Should your school provide Professional Development for staff?

The easy answer is yes – but if that was all there was to it, then this would be a VERY short article!

In order to get some “official guidance” on this I looked at the DFE publication in 2016….here’s the link:-

and this is what it says…

 Effective teacher professional development is a partnership between:

• Headteachers and other members of the leadership team;

• Teachers;

• Providers of professional development expertise, training or consultancy.
In order for this partnership to be successful: 

1. Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.

2. Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.

3. Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge.

4. Professional development programmes should be sustained over time.
And all this is underpinned by, and requires that:

5. Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership.

Having read all that let me say 1 thing:

It is wrong….in many ways, but quite simply it’s WRONG !


The 3 levels of development for teachers:

These can be listed simply as ….

  1. Instruction
  2. Training
  3. Professional Development.

Each one is separate and each one is different and they can not be substituted for each other although at times they may overlap to some extent. So let’s look quickly at each.


We have all experienced this type of input and it usually is the practicalities of how to use something or other. So we may have a staff meeting on how to put out the new gymnastics equipment, the intricacies of some new technology or something similar. Its information that we need to know and we have sessions to keep us informed.


This type of session takes things to a different level and of course involves many aspects of both our school and teaching life. Examples may be the use of a computer planning programme, assessment and record keeping systems, first aid / medical (epipen) training. There may be curriculum training either by the schools coordinator or by an external advisor and this would usually be practical matters that staff need to include in their classrooms or it may be related to curriculum structuring and implementation….often maths and literacy based. The school may also have bought into a new curriculum scheme and training can be given by the publishers on its best use.

As you can see the “training” element in school life is wide and varied – but it is NOT Professional Development.

So let’s look at just what we would be expecting from Professional Development:

“Professional development aims to develop you from both a career and personal perspective.”

As such Professional development is preparing you for the future and for the challenges that lie ahead in your career.

Now let’s be quite honest about this – not everyone wishes to pursue a progressive career in teaching; and that’s absolutely fine. I know of some terrific teachers who have no wish to move up in either responsibility or pay scales (pay scales yes maybe !) and are more than happy to enjoy their teaching career as class based. Career Deputy Heads have made the decision that having got to this stage and viewed what is ahead they do not wish to take the next step…and again that is fine – great Deputy Heads are invaluable to schools and form an amazing support for Headteachers.

However there are members of staff who do wish to pursue career development in teaching and it is my belief that schools should provide this opportunity.

Professional development provision:

As teachers move up the professional developmental ladder there are various stages which seem to naturally occur and would be expected to have been completed. The general progression goes something like this  – it’s not intended to be a definitive list merely an indication.

  • Class teacher
  • Foundation subject coordinator
  • Core subject coordinator and member of SLT
  • Possible responsibility for planning or assessment and record keeping.
  • Assistant head would sit somewhere at this level
  • Deputy Headteacher
  • Headteacher

If we look at this type of progression we can see 2 types of Professional development that exist.

  1. Professional Development of staff through external courses (this could include DFE courses) and / or advisory visits and intervention
  2. Professional Development through in school responsibility and experience – in other words gaining experience and guidance in school.

An example of the latter would be membership of the SLT and the experience gained by part of this team and also being party to the scope of the teams responsibilities and decision making.

I started this article by including the Governments document on Professional Development and by commenting that I considered it was wrong in its statements. The document gives 4 statements that it says need to be present for Professional Development to be successful – however it makes the core mistake of confusing the elements and purpose of development with those of instruction and training and fails to identify the roles of each.

Its focus is entirely based on pupil outcome which is not always directly the case – it could be argued that all decisions made at whatever level will ultimately filter down for pupil benefit however to say that it all should have a foundation of robust evidence and expertise does not help when you are contributing to an SLT conversation about financing new toilets! The Professional development here is in the process and thought patterns that guide and prompt the decisions!

Professional Development of staff should, in my opinion, be part and parcel of school organisation and offer the opportunity for all staff to progress in their career should they wish to do so. School budgets should positively look ahead and plan for progressive staff development and Headteachers should be open and encouraging to members of staff on this path. (whether falling budgets will have a negative effect on this remains to be seen)

As I have said – Professional development is a combination of factors both internal and external and in many cases  it may be that colleagues have to move schools to continue on their chosen path. Staff appointments in these instances are based on previous experience and what the applicant can bring to the school – this occurs at all levels right the way up to Headship. (it used to be an unwritten rule that unless you had 3 years experience as a DH you would not even get a Headship interview!)

Schools, I consider,  should see themselves as having a duty to provide Professional Development opportunities for staff – in itself this creates a positive and progressive learning culture in the school where colleagues are valued and encouraged not only for the benefit of the children but also in their own personal ambitions.

The answer therefore to the question posed…”Should your school provide Professional Development for staff?”  has got to be a resounding YES. Career progression is not for all but for those colleagues who wish to follow this path it’s an exciting journey and lets face it …we need you!





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