This other Eden: On INSET and CPD


This afternoon I attended a “World-Class Teaching Profession consultation event” run by the DfE and I learned something very useful indeed that could be crucial for any role that a possible, maybe never, ‘College for Teaching’ might have. Those who attended this event were charged with the task of unpicking a variety of questions about Continuing Professional Development (CPD), Teaching Schools, a bit about a College for Teaching and how to ensure ‘great teaching’ takes place in classrooms up and down this sceptre’d isle, this earth of majesty, this England…

Now, Methinks I am a prophet new inspired but there is a crucial difference between Continuing Professional Development and Inservice Training (Inset). Inset is what a school deems it useful for you to have, whilst CPD is for a trusted professional, it is what you deem is useful for your own professional needs. Armed with this knowledge one can see that CPD has an important role to play in any teacher’s career and that this role is neglected in so many schools. Why? Because these schools are confusing their institutional needs with their teachers’ needs.

A school should have no say over what a teacher’s CPD needs are, this is the core of a contract between the institution and a trusted professional. In return the teacher should realise that the School has every right to use Inset to direct their perceived institutional needs. This begs the question: does your school allow much or any CPD and how much CPD have you had throughout your career?

When I began in teaching CPD was the norm, the school subsidised me to attend courses that were either subject specific or more general but developed me as a practitioner without any need for immediate impact on pupils results. I also visited and worked in a variety of countries, paid for by the school, all the time I was developing my practice and becoming a better and more accomplished teacher. Since then, with CPD budgets cut back, the need for schools to concentrate on the bottom line has led to a decline in this type of professional enrichment. Is this a business attitude? Rather than nurturing a reflective practitioner schools now, quite rightly, concentrate on the bottom line and us horses go on courses to drive up test scores. What is lost?

Here, then, could be a role for a College of Teaching (CoT) The CoT should allocate Government money to each and every teacher to allow them to decide their own CPD needs. In the long term this could include sabbaticals, Masters degrees and such like as well as membership of professional subject associations. The CoT could recommend and enable teachers to access CPD that was of sufficient quality as well as take feedback from teachers as to what is out there. This will enable teachers to build a career beyond being tied to the whims of their current school. In the case of bad management, or a school which has taken an exception to a member of staff for whatever reason that member of staff would have the right, regardless of what the school thinks, to access CPD under their own volition.

Schools could help by providing damn good Inset and also by providing time for teachers to collaborate together in school in order to improve professionally within the institution as well as encourage staff to develop their own expertise and enthusiasms with the school’s blessing. This would involve management that invested in its teachers beyond the current obsession with ‘it only counts if it impacts on the pupils’. This obsession has led to staff needs being neglected at the altar of student outcomes. Paradoxically I think better student outcomes might be achieved by ensuring staff are nurtured and, yes, loved.

Teaching Schools should not be used as the main provider of CPD, they should stick to their role as providers of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) and if there are crossover uses for this for Inset then schools might use this service too and teachers might decide to use some of their allocated money pot to spend on courses or other services from these providers.

How much will this cost? How long is a piece of string? I’ve no idea. How much would it cost if we invested £500 per teacher per year? Each teacher could spend, or save this until the next year. Perhaps it can be for teachers who have reached a ‘milestone,’ say, 5 years of teaching… I wonder how much teachers already spend of their own cash for this sort of enrichment? Could some of the amount currently spent by schools be used, could other sources of cash be found, could teachers subsidise it from their wages? Is it pie in the sky? That depends, if you want to trust teachers and you want a reason for a college of teaching to exist this seems a useful way forward. Along with the carrot, could be the stick: re-validation, teachers who show they are developing their practice through CPD may be re-validated every 3-5 years or so, with quality being the benchmark rather than quantity.

But if you don’t trust teachers then, for God’s sake stop talking about CPD and just say it’s all about Inset… And teachers, of watery Neptune, now bound in with shame, can’t ever develop beyond the needs of the school in which they work.

9 thoughts on “This other Eden: On INSET and CPD

  1. Why is it always all or nothing with arguments concerning the teaching profession ? I am right you are wrong etc I have evidence. It’s my right. I know nothing of in service teacher training but I do know a lot about in service training for IT professionals. Both groups need to undertake constant training during their working lives to keep their skill set up to date and, hopefully, moving forwards. In the private sector, when an IT manager ( SMT member ) sits down with his staff member ( teacher ) to agree on the staff members personal objectives ( PRP basis for the next year ) , one of the topics up for discussion is training ( CPD ). The manager declares I want you to go on this course, or I think your performance is so poor that more training would be counter productive, and the staff member says I would like to go on this course and here is why. They negotiate. That’s the way the world works. They endeavour to come to an agreement. Is it too much for the teaching profession to behave in such an ( adult ? ) manner ?


