Take Control and Make Your CPD Work For You

Do you feel that there is so much CPD available that you do not know where to start? Or that nothing is on offer at all? Perhaps you know exactly what you need but do not know where to find it. Or you just want some help to point you in the right direction.

In this blog Laura Williams helps you to negotiate the CPD minefield to help you work out the best approach for you so that you take control of your development and find the best CPD to suit you.

With over 15 years leadership experience in the education sector, Laura is a school leadership coach and trainer working with SBLs, Headteachers and CEOs. A former COO, CFO and Business Manager she is a school business leadership expert and champion of SBLs everywhere.

Where to Start?

Reading this blog many of you may think “Well yes, I know I should do that” but so often we just do not take the simple steps. Planning your career will need investment – both time and financial, in some cases – but you have nothing to lose and it will take you forward to a place where you want to be. It will also help you to find out what CPD is available to suit  your learning style. The wonderful thing is that your career is in your hands and you have control.

Career Mapping – The First Step

Have you ever been in an interview and been asked “Where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?” I have and honestly there are times when I have just not had a clue. In reality, we should have a goal in mind – even if that goal is to stay where you are. If you do want to move you will need a plan that will map out where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.

Career mapping does not have to be detailed and there is no hard and fast route to your goal. I think of it like putting a destination in a SatNav; you know where you want to go, however, you do not have to get there immediately.  You can take the scenic route, have a few stop-offs on the way, if you find a more appealing route then re programme and have an adventure – but always have that end in sight.

How do you make decisions about accepting responsibilities taking on a new role or whether it is the right time to move? It is about active choices. Who you are and where you are today is about what you chose to do but also what you chose not to do. Taking on new responsibilities can be scary particularly if you feel comfortable in your current role. I took on responsibilities before I really knew what I was doing and spoke up even when I was not sure I was saying the right things. However, by taking action I kept on moving even if I did not know what was coming and even if I got it wrong. By taking the risk, I learnt a lot about myself, about the role and where I wanted to go. So do not be afraid of taking risks and taking on challenges.

When mapping your career there are some key questions that you need to ask yourself:

What motivates you? Think about what you stand for and what you enjoy doing.

What do you not like doing? There may be things that you are not good at but need to get better at. Perhaps you need to find a role that does not include that one thing you do not like.

What environment suits you? What organisation do you want to work for? Are you looking for large corporate style MAT with a central team, or do you prefer working in a school setting?

What is the logical next step? There might be more than one step. For example, if you are working in a Local Authority school but want to be a CFO in a MAT then it is about Academy experience, specialising in finance – you need to take a few steps before you get there.

What else do you need to know to make a decision? Maybe you do not have all the information right know to make the decision but researching your end goal and what is required is key to ensuring you take the right steps.

Time to make a Plan

Once you have answered these questions you can start to formulate your plan. You will now understand what you want to achieve, the role you want and your knowledge/skills gaps. This will help you to select the CPD you need and how you can create opportunities in your current role to reach your end goal.

I would also suggest that once you have your plan then TEST IT OUT. Speak to a colleague, a friend of someone in your network who has more experience to see if it is realistic. They may have insights that they can share, particularly if they recruit for the role, you are interested in. Ask them what they would look for in the role and what sort of qualifications, skills and experience would strengthen your application.  

Make sure that you CHECK YOUR PLAN regularly to see if anything has changed, whether it is moving in the right direction, if progress has slowed or you need to amend anything.

Career Progression

There is both internal and external career progression. If you are moving forward in your school and there is a clear path then using your Head to support you is a very good idea so that they understand you are serious about your role. Moving internally is not easy as it can be adjustment for you and your team as they may need to see you as a more senior colleague and this will change the dynamic.

Equally moving school comes with its own challenges particularly if you take on a more senior role in a different context. School Business Managers, however have a huge array of opportunities within the educational environment either as a specialist or a generalist so you will never be short of choice. Here are just a few examples:

  • Different context: you can work within a Local Authority School, Academy, Special School – there is a large variety
  • Size of school: moving from a large school to a small school or working with a MAT
  • Phase of school: moving from a secondary to a primary or vice versa
  • Generalist/Specialist: again you may want to choose to specialise in certain areas particularly in a larger MAT.  
  • SRMA
  • Other education organisations i.e., ASCL, NAHT, DfE, ESFA, Ambition Institute

The three strands of CPD

To promote progression and career development CPD is key. We think that CPD is a luxury that we cannot afford and other people are more deserving but that is not true. You pay a major role and you need to have the skills and knowledge to do that role and to progress. Your CPD should be in three strands:

  1. CPD to brush up your skills to keep up with your current job.
  2. CPD to acquire new skills or further enhance existing skills to deepen your knowledge in certain areas such as, for example, finance or HR
  3. CPD for skills that you need acquire for your next role.

There are different types of CPD the most obvious being qualifications and conferences. However, the range is wide and varied including webinars, local networks that run CPD events, on line courses which can be skill specific and not necessarily related to education. I would also recommend mentoring and group coaching.

Other valuable sources of CPD include visiting other schools, stepping up to cover a role, taking secondments, taking the lead in a project or delivering in house training to improve your presentation and public speaking skills or becoming a School Governor. This is an underrated but crucial role and sometimes sitting on the other side of the table can be a very valuable experience.

I would not suggest that you do all of these things all of the time but pick and choose which are of most value to and apply them to your career plan.

The Three Crucial Questions

The final three questions that I will leave you with to help you to finalise your plan and understand what CPD you need are:

  • What are you looking to gain from undertaking CPD? Building credibility, achieving accreditation or meeting requirements of employment in your current and future roles?
  • What is your learning style and preferred learning environment? Do you prefer to work in a classroom, in small groups or large groups, on line or one to one. Do you learn on the job and over a prolonged time. Do you like structure and detail or do you prefer flexibility?  
  • What investment are you prepared to make? Are the finances available, are you paying or is your employer and if so, are you bounds by terms and conditions? Do you have the time to invest and will CPD come at a cost to your work life balance? Will you have to make compromises? You will need the support of your employer to manage your workload.

If I can leave with you with one final thought, always refer back to your career plan to make sure that you are doing the right CPD, delivered in the right setting for you to get you where you need to go and keep moving forward.

For further support and information from Laura you can Subscribe to Tuesday emails for weekly updates, listen to School Business Leadership Podcast available on Apple, Spotify, Google and Amazon, follow Laura on Social Media: @lauraljbusiness on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter or visit her Website for blogs and free resources. You can also find out more about Laura’s coaching community got to www.sblcoachingcommunity.co.uk.

We also did a Webinar on this very subject and this is available on our website now via this link.

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