Professional development, and whether an employer takes it seriously, can have a profound influence on an individual’s career decisions, particularly for the Millennial generation who place great value on job satisfaction.

New entrants to the profession looking to improve their skills and widen their experience want training opportunities alongside help and support in the shape of coaching and mentoring. More established staff seek similar guidance and may look for help in identifying specialisms, research opportunities, pursuing qualifications or preparing for leadership roles. For both, having a degree of control over what kind of development they engage in also matters.

Highlighting CPD in recruitment

Making CPD opportunities and requirements a central element of recruitment sends a powerful message to applicants. They will want to know how they will be guided and supported when they join, how professional development can be tailored to their needs, and whether there are programmes in the school to help them work towards qualifications – with dedicated time to pursue them. Explaining how CPD fits in the school’s performance management approach and overall strategy for improvement will underline the importance attached by the leadership to staff development.

At induction, these things can be explained in more detail. This is important as the new recruit may be unsure what to expect. New entrants to the profession may be worried about losing the mentoring and coaching support they had at university, while an experienced teacher may be unfamiliar with approaches to development which your school has well embedded, such as self-reflection on the impact of practice and how to gather evidence for it.

Putting CPD at the heart of induction also offers an opportunity to make explicit the depth of support, experience and expertise available that they can draw on across the school, and the opportunities for collaboration with colleagues so that the new recruit can see they are part of a learning community as well as a professional team.

CPD in schools, continued professional development, Continuous Professional Development

International schools, where new staff may be unaccustomed to the appraisal and performance management processes used in the UK, can find highlighting professional development a useful way to help people adjust early on to a different way of working.

One example from a large school in the Middle East, where some staff are not used to having formal performance management or appraisal, so school leaders have tried to reframe the approach to focus on professional growth and evaluation. The professional development leader carries out a needs analysis at the start of the school year, and then designs and publishes a professional learning calendar. The school has a quality assurance and observation cycle, which focuses on identifying areas for development.

CPD as a retention strategy

As all education leaders know, retention of staff remains a major challenge with a just under a third of new teachers leaving after five years [i] in the job and serious shortages in several specialist areas.

However, professional development opportunities can act as a powerful incentive to stay in a role, even when other pressures are intense. In 2016, the NFER report Engaging Teachers: NFER Analysis of Teacher Retention [ii] showed strong interaction between teacher ‘engagement’ and retention, where engagement measures included their own professional development as well as aspects such as reward, recognition and school culture. Some 90% of engaged teachers were shown not to be considering leaving the profession compared with 26% of disengaged teachers, indicating that being engaged in the role and school has a positive impact on teachers’ desire to stay. The positive impact of ongoing professional development on retention is an underlying principle of the Early Career Framework [iii] (ECF) where prioritising CPD is seen as a way to combat the ‘culture shock’ that early career teachers experience when they lose the support of training and mentoring they had in higher education.

CPD in schools, continued professional development, Continuous Professional Development

Furthermore, teachers and school staff can be encouraged through professional development throughout their career. Offering training and mentoring to support staff through changing circumstances – whether in the school or wider education system – can prevent staff from becoming demoralised in the face of new challenges, whether they stem from rises in behaviour issues, the ever-changing use of technology in the classroom, or an increased demand for SEND and pastoral support.

Step by Step in East Sussex, an independent SEND school for children with autism, and a BlueSky client, offers each child a personal curriculum tailored to individual needs. Due to its location and growth in demand, the school has faced challenges with recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of staff with the specialist skills required and has therefore made CPD a strategic priority in order to widen their recruitment reach.

“Step by Step has a strong emphasis on evidence-based teaching strategies,” says the head, Gayle Adam. “Our mission is to ensure that we’re giving our pupils the very best education possible, so we implement many research-driven teaching strategies and we support our people to do continued professional development, such as a Master’s degree or PhD.”

Let staff decide their CPD strategy

Key to professional development as a retention strategy is agency: the extent to which staff feel they can decide CPD goals and how to achieve them. NFER’s 2020 research with the Teacher Development Trust into teacher autonomy [iv] found that “teachers’ perceived influence over their professional development goal setting was the area most associated with higher job satisfaction and a greater intention to stay in teaching”

In practice, this means leaders recognising that professional development amounts to much more than ensuring staff are doing the same training packages – ‘one-size-fits-all’ rarely works for staff, any more than it does for children, even if the economies of scale offered by mass training events are appealing financially.

Enabling staff to set their own professional development goals and design their own programme – supported by mentoring and professional dialogue, properly evaluated and aligned to the school’s improvement objectives – puts them in control, builds a sense of professional responsibility and can reinforce their commitment to the school, meaning they are more likely to stay into the medium and longer term.


If development tailored to the individual is the way forward, how do we know whether it is having an impact on teaching practice? Read our next blog ‘How do we evaluate the impact of CPD?’

In the continuing circumstances of low staff availability, it is even more important that schools have processes in place to nurture and retain staff. Read our guide to reflect upon current practice in your school, and consider how BlueSky can support retention and succession strategies.


[i] Long, R. and Danechi, S. (2022) Teacher recruitment and retention in England, UK Parliament. (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

[ii] Research, N.F. for E. (2023) Engaging teachers: NFER analysis of teacher retention, NFER. (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

[iii] Evidence review: The effects of high-quality professional development on teachers and students, Education Policy Institute and Ambition Institute, February 2020

[iv] Research, N.F. for E. (2023b) Teacher autonomy: How does it relate to job satisfaction and retention?, NFER. (Accessed: 07 November 2023).

Tamsin Denley

Author: Denise Inwood
CEO & Founder, BlueSky

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