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Overcoming barriers to powerful professional development (part 4)

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David Weston is the founder and chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, the independent national charity for teachers’ professional development. He is a primary governor and former secondary teacher, author and consultant. Follow him on Twitter @informed_edu.

This is the fourth and final part of David's series of posts on issues highlighted by the Teacher Development Trust's annual report.

You can read the previous posts in this series here:

Poor mechanisms to select strategic support

Our research also found that schools struggle to find, compare and quality assure the input they receive from external organisations.

67.4% of school leaders find new external CPD providers from among those previously used within school or by colleagues. For many, these “word of mouth” recommendations are the only form of quality assurance available when considering the often substantial financial investment.

However, this leads to the dominance of “big names” who may not always be best suited to a school or teacher’s needs.

When selecting an external CPD provider, school leaders should take time to compare the available options and consider which support matches their specific requirements. Almost one in five still use a Local Authority database to browse CPD providers; others access the Future Leaders online database and the Teacher Development Trust’s GoodCPDGuide.

Check that the structure and content of the CPD suggest it is likely to impact positively on student outcomes:

  • Ask the CPD provider to present the research evidence on which their content and approaches are based.
  • Check that a provider will support staff to faithfully embed changes to practice in the long term.
  • Choose a provider who supports in-school evaluation of the training’s impact on teacher practice and student outcomes.

Change is taking place across the system to better support school leaders in structuring professional development for staff.

The Teacher Development Trust works with government, schools and organisations to improve the quality of support for professional development and raise awareness of its importance. Our National Teacher Enquiry Network helps schools develop their internal CPD processes, while our GoodCPDGuide allows teachers to find, compare and review external support.


By making the above changes, school leaders can further alleviate the pressures of external factors and contribute to national improvements in teachers’ professional development.

-David Weston, Teacher Development Trust


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