Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.

Dylan Wiliam.


A school’s biggest resource is its staff. So surely it goes without saying that a school can only ever be a strong as its staff.

This is a concept I have spent more and more time researching, revisiting and reviewing over recent years. As a leader, it is my responsibility to nurture and shape the talent and expertise within my staff. Whether this be early career teachers or teachers who have been in the classroom for decades: they deserve an equally satisfying professional development offer that includes several important ingredients.

In 2016, the DfE published the Standard for Teacher’s Professional Development and I like them as a multi-purpose tool: a good planning guide as well as a possible tool for evaluating impact.

The Standard identifies 5 parts:

  1. Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.
  2. Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and
  3. Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge.
  4. Professional development programmes should be sustained over time.
  5. Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership.

As a set of guiding principles, you can’t argue with this.

But how does that translate into a the reality of a busy school? Professional Development has improved ten-fold since I began teaching. Historically, Continuing Professional Development saw INSETs delivered by SLT (or an outside provider if the budget allowed) in school on “whole school priorities” such as culture and vision, behaviour and teaching and learning (Certainly things that can be “done” in a day!) and then booking a teacher on a “one-day course” which would satisfy their performance management appraisal review. In my experience – and this is not representative of the national picture – there was very little strategic planning.

For any professional development to have a sustained impact it much be linked with two key things:

  • What the teacher cares about
  • School improvement priorities

The Standard makes a very clear distinction between “programmes” and “activities”:

Evidence suggests, for example, that a one-day course as a stand-alone activity without a specific focus is unlikely to have a lasting impact on pupil outcomes. That same course, however, could be used to much greater effect as part of a sustained, coherent programme which includes structured, collaborative in-school activities for teachers to refine ideas and embed approaches.

A professional development programme is likely to involve many activities designed to sustain and embed practice, including, but not limited to: individual and collaborative teacher activity; well-designed formative assessment and evaluation; whole-school leadership; and expert input.

DfE (2016). Standard for Teacher’s Professional Development. Page 5.