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Staff deployment & development

Improving the quality of teaching through staff deployment and Continuing Professional Development (CPD).


As Rauch and Coe (2019) explain, ‘The quality of teaching is arguably the single most important thing that teachers and school leaders can focus on to make a difference in children’s learning. The difference between really good teaching and less effective teaching makes more difference to learning than any other factor within school. High-quality teaching narrows the advantage gap. Crucially, it is also something that can be changed: all teachers can learn to be better (Wiliam, 2016)’. Maximising the quality of teaching through the effective deployment and development of teachers and teaching assistants will therefore be at the top of any school’s priorities.

Guidance Reports

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Toolkit strands

Evidence Summary

It is widely accepted that CPD can play a crucial role in teacher development and that it can lead to improvements in teacher practice. Recent reviews have also suggested that CPD can have a significant effect on pupils’ learning outcomes, and may well be a particularly cost-effective route in comparison to other interventions. Aside from pupil outcomes, high-quality CPD may also positively impact teacher-level outcomes, such as retention, confidence and knowledge.

However, despite its importance, it could be argued that we do not yet have a clear understanding of what constitutes high-quality CPD and how to deliver it. While numerous reviews have considered this question, results are often contradictory, from a non-English context, lacking in methodological rigour, or specifically focused on particular subject domains. It has therefore proven difficult to reach clear conclusions on what high-quality CPD looks like. 

The EEF is therefore currently conducting a review of Professional Development, which will lead to the publication of a Guidance Report in Autumn 2021.

 In the meantime, the new National Professional Qualification frameworks, which were quality assured by the EEF, provide a series of useful statements for what we can currently say with regards to what effective CPD looks like. These include:

  • Effective professional development is likely to involve a lasting change in teachers' capabilities or understanding so that their teaching changes
  • Professional development should be developed using a clear theory of change, where facilitators understand what the intended educational outcomes for teachers are, and how these will subsequently impact pupil outcomes. Ideally, they should check whether teachers learn what was intended.
  • Whilst professional development may need to be sustained over time, what the time is used for, is more important than the amount. 
  • More effective professional development is likely to be designed to build on the existing knowledge, skills and understanding of participants.
  • The content of professional development programmes should be based on the best available evidence on effective pedagogies and classroom interventions and aim to enhance capabilities and understanding in order to improve pupil outcomes.
  • Teachers are more likely to improve if they feel that they working within a supportive professional environment, where both trust and high professional standards are maintained.
  • Supportive environments include having the time and resource to undertake relevant professional development and collaborate with peers, and the provision of feedback to enable teachers to improve. They also include receiving support from school leadership, both in addressing concerns and in maintaining standards for pupil behaviour
  • Professional development is likely to be more effective when design and delivery involves specialist expertise from a range of sources. This may include internal or external expertise.
  • Teacher developers should choose activities that suit the aims and context of their professional development programme. Successful models have included regular, expert-led conversations about classroom practice, teacher development groups and structured interventions. However, these activities do not work in all circumstances and the model should fit the educational aims, content and context of the programme

Teaching Assistants: The EEF guidance report, Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants, presents the best available evidence regarding the deployment and development of teaching assistants. The report makes seven evidence-based recommendations to help schools maximise the impact of teaching assistants (TAs), and is accompanied by a range of supporting resources. 

Previous research has shown that, in many English schools, TAs are not being deployed in ways that improve pupil outcomes. For example, TAs replace, rather than supplement, teaching from qualified teachers. However, there is a growing evidence base – including independent evaluations of six EEF-funded projects – which suggests that when they are used to deliver structured programmes with high-quality training and support, TAs can have a positive impact on pupil learning. 

Promising Projects

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Nuffield Early Language Intervention

University College London and ICAN

grade promising project

Improving spoken language skills in young children around the time that they start school

Evidence Strength
Impact (months)
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James Zuccollo and Harry Fletcher-Wood published a review of professional development in 2020, which examined 52 randomised controlled trials evaluating teacher development programmes, in order to establish their impact on pupil and teacher outcomes. It found that ‘high quality’ CPD can have a significant positive effect on pupil outcomes, and this effect is cost-effective. 

The National Professional Qualification Frameworks provide a very useful summary of what leaders should know about effective professional development. 

You can download our 'Putting Evidence to Work - A School's Guide to Implementation' guidance report here and our 'Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants' guidance report here.