How in-house CPD is saving our time, money and staff

Lee Mason-Ellis explain how The Pioneer Academy has brought training in-house to save money, ensure quality CPD for all and drive recruitment and retention

Lee Mason-Ellis explain how The Pioneer Academy has brought training in-house to save money, ensure quality CPD for all and drive recruitment and retention

29 Nov 2022, 17:51

We are unquestionably a profession in crisis. The sector has seen a whopping 40 per cent cut in professional development budgets between 2018 and 2021, and teachers are leaving in droves — an alarming 12% increase in workforce leavers last year. We have to do more to retain staff and give them the skills to weather this storm.

And it is an almost perfect storm. For evidence of how tough education is right now, nothing confirms the dire situation better than this survey for MyTutor, which shows that more than 80 per cent of us believe the current economic crisis to be the “worst in living memory”. And as primary-aged children continue to struggle to catch up after the pandemic, the same survey reveals that many schools are set to cut back on Covid catch-up support.

In this context, and however tight the current times are, we simply cannot afford not to invest in our staff and colleagues. That’s why, despite having to make hard choices and find creative workarounds like everyone else, our trust is clear that we will not be reducing our commitment to CPD.

Instead, we have chosen to bring all our training in-house. Since launching our in-house CPD in 2015, we have created our own network of facilitators, drawn from training or teaching backgrounds, to run our training. This helps our schools to drive down costs.

All of our leaders, teachers and support staff have access to more than 30 training programmes that are offered at a cost to schools at least one-third cheaper than using an external provider. If our schools are still unable to pay, places are offered free of charge so that no one misses out on valuable professional development.

We simply cannot afford not to invest in our staff

As a result, we are in a position to invest over £140,000 in training this year, focusing on pedagogy and genuine skills development rather than mandatory training or one-off courses in safeguarding or technology, for example.

As an illustration, our training model enabled a two-form entry primary school to spend £10,000 last year, and a three-form entry school has a training budget of £15,000 this year. The amount spent on CPD is part of The Pioneer Academy’s ICFP metric and is checked termly to make sure spending is maintained, ensuring our staff are valued and developed.

This in-house approach also means that we are able to tailor training to our specific context. A standard course in quality-first teaching for early-career teachers (ECTs), for example, may include everything from early years provision to key stage 4, spanning the learning needs of a pre-schooler to a school leaver. This kind of ill-targeted offer is not a good use of teacher time or school resource. By contrast, our approach allows tailoring, and gives us an opportunity to embed the trust’s values from the start – as well as all-important value for money.

Leaders across The Pioneer Academy are trained in outstanding facilitation and coaching in a range of areas so that we can offer our trust-wide training programme to more staff, in more schools, from a range of experienced colleagues. 

To further incentivise take-up of training, for those schools whose leaders are involved in the training as facilitators, we offer free places for their staff members. This has the knock-on effect of encouraging new facilitators, which itself raises ambition and standards in our schools.

The approach is paying dividends. Of our intake of over 30 ECTs last year, more than 90 per cent have stayed with the trust. This will help us to manage the recruitment crisis we all face. But more than that, it means we can continue to support our staff to achieve their best, delivering outstanding teaching and learning and improving pupil outcomes.

Because if anyone should be protected from these crises, it is surely our youngest.   

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