Planning outstanding CPD provision for Support staff, by @TeacherToolkit #SLTchat

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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CPD Update newsletter – November 2012

CPD Update – November 2012 Newsletter – Optimus Education.

This article can be found on Optimus Education website here – you will need to log in or create an account to view it.

“Training for support staff continues to disappoint me, simply because it is managed poorly. Lately, I’ve had to place CPD for support staff at the forefront of my mind. What has led me to this position, is working in my 2nd leadership role, heading up CPD in both schools, I find that there is very little or no strategic planning in place for support staff.

Some may rebuff this statement and say that it should always be a priority – and I agree with you – but as CPD leader; not only should training for support staff be a priority all of the time, but training for all staff should remain a priority every single year.

Support staff are often left behind and in my experience, that is what always happens…

The article in @OptimusEd – November 2012 – click to enlarge

This disheartens me somewhat, as I’ve always taken an active role in my own development, but for others, simply being aware of what you need to develop is far from available, or easy to do! Some staff need direction… and in some cases, leadership of CPD misses the point!

What I’ve started to do, is link up with my Headteacher‘s P.A. She takes day-to-day responsibility for all support staff, so working more closely together, we plan to have half-termly meetings to ensure there is a strategic plan in place for support staff and their INSET days, but also throughout the academic year as training priorities evolve and are identified.

We all know support staff are the backbone of any school and in many, the unsung heroes. Those members of staff are – fundamentally in place – to support the teaching and learning of the school and their job roles are wide and complex. In short, they are experts in their field and need just as precise, if not, tailored and targeted-training just as teachers do.

So, how do you ensure training is put in place to deliver outstanding provision for your support staff?

Firstly, think about the varied roles you need to cater for. Administrative staff; site-staff; canteen and cleaning staff; the reprographics team; the ICT support department; your large number of teaching assistants, HLTAs and classroom staff; specialist counselors and psychologists, the list goes on… The profession is much broader than just ‘teachers’ who belong to a group that range from NQTs to senior leaders.

Secondly, consider the implications. It’s not as easy to place all these professionals into a school hall – like we do with groups of teaching staff – and deliver a session on peer-assessment or the latest Ofsted framework. Support staff need small groups, sometimes individual training and varied workshops that staff can opt in and out of. It’s that simple!

In both schools I’ve led whole-staff CPD, the process I outline for the reader below, is a useful starting point that I have had to establish in each:

  1. Keep the school’s development plan as a reference point for all discussions and training plans to identify priorities for the professional development of support staff.
  2. Review the support staff appraisal and line-management structure to ensure all groups of staff are supported and challenged throughout every area of the school.
  3. Ensure support staff have a meaningful training programme during INSET days and that a senior teacher is used as the main point of contact for their staff developmental needs. This will ensure that the day is given priority and that the training is viewed as important as all the rest. Include support staff in after-school meetings and twilights, but do consider their working contracts and how you could overcome those barriers.
  4. Remind support staff who their main point of contact is for their own professional development. This is often their line-manger, and then the CPD leader or a combination between the school Bursar or the Head-teacher’s PA. Ensure training is coordinated between the individual member of staff, their line-manager and that information is shared and transparent.
  5. Support staff need an array of tailored CPD sessions. These must be planned in advance, advertised and not add-ons to ensure staff are kept busy. For a lowly sum of money, you can ‘buy-in’ specialists to work with a small group of support staff, which is often a useful way to get started if nothing currently exists. Contemplate utilising the skills of your teaching staff who have something beneficial to share with groups of support staff. This is a perfect way to establish a CPD and a ‘grow-your-own’ talent culture.
“…a few ideas I have already put in place that you may want to try…”


p style=”text-align:left;”>Finally, a few ideas I have already put in place that you may want to try:

  1. Publish a simple support staff survey that collates ideas and staff needs. I would suggest keeping this on paper and – avoid any online software such as – make the questionnaire compulsory to complete so that you set the benchmark high. Chase up staff who may find it difficult to reflect on their own CPD. Sit down and help each member of staff think it through; consider publishing the results to the whole group and begin to establish the CPD ethos.
  2. I have introduced Blue Sky Education ( into each school I have led CPD. It is useful for support staff, helping them record all their performance management targets and CPD records.
  • Put in place a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) that forms part of individual CPD. This plan can be ambitious and a long-term goal, something not used in the annual appraisal process, which can informal and used to identify pathways and possible peer-coaching.

  • Coaching and mentoring for all staff. Link up support staff with colleagues around the school; create various sessions for staff who are keen to become involved in coaching others. For example, we provided opportunities for support staff to tutor students, developing their own role alongside teachers by completing an induction period as a form tutor. We pilot this as a termly shadowing CPD programme.

  • Although the HLTA funding has been reduced in many boroughs, consider the small fee to allow Teaching Assistants to step up towards the next level.  We now have 5 qualified HLTAs, 2 who are included within our agreed staffing structure.

  • Create opportunities for employing support staff to champion training for others, by supporting the CPD leader in organising and delivering INSET days.

  • Research and trail various online software that allow staff to complete courses and qualifications. Examples include: ECDL ( is a certifying authority and leading international computer skills certification programme. EduCare ( award-winning distance learning, covering a range of topics such as child protection programmes, written with the NSPCC, as well as programmes on health and safety and food hygiene. Or contemplate iHasco ( which is an online interactive health and safety website that allow staff to gain knowledge and complete self-assessment.

  • There are plenty of concepts and worthy examples of CPD practice in many schools. But if like me, you need to start from nothing, the above is a respectable starting point to create a CPD culture for your support staff.

    Whatever you are or aren’t doing, place support staff training at the top of your school priorities. I’m sure right now, in your school, there is a member of support staff who needs that little bit of guidance and support to help them develop their role within your school. This in turn will motivate this particular individual and allow them to support staff and students much more effectively. Never underestimate, that we all need a training plan and support to help us get there.”


    Search for “ross mcgill” at
    • Ross Morrison McGill can be found on Twitter @TeacherToolkit. He is an Assistant Headteacher and award-winning teacher (The Guardian Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School in London) Ross leads on Teaching and Learning, CPD and is a former SSAT Design Technology Lead Practitioner and ASCL Council representative for London. He is currently a member of the Guardian Teacher Network adviser panel, where he writes for his regular series of blogs for the Guardian Teacher Network.

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