particularly focussed on the systems and processes in place for career development. This might include:

  • Many schools choose to have clear progression routes for each stage of career, especially within large schools. For example in addition to an NQT programme, an NQT +1, +2, +3 programme etc.
  • Don’t forget to recognise experts within the classroom – progression should not only mean leadership positions.
  • Ensure that there is equal support for those who wish to progress into pastoral roles, this is an area often neglected.
  • Support line managers to have informed conversations around both career and classroom practice development. Ensure that relationships between line managers and their reports are supportive and safe.
f. There are clear policies for all levels of career development.

Ensure that your career development opportunities are clear and transparent for every role. Schools often find that career routes for support staff are less ‘clear cut’ than for teaching staff. This means that any developmental or appraisal conversations are all the more important, it is crucial that staff feel free to discuss their aims within their career and that the school supports them where possible.

  • Remember to utilise job shadowing and mentoring.
  • Accreditation and qualifications can be a useful way to develop support staff, particularly general support staff.
g. The organisation has a track record of developing staff and helping them progress.

This criteria reflects staff perception of career development in the organisation.

Use of Expert Knowledge

Click here to find resources and tools to support you with this area of the CPD Quality Framework.

a. Staff are supported to maximise the impact of any external experts with which they engage.

What does this mean?

When staff engage with external expertise, they are given time to implement, reflect, evaluate (in the short, medium and long-term) and refine any new approaches or ideas. They are able to share any new knowledge and work with other staff to take any strategies further beyond their own classrooms, enabling sustained change.

When engaging with external expertise, you should be really clear about the purpose of the engagement. Is this to build awareness of different approaches? Is this to inform subject knowledge? Is this aimed at changing student outcomes? Differing levels of impact will require different levels of engagement.

What does this look like in practice?

When staff attend an external course, or engage with external expertise, staff plan what the expected benefit and impact on pupils will be. In addition to the time allocated for the engagement with external expertise, staff are also given some CPD time to plan and take the idea further. There is a process which ensures staff feedback in the short, medium and long term, and, after time to embed and refine an approach, staff are expected to share their learning with colleagues.

  • Providing time for staff to implement their new knowledge.
  • Provide support for staff to evaluate the impact.
  • Seek out external providers who engage over time and collaborate with staff.
  • Ensure that any new knowledge is not just shared with other staff, but also transferred effectively, e.g. through joint practice development, lesson study etc.

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b. Staff engage with an appropriate range of external knowledge, including experts, providers, research, books etc.

Whilst schools often contain a great deal of expertise internally, it is vital that schools continuously engage with external expertise. It can offer:

  • Disruptive new perspectives that can challenge your assumptions.
  • Evidence-informed strategies to support your needs.
  • Implementation knowledge of how to take forward ideas.
  • Feedback through the learning process, helping you to diagnose student needs and refine your practice.

That expertise might come from a wide range of different places:

  • Expert organisations;
  • HEIs;
  • Research;
  • Events, conferences, workshops;
  • Social media and blogs;
  • Other schools; and

Courses and accreditations.

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c. The organisation has robust, evidence-informed processes for commissioning and using external expertise.

When engaging in professional learning, you want to select approaches that are most likely to work. Therefore when selecting external experts you want to look for:

  • A strong evidence-base behind their approach.
  • Evidence of impact through robust evaluations.

What Is Currently Happening In Schools

In 2014, the Teacher Development Trust undertook research around the structures and processes of CPD in English schools. The findings bring together the results of:

  • an initial survey of 94 teachers, middle and senior leaders by the Teacher Development Trust
  • a survey of 1,020 school leaders by The Key (representative of all schools in England by type, phase and region)
  • telephone interviews undertaken with a focus group of 15 teaching staff, middle leaders and senior leaders

All qualitative data has undergone joint analysis with research partner EdYou.

