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Continuing professional development

What is continuing professional development (CPD)?

Continuing professional development is any activity, formal or informal, that helps you develop skills and knowledge to help you professionally and personally throughout the course of your career. We believe that good quality CPD for school support staff is vitally important. CPD can be accessed and delivered in many ways including:

• training courses and workshops
• studying for a qualification or accreditation
• online courses/webinars/podcasts
• observation (as either observer or person being observed)
• shadowing a colleague
• mentoring
• peer group exchange, in person or via social media
• visiting other schools/colleges
• attending exhibitions and conferences
• international visits and exchanges
• self-reflection, personal reading or research.

Learning with UNISON

Learning through UNISON can help you develop your confidence, skills and knowledge to become more active and involved in issues that concern you, to help you tackle change & uncertainty at work, and to progress in your career or for fun and personal development. Our learning opportunities include the award-winning Return to Learn programme, provided by the union, and others provided through learning partnerships, negotiated with your employer and leading education providers. In all cases, you can be confident of receiving the best possible tuition and support. Your UNISON Union Learning Rep or Branch Education Co-ordinator will know about local opportunities through your branch.

Database of professional development resources

TDT Advisor is a free database of professional development resources operated by the Teacher Development Trust. UNISON has worked with TDT Advisor to create a curated list of selected listings from external providers across the country. This page - available exclusively to visitors to the Skills for Schools website - collates the listings we feel are most relevant to UNISON members, and which have been filtered by the Teacher Development Trust for their likely quality of delivery. Visit the page to view and compare the available training opportunities, and read independent reviews from other members of school staff across the country.The database is available here: bit.ly/1Rh3WJK

How should I use the listings? You can browse the listings and rank them according to their star rating, name, and latest items. The star ratings show the average score given to a listing by those who have publicly reviewed the listing. Click on any listing to find out more about providers' offerings and read the attached reviews. To search according to location, select "Location" from the categories on the right hand side and input your postcode. 

What should I bear in mind when choosing an external provider? A recent review of the international research into effective professional development, commissioned by the Teacher Development Trust, showed that effective professional development is focussed on student outcomes and incorporates a variety of design and content elements. Find out what constitutes effective professional development in our summary of the research here, including advice on which questions to ask providers before commissioning their support. 

See also:

UNISON contacts in your region for CPD

Further links

Help with funding

For details of what financial help is available locally, talk to your UNISON learning rep or the member of staff at your school responsible for staff development. UNISON members can also find out about financial support that may be available to them on the main UNISON website, including learning grants and Open University awards.

The Education Support Partnership have created a pilot fund to assist staff in education with the cost of education-related training. If you are looking for help in paying for continuing professional development, you may qualify for assistance. To find out more, please visit the Education Support Partnership website.

Also see our FAQs for more information about where to look for help with funding.

Search for school support staff courses

Use the course search provided by the National Careers Service to look for different types of learning opportunities. All providers are contracted with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and include colleges, training providers and local authorities. If you're not sure what to search for, have a look at the job profile most closely related to your job on the Roles in schools pages of this website for information about relevant qualifications, or use key words relevant to the job you are interested in, for example 'teaching assistant'. The National Careers Service offers advice about careers and skills in England. For careers advice in other parts of the UK visit: