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What is CPD?

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) describes the wide range of learning activities that school professionals can engage in throughout their careers to develop their expertise in being able to support and educate children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). Professionals should regularly undertake CPD to ensure that their knowledge and skills are both up to date and effective.  

Primary school children sat on the carpet in group reading with a teacher holding out a book

CPD in more detail

In the video below. Dr Graeme Dobson (University of Birmingham) and Dr Helen Curran (Bath Spa University) discuss CPD and the current landscape in more detail.

Title screen of the video titled "Continuing Professional Development and the current landscape" Large black block text on a white backround




Examples of effective CPD activities

The guidance below provides examples of a range of activities to help school professionals identify opportunities for, and methods of, CPD. This is to ensure that CPD for SEND is proactive and based on a range of experiences. The categories are not exclusive and can be complementary. Some of the activities listed under each heading could equally be listed under another.

Effective CPD should always be balanced. It should:

  • Build Knowledge
  • Motivate staff
  • Develop teaching techniques
  • Embed practice

(Education Endowment Fund, 2021)

Building knowledge

In order to develop knowledge of SEND, policies and procedures, there are different forms of CPD that people can engage in. Delivered learning often involves training and courses that are delivered by others, whilst self-directed learning is where individuals may seek their own information or knowledge.

Group of professionals sat in a conference setting with a speaker standing at the front delivering content

Delivered Learning

These forms of CPD involve being directly ‘trained’ by others on courses or similar activities.

Examples include:

  • Courses run by external providers in or out of schools
  • Further or higher education courses.
  • Conferences or professional events.
  • Courses accredited by a professional body.
  • Webinars and short online courses.
  • In-service training.
A person sat on a grey sofa in front of an open laptop with headphones on taking notes on a notepad

Self-directed Learning

These forms of CPD that may be independently undertaken, often alone.

Examples include:

  • Reading journals or articles
  • Reading books
  • Specialist websites
  • Writing articles or papers
  • Involvement in research
  • Social media


Develop Teaching Techniques and Embedding Practice

Often described as ‘on the job training’. This is where people can learn though observation or working with, or alongside others as part of their day-to-day role. These activities often follow on from, or incorporate, delivered or self-directed learning.

Group of primary school children in red uniform gathered around a computer with their teacher

School-based learning

These are forms of CPD where school staff can learn as result of their school-based activities.

Examples include:

  • Lesson study
  • Consultation with specialist staff
  • Observing colleagues
  • Being mentored
  • Peer review
Group of professionals sat at a table having a discussion, there is water and note pads on the table with one person taking down notes.

Professional activities

These forms of CPD are where individuals can learn through their engagement in a professional role.

Examples include:

  • Supervising student teachers.
  • Delivering school-based training
  • Auditing and/or reviewing provision
  • Planning training
  • Coaching others

Strategically planning CPD

In the video below, Alex Grady, Head of Whole School SEND and Dawn Cranshaw a Whole School SEND Regional SEND Leader discuss the work of Whole School SEND and effective school approaches to CPD.

Title screen of the video titled "Effective school approaches" Large black block text on a white background


Your SEND CPD Journey

The SEND Development Pathways are largely based around free-to-access CPD resources (including those produced by Whole School SEND (WSS), consortium partners and other organisations).

The SEND Development Pathways seek to expand on the SEND Knowledge Tool by supporting staff working in mainstream and specialist settings to identify and secure the knowledge and skills they require to be effective in their current role, or to prepare them for their desired role.

4 adult professionals talking around a table

Download "Continuing Professional Development in SEND" Resource

Content on this page and more detailed examples of different forms of CPD can be found in this attachment which can be downloaded and shared with your colleagues and networks.,
Continuing Professional Development in SEND

Download “Understanding school workforce experiences regarding access to, and the impact of, special educational needs and/or disability (SEND) continuing professional development (CPD) and expertise” report CPD for SEND

A report of the occurrence of different forms of CPD in schools and the experiences of school staff can be found here. This can be downloaded and shared with your colleagues and networks.
School workforce experiences of SEND CPD
Logo of University of Birmingham, Bath Spa University, Whole School SEND, nasen and UKRI