A quick summary of the results shows the following:

  • 67.4% of school leaders said that they found new external CPD providers by selecting a provider used previously by their own school or by colleagues
  • “Word of mouth” and flyers and brochures sent directly to schools still influence the majority – over 60% – of decisions around external CPD
  • Nevertheless, and despite their apparent demise, almost 1 in 5 school leaders still use a Local Authority (LA) database to find CPD opportunities
  • Approval for most CPD opportunities rests with senior leaders – this was the case for 91% of school leaders.
  • Only 50.2% school leaders said that teachers in their school were allowed to choose an external organisation or resource to support their professional development
  • 1 in 10 school leaders stated that their “most common motivation” for engaging staff in CPD was as a response to accountability pressures such as league tables or inspection. When considering secondary school leaders only, this figure rose to 1 in 5.
  • More generally, over 60% of all respondents – 62% of primary schools and 72% of secondary schools – either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they feel under pressure to change professional development priorities due to accountability measures
  • Over half of respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that financial pressure has made it harder to meet teachers’ development needs. The figure increased to 60% when considering secondary schools only

Read the full report: Teacher Development Trust Annual Report – full findings

This shows that there is an ongoing lack of awareness about the difference options for sourcing professional development, a topic that we will address in this section.

You can also read the Teacher Development Trust’s summary of how England measures up to other countries in its CPD provision, working conditions and learning environments, in the 2014 TALIS report in our blog post

Tips For What To Look For In An External Provider

CPD that is designed to impact on student outcomes needs to be sustained over time and it needs to include assessment and evaluation of the impact on students. External expertise can offer support around this learning process.

Seemingly countless courses and resources are on offer to help teachers improve their practice, but you need to choose high-quality expertise and input in order to facilitate effective learning back in the classroom.

With so much to choose from, how can teachers and schools leaders identify high-quality courses, resources and services? How can you sort the bad from the good, the “flash-in-the-pan” quick fixes from evidence-based resources that will have a sustained impact in the classroom?

At the Teacher Development Trust, there are a few questions we recommend asking of providers to assess how effective a CPD resource is likely to be. Not every resource will suit your school’s or pupils’ needs, and teachers must show commitment to sustain the implementation and evaluation of any training.

Nevertheless, asking the following questions will help you to gauge whether the resource you are choosing is likely to give good results.

  1. Where is the evidence?
  2. What follow-up and support is on offer?
  3. How can I evaluate the impact?
  4. You say you’re good – but who can corroborate your quality?

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What is the intended impact?

Direct Impact – this is professional learning that is intended to directly benefit pupil outcomes. It should be possible to trace the thread from any external input to desired impact on pupils.

Indirect impact – this is professional learning that is designed to develop and improve the organisation and staff which will indirectly benefit students. Any evaluation will be against measures other than student learning.

What is the depth of learning?

Awareness – A background awareness of the existence of certain ideas without sufficient clarity or depth to yet crystalize into practice. This might be from a conference or school visit. You might select some ideas to take to a greater depth, but the initial focus is just building awareness of different ideas. Any engagement with external expertise will likely be short-lived.

Procedural practice – Proficient practice that fairly rigidly follows a set procedure or set of rules without significant ability to vary or adapt. For example, learning how to use the new data system.

Deliberative practice – Expert practice that can be carried out flexibly with some supports and with time to carefully think through each step. For example, marking or planning.

Adaptive practice – High level of expertise, automaticity and ability to apply flexibly. The hardest to achieve and the hardest to change once embedded. For example, teaching students or leading teams. This will require the greatest level of engagement.

When you are really clear on the intended impact and the depth of learning, you can then evaluate against your intended impact.

d. The organisation collaborates meaningfully with other schools or colleges around effective CPD.

Through TDT Network we aim to support you to learn from other schools and collaborate with each other. Time is a common constraint when working with other schools, but it is often a fantastic opportunity to learn from other colleagues. Some points to consider

  • Ideally collaboration should go beyond sharing practice. A follow up visit and evaluating impact together can allow both schools to refine and improve their practice.
  • Visiting another school can often be inspiring and reinvigorating for a professional, but you should ensure that you are not just trying out lots of new things in the short term. Make sure you make a short, medium and long-term plan for how you will take your new learning forward.
  • Remember that all staff are likely to benefit from working with other schools, it shouldn’t just be an opportunity for leaders or for experienced staff.
  • Be really clear on the purpose of the visit. Is it to inspire? To gather ideas? Or is it a more substantial relationship that is likely to benefit student outcomes?
e. Expert knowledge is shared across the organisation.

Developmental organisations tend to have a culture of sharing ideas and expertise and structures to support this.

There are two key purposes for this. One is cultural. In an organisation where new learning is celebrated and where staff feel that learning is a priority, it is important that there are structures to share and discuss this learning.

Second, it is important and efficient for staff to share their learning and expertise, so that everyone isn’t seeking out similar information individually.

Beware that sharing practice alone will only build awareness, to change practice and benefit students there needs to be a more sustained and substantial engagement.

Processes and Structures of CPD

Click here to find resources and tools to support you with this area of the CPD Quality Framework.

a. Sufficient time is protected for CPD and meeting time is maximised for effective professional learning.

Time and money are exceptionally valuable in schools. Ultimately there is no easy way to find time for professional learning. The research is clear that effective CPD is very powerful; therefore CPD will have to be prioritised over some other things to ensure enough time is available. It is important to consider workload when planning time for professional learning.

Managing workload

Quick wins

  • Some student self and peer marking of work instead of teacher marking
  • Using marking codes or symbols to designate common feedback points instead of writing out feedback long-hand, then presenting a key at the start of the next lesson
  • Push administrative briefings into emails, use team meeting times for professional development discussions
  • Shared behaviour follow-up systems: e.g. shared detention times.

Medium wins

  • Using more online automatically-graded assessments, e.g. online homework systems and multiple-choice assessments.
  • Arrange for fewer staff briefings and meetings and/or replace these with professional learning discussion time.
  • Developing comprehensive schemes of learning and associated banks of high quality resources and assessments which take much less time to turn into bespoke lessons.
  • Require fewer whole-school data entry points each year. Consider using administrative staff to do physical data entry or try and capture data automatically.
  • Carefully review how teachers use parent meetings and report-writing: these can easily end up as highly time-consuming activities that neither teachers, students nor parents particularly value.

Big but tough wins

  • Reducing teaching loads so that there is more time available each week.
  • Hiring more staff to allow staff to be more regularly and flexibly released from regular teaching and other roles.
  • End the school day earlier one day each week and give dedicated, protected time to professional development.
  • Reducing mandatory non-teaching duties such as supervising break-times

Finding time for professional learning

  • Schedule teacher non-contact periods so that groups can work together (e.g. phase teams, subject departments or faculties, year teams).
  • ‘Bank’ 15 to 30 minutes of extra professional development time by finishing school lessons slightly later on four days of the week and then using that time on the fifth day – e.g. pupils arrive later than usual, or leave earlier than usual. (This is more common at secondary level).
  • Schedule music, sport, art, reading sessions and/or religious education with external facilitators.
  • Staffing assemblies with fewer staff and/or teaching assistants and external facilitators, freeing up others to meet and discuss pedagogy.
  • Schedule similar classes together (e.g. KS2 literacy periods, Year 10 maths) so teachers can more easily swap classes or see each other’s lessons, and more easily engage in joint planning and assessment.
  • Schedule two staff to the same class to facilitate co-teaching.
  • Extend team meeting times to encourage subject-specific or topic-specific professional development discussion instead of time spent as a whole staff discussing general pedagogical principles.
  • Disaggregate statutory in-service training days, use the time instead for several twilight or dawn sessions. Be aware that there’s an important balance to be struck here to ensure that teachers still have sufficient planning and preparation time at the start of term as well as time for key activities such as moderating coursework.
  • Allocate statutory in-service training day time for co-planning, discussion and enquiry.


  • Use senior leaders’ time to take over classes. This has the added benefit of helping senior leaders to familiarise themselves with a wider range of students.
  • Combine some classes in the hall or other larger space, using one teacher and/or a teaching assistant or cover supervisor.
  • Using existing higher-level teaching assistants and/or cover supervisors to take classes. This is, perhaps understandably, a more controversial approach.
  • Hire an in-house cover supervisor (or share one between smaller schools).
  • Once some cover capacity has been found, give teachers cover ‘tokens’ which they can use as they wish, subject to availability.

Making collaboration time more efficient

  • Use video to allow teachers to record lessons to observe later. We generally recommend that this is mixed with in-person observation as the experiences are quite different. Video also needs more time in follow-up meetings to watch the clips. High quality audio is particularly important to understand what’s going on.
  • Create and implement clear and efficient protocols and practices for collaborative meetings, for example:
    • Be clear on the focus of any collaboration and be quite strict about deviating from it.
    • Be explicit about what you won’t cover in a collaborative meeting – it is so easy to go off on a tangent or get stuck on one thing.
    • Share the agenda beforehand and give colleagues enough notice to bring the relevant work or resources to the meeting.
    • When introducing collaborative meetings, stick closely to any recommended timings for several sessions before deviating from them. This needs very effective facilitation and chairing.
  • When co-planning lessons, consider planning and observing a segment of the lesson rather than the whole thing. For example, this could be around the first 10 minutes, or around a key explanation or activity. This also reduces the challenge of releasing a class teacher to observe – someone can step in for a few minutes while they watch the short lesson segment.
  • When co-planning, don’t feel the need to start writing a lesson from scratch every time – staff members can re-use existing plans, schemes and books. Spend time focusing on adapting it for the specific students and focus of the professional development.
  • Keep writing-up time to a minimum – don’t insist on too much paperwork and encourage staff to identify what write-up is most important.

