Prioritising Professional Development Needs

Trying to fit all of your school priorities into a small amount of professional development sessions across the year can be a very tricky process. Pressure from fellow senior leaders, middle leaders, Ofsted and Government policy mean that tough decisions have to be made about what to deliver, what to leave out and what you hope staff will try to do on their own, away from their directed time in school. This becomes even harder when you start to try and balance out individual members of staff’s needs, compared with the overall priorities of the school. What might be a priority for the school might not necessarily be a development need for everyone.

If your school still operates a model of delivering CPD sessions for the whole school at one time (on a designated professional development day, or via a twilight session), this can be increasingly difficult to cater for individual needs. Some staff may be experts in one area, yet weak in another; but this may not be reflected across the staff profile. In any organisation you will have a range of skills and experiences amongst your staff, from inexperienced new entrants to the profession, to highly skilled and experienced practitioners. The last thing you want to do is to bring everyone together to deliver training on one aspect of teaching, only to have a certain percentage of staff sat in the room feeling completely disengaged.

It is therefore crucial that not only do you choose the priorities for your sessions very carefully and skilfully, but that you also try to organise a team of people to deliver multiple sessions on one evening. This way, staff can either opt into the session that best fits their individual professional development needs, or they can be directed to go to the session that senior leaders feel meets their development needs. If this is organised carefully and correctly, not only will you be able to put enough sessions on to meet the key priorities of the school, but you will also be able to make staff feel that this is not just a one size fits all approach to professional development.

The only thing to be careful of is who you call on to lead these professional development sessions. If you keep calling on the same people, they are missing out on their own development. Yes, they may feel that presenting is developing another skill in them, but they too may have individual development needs that may be neglected because of their focus on helping others. Just because someone is good at delivering engaging professional development sessions, does not mean that they are themselves perfect in the classroom. Every teacher has their own needs and every teacher should feel that the professional development programme in their school has something to offer them when looking to plug their own gaps in either classroom craft or subject knowledge.