  2. What you are describing is In service training, which would work like this, focused on the perceived needs of the institution and the teacher as a part of that institution. CPD, I am arguing, is alongside that and is about developing the teacher as the teacher sees fit, giving them autonomy to develop… now why this would be controversial I have no idea, it is not all or nothing, it is Inset and CPD, satisfying both needs… Funding controlled separately from a school budget for CPD allows the teacher to make decisions (and maybe add to the amount of cash) whereas the school budget for Inset can support clear institutional aims.


  3. If teachers wish to develop themselves in the manner of which you speak, absolutely fine, then they should pay for the courses themselves as they are ‘investing in themselves and their future competence and career progression’. In commerce : Finance, Marketing, Personnel (etc) professionals study for 2/3/4 years post graduate to gain their professional qualifications. Teachers study for just one and then they start throwing demands around about training they want and expect the State to pay for. Laughable imho. Who do they think they are ? Egos beyond belief..


    1. Teachers are not throwing demands around, I am. Teachers don’t study for just one year. The reason for asking for central funding is to finance ‘time off’ – sabbaticals – and also professional qualifications which in other walks of life might be paid for by the company through pay or subsidy, or rewarded in other ways


    2. In commerce :…

      And in the Military, the Military pays for training. So? Or do you recommend the army requires squaddies to pay for their own parachute training?

      The key here is that I, as senior teacher, am at the top of my scale. I cannot earn any more money.

      Lots of people gain if I am better at my job, and the state should recognise that. I, however, am not one of them. So asking me to pay up large for my own training is ridiculous. (For the record, I spend many hundreds of dollars each year for such things anyway, mainly through non-subsidised transport to training, and buying books.)

      I like the suggestion, but think it needs to start after a number of years. Otherwise the very teachers who aren’t going to last are likely to be the main users of the system, as they try to escape the classroom as often as possible.


  4. As much as I’m in favour of your idea of development driven by the individual, it would be hard to argue that we are paid to do a job, and the bodies that pay us have to have some say in what we do, how we do it, how well we do it and what can be done to ‘improve’ that.


  5. Hi Martin, hopefully better late than never to comment on this most interesting blog. Interestingly the evidence base on professional development partly supports your idea and partly challenges it.

    It is certainly the case that simply telling teachers what to do seems to be ineffective at improving practice that impacts on outcomes. Similarly, INSET where learning is passive and non-classroom-based is less likely to work, as is training that is purely based on getting practitioners to use certain techniques and ‘perform them’ with fidelity.

    I wouldn’t say there was strong evidence to suggest that teachers should be choosing their own CPD. There is no particular evidence that this is likely to have any impact on students and indeed it is increasingly clear that whether teachers were volunteers or conscripts to professional development is less important than whether they eventually bought into it. The problem, for me, is that not every teacher is going to be an expert in diagnosing their own needs and those of the children in their classes, then won’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the sorts of training and knowledge that they might need to access to deal with these issues.

    The issue we often see where senior leaders choose CPD on behalf of their school is that they are particularly prone to following fashions and recommendations from peers about ‘what works’ and are rarely systematic in choosing to engage with training that has a stronger plausibility of efficacy. This is as true for schools with specialist CPD leaders as it is with those where it is merely one of a number of hats they wear. I’m not sure why we would expect classroom teachers to be any different in their habits apart from basing it on hunches about their own needs (or what SLT want to see) instead of CPD leader hunches about their school’s needs (or what Ofsted want to see).

    That said, if we had school which were systematically supporting teachers to engage in better self diagnosis and more effective assessment of pupil needs then I’d be a stronger advocate of giving more control and budget to each teacher. If schools are automatically building in the sorts of structured, collaborative pedagogical problem-solving as part of professional life then teachers could supplement this with CPD to address their own career needs.

    This is the sort of scenario that TDT is working toward – where everyone understands more deeply what effective professional development looks like, where schools have more robust and effective systems with a greater investment of time and money, and where teachers are then able to make choices about their own development with a national career infrastructure that is supported by a College of Teaching.


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