Watch out for common pitfalls of introducing more time:

  • Some staff may find it hard to flex their start and end times due to childcare duties.
  • Part-time staff may not have that day as part of their contract. If they are only working two or three days then the professional learning time will be a disproportionately larger part of their working week than for full-time staff.
  • If the school has not had a strong professional development culture, nor high expectations of professional development, many staff may not see the benefit of additional time and may see it as a bureaucratic burden.
  • Similarly, well-intentioned senior leaders sometimes try to impose lots of change without much consultation and end up entrenching opposition from union representatives.
  • Some schools use a lot of existing meeting time for very strictly-defined professional development activity. This can leave teams with insufficient times to deal with day-to-day issues and implementing changes, particularly if there has been inadequate time to get used to reduced time for administrative discussion.

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b. Meaningful joint planning takes place, i.e. planning to refine and improve practice to best meet pupil needs.

What Is Meaningful Joint Planning?

Meaningful joint planning is not

  • sharing ideas without evaluating, refining or reflecting;
  • splitting the workload when designing schemes of work;
  • exclusively a more experienced practitioner sharing ideas with a beginning teacher (which can be great, but there should be a broader culture of joint planning between colleagues); nor
  • ensuring that all staff within a department are following the same lesson plans.

Meaningful joint planning should be:

  • pupil focussed – it’s not about what the teacher is practising, but what you expect pupils to learn. You might also be focussed on particular target groups of pupils.
  • evaluated – when planning you should have a clear idea of what the need you are addressing is, how you plan to address it and what success would look like. This then allows you to evaluate the lesson.
  • refined – it is important that, after evaluating each lesson, lesson plans are updated, refined and improved.

collaborative – joint lesson planning is not about transferring knowledge but about developing practice. Staff involved in planning together should both/all be contributing, reflecting, challenging each other and developing.

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c. There is clear leadership of CPD.

CPD is one of the most important things that school leaders can get right in their school. As such, there needs to be clear and effective leadership.

  • All staff should know who to turn to to discuss their CPD.
  • All staff should know how to give feedback on their CPD and how to do so.
  • Leaders of subjects and teams should have a clear remit for professional learning and should be given the time and support to enable it.

All staff should feel that they have agency and ownership over their own CPD and that they can feed their insights and needs into the wider school CPD.

d. Governors are well informed of CPD.

In addition to having access to their own CPD, governors should have a strong understanding of the principles of effective CPD and its importance for students, staff and school success. It should be prioritised in terms of time and resource, but should also be considered when making other decisions.

e. Performance management and appraisal processes are well-aligned with CPD.

When done well, performance management can reinforce and support staff development. However, it has the potential to stifle and limit professional learning.

  1. Performance management should relate closely to the professional learning that staff are engaged in.
  2. Performance management should follow the principals of effective professional learning; it should be pupil focussed, challenging, evidence-informed and evaluated.
  3. Performance management should be completed within a supportive culture, where colleagues feel that it supports their learning, rather than threatens or limits them.
  4. Performance management should ensure that colleagues engage fully in effective professional learning.

Risks To Watch Out For

  1. Performance management targets are not referred to throughout the year and become a last minute ‘tick box’ exercise that don’t really reflect progress made throughout the year.
  2. Performance management focuses solely on career development rather than improving practice, or vice-versa.
  3. Pupil achievement targets in performance management are too broad and don’t relate closely to actual development, e.g. “80% of pupils to achieve A* to C” doesn’t specify which pupils to particularly focus on, what specific need to address, nor what possible approaches to try.
  4. Staff need to feel free to innovate and take risks in their practice, as well as to evaluate effectively, even if the evaluation shows that an approach was not successful. Performance management should promote effective development, rather than rapid success with every approach tried.

So what makes the difference? Here are 5 evidence-based ideas to transform your performance management from debacle to developmental.

  1. Involve teachers in setting their own targets – goals need to feel valuable and genuinely owned if they are to inspire effort. Involve staff in the design of appraisal processes and in which measures are used.
  2. Be clear on the difference between performance targets and learning targets. Limit the use of performance targets to areas where the teacher has a high level of control – e.g. completing a scheme or work or entering data on time. For more complex tasks where multiple factors are at play (e.g. students’ learning) use ‘do-your-best’ learning goals focused on engaging in development and learning. Concrete targets in complex areas have been shown to cause gaming, increase stress and depress development.
  3. The aim of an appraisal meeting is to inspire further development, so focus discussion primarily on strengths and future development, rather than what has already happened in the past.
  4. Ramp up your levels of caution about the performance data that are collected. Observations need multiple, trained observers and well-researched observation schedules if they are to have any validity. A class set of data is very rarely large or reliable enough to allow us to draw any firm conclusions about effectiveness.
  5. Make transparency, trust and fairness a priority. Colquitt et. al found thatIf your decisions are perceived as unfair, then your employees may be less willing to do their job well.
f. CPD is protected and prioritised in terms of budget.

Given the importance of CPD and its potential benefits for staff, students and the school, it is important to invest in effective CPD.

What To Consider

  1. Value for Money. This is notoriously difficult to measure but by analysing needs and evaluating CPD, it is possible to give an indication of value for money. Certainly an expensive course or speaker than only has potential to impact on a few pupils, or which has no evidence-base is unlikely to be good value for money.
  2. Prioritising CPD. To secure funding for CPD, it is crucial that both governors and school leaders understand the importance of CPD. Ensure that leaders are aware of the research behind the power of effective CPD.

Funded projects. Through collaborating with HEIs or research projects, there are occasionally funded projects to support CPD. Similarly there are unique funding opportunities, such as the Enthuse Award to support CPD.

Research, Innovation and Evidence

Click here to find resources and tools to support you with this area of the CPD Quality Framework.

a. Organisational plans and CPD processes are underpinned by evidence.

Ensuring Your CPD Is Evidence-Informed

It is important that colleagues engage with research, it is also key that all processes in the school are underpinned by evidence and research, as they are the most likely to work. No school has time to be engaging in processes that are not likely to work.

In terms of professional learning, when introducing key ideas or new strategies, the evidence base should be shared with colleagues.

  • Often school leaders engage with research but do not necessarily share what they’ve learnt with colleagues – explaining the research base builds buy in to an approach.
  • Ensure that the research base is explored and unpicked, explaining that ‘research says’ or ‘evidence shows’ without explaining the nature and detail of the evidence is insufficient.

Professional learning should entail engaging both with the theory and embedding in the practical context of the classroom.

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b. Staff have access to and engage with (discuss, challenge, use) research summaries and evidence-based pedagogical advice.

What Do We Mean By Engaging With Research?

In a ‘research-engaged school’, colleagues will engage both in and with research. When engaging in research, colleagues will research and investigate their own practice, possibly through Lesson Study or enquiry, and occasionally with the support of an HEI or part of a broader research project. When engaging with research, colleagues will be informed by research and evidence, and will be confident using, discussing and criticising research. This should form part of an enquiry or Lesson Study (ie researching which intervention to try), but is not the whole process.

This section explores how to support staff to engage with research. You may also be interested in Ben Goldacre’s paper on how, as a sector, we can ‘Build Evidence into Education’.

What Is Credible Research?

Resource: What is credible research

Resource: 10 Credible Sources to start

Want to check credibility? A new website has been launched that makes asking for evidence and getting help understanding that evidence as easy as possible. You can use it to ask politicians, companies, NGOs and anyone else for evidence behind their claims, while you’re on the train, walking down the street or sitting in front of the TV. And if you need help understanding the evidence you’ve been sent, that’s there too. Seen a claim in a newspaper about a new approach in education? Ask for evidence!

Article: How to read education data without jumping to conclusions?

Any Practical Tips?

  • Ensure you have an open culture.

By engaging with research, staff will begin to challenge their own, and possibly others’ thinking. To have a truly research-engaged school, all colleagues, including leaders, should be open to changing their approach in light of new research. Ensure that your school has an open and innovative cultureEnable to staff to take risks in a disciplined way.

  • Enable staff to innovate and take risks in their practice.

Just as with pupils, colleagues often feel reluctant to leave their ‘safe space’ and try out new things. Ensure that colleagues feel safe to innovate, whilst also evaluating the impact of any innovations. Article: ‘Giving it a Go’

  • Avoid ‘pick and mix!’

Once colleagues begin engaging further with external research and ideas, it can be tempting to try out a new idea each lesson. However, the risk with this is that nothing is ever embedded in the most effective way. Ensure that an approach with a strong evidence based is tried out, refined and evaluated, using an approach such as Lesson Study.

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c. The organisation and staff engage with universities and HEIs to support them in solving pedagogical and learning problems.

What Are The Benefits?

 There are many benefits to partnering with your local university. 

  • Help with research – inviting a junior researcher in to help your teams get started with their research can be a very useful activity.
  • Opportunity to engage in interventions that address your pupil and school needs.
  • Potential to network with other (local) schools.
  • Opportunities to participate in funded projects 

How Can I Set Up A Relationship?

The School-University Partnerships Initiative (SUPI) is a three-year initiative to create structured and strategic mechanisms for HEIs to work in partnership with secondary schools and FE colleges. Their website lists a number of universities that have received funding. Alternatively, search online for the Faculty of Education at your local university, and send a friendly enquiry to one of the staff.

If your local university is not able to work with you, you could also get in touch with the Institute of Education, which partners with individual schools, clusters of schools and Teaching School Alliances across the UK. All their work is supported by their research and funded projects are available.

Finally you are likely to have initial relationships through colleagues engaging in ITT or MA etc. This is often a good starting point for taking forward a relationship.

d. The organisation is involved in large scale research.

There are many benefits to getting involved in wider research.

  • Help with research – inviting a junior researcher in to help your teams get started with their research can be a very useful activity.
  • Contribute to wider research that will benefit your school and others across the country.
  • Potential to network with other schools.
  • Opportunities to participate in funded projects.
  • Opportunities to receive additional support with an intervention

Do note that if you get involved in a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) you may not be able to use the intervention (at least initially) as there will be a random control group.

The Education Endowment Foundation

The EEF currently fund a large number of large-scale education research projects. They are often looking to recruit schools to be involved.

This link here will show you any upcoming projects you might be able to get involved in.

e. There is an awareness of research methodologies and staff are able to judge the quality of research.

Excitingly, there is a significant increase in the access and sharing of research. However, not all research is equally high quality. Staff members need to be aware of these five common pitfalls: 

  1. Correlation issues: noting that a worrying problem is associated with a particular activity or trait and failing to check whether the problem leads to the trait or the trait leads to the problem.
  2. Do-something-itis: identifying a worrying social or educational problem and jumping straight to implementing an in-school solution without checking whether it’s even possible to solve it in school.
  3. Over-rapid adoption: getting too excited about early findings or plausible mechanisms and rolling them out as mandatory without building a quality evidence base and continuing to pilot and evaluate the roll-out.
  4. Filtering evidence by tribe: rejecting possible mechanisms or findings because of dislike of the existing supporters or, conversely, holding onto existing ideas too strongly because of you and/or your respected colleagues have made a big deal of promoting it. It’s easy to recognise this in others but it applies just as much to you or to us as it does to them…
  5. Confirmation-seeking: filtering research for findings that confirm existing thinking and practice and paying too little attention to criticisms and doubts. The converse is also true, enormously over-egging fairly fringe doubts about research (or its authors) when it suits us to undermine research that would be uncomfortable to accept. 

Here’s a few ways to get better quality evidence. 

  1. Look out for systematic reviews. These are studies of existing research literature that are carefully designed to give more weight to higher quality and rigorous research. They identify what it is possible to claim and with what level of confidence. Some systematic reviews include meta-analysis – an attempt to combine statistical findings from multiple studies.
  2. Be more sceptical of lists of references which are mainly individual studies/experiments. It is easy to pick out multiple impressive-sounding studies to confirm nearly any position that the author or reader would like to be true while failing to reference studies that undermine this.
  3. Search for criticism. Whenever you find a plausible-sounding claim, it is good practice tapping it into Google Search and add the word ‘criticism’ on the end. Other useful words/phrases are ‘replication’ and ‘systematic review’. 
  4. Be more cautious about individual studies where:
    1. authors do not publish their data and precise methodology for others to re-analyse;
    2. researchers have some vested interest in a particular result, i.e. they lack independence from the subject, they are being paid by an organisation whose products they are studying, they are seeking to make profit from their research findings;
    3. big claims are made on the basis of a study of a small number of subjects and/or over a small period of time.

Be picky. We can’t get around the fact that it is now much easier to share and access evidence but that that evidence needs to be high quality.