Ipswich Opportunity Area Workforce Development Programme

The Ipswich Opportunity Area Workforce Development Programme was launched in 2018 and ran for three years, finishing in 2021. The Programme provided funding to educational settings in Ipswich to access professional development and was intended to encourage networking, peer support, and the sharing of learning between educational settings across all phases. The Workforce Development Programme (WDP) worked with the Teacher Development Trust (TDT) to support and enable settings to audit, evaluate and develop a tailored plan for their continuous professional development (CPD). Schools that completed the audit process were awarded funding through the Ipswich Opportunity Area (IOA) Programme to enable them to commission and deliver their CPD plans.

In 2019 the IOA Programme commissioned SQW to conduct an independent evaluation of the WDP. The aim of the evaluation was to assess the extent to which the IOA process of supporting schools to identify teacher development needs, and the provision of funding to support those needs, was associated with improvements (or likely future improvements) in teacher satisfaction, teacher retention and educational outcomes.

The evaluation ran between April 2019 and December 2020 and included a series of qualitative interviews with a range of stakeholders (including the delivery partners TDT, and the Department for Education), a comprehensive analysis of school CPD audits, exploratory interviews with senior leaders in participating schools, detailed case-studies with a sample of schools and the design and delivery of two online surveys (one for teaching staff on their satisfaction with their school and with CPD provision, and one for school leaders on the impact of COVID-19).

The WDP was introduced in a period when educational settings in Ipswich were facing multiple challenges, each putting a strain on their resources and finances. Furthermore, the lockdown period triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, which coincided with the final few months of Programme delivery, had an impact on the settings’ ability to deliver CPD, affecting all face-to-face programmes and requiring a movement of training online.

Notwithstanding these challenges, the evaluation found that, overall, there was consensus amongst participating senior leaders and teaching staff that taking part in the Programme was a worthwhile investment of time, with a number of strong positive outcomes. 

  • For some of the participating settings, the Programme appeared to have been a driver for change, improving their perception and understanding of CPD and their approach to CPD planning.
  • In other cases, the Programme appeared to have been an agent for change, transforming their ability to deliver CPD and enabling senior leaders to move their staff development plans forward.
  • All of the schools and colleges who participated in the evaluation reported that they had become more strategic and considered in the planning of their CPD programmes.

A key strength of the Programme was the initial audit process, led by TDT. It was said to have helped sharpen senior leaders’ thinking around CPD planning, supported the development of CPD programmes that were better aligned to settings’ needs and supported wider school improvement. The key challenge for the settings, nonetheless, was the extent to which the changes made to CPD processes and plans would be sustainable without external funding support.

The WDP provided an opportunity for the local authority to capitalise on the learning and good practice that had been achieved through the Programme. One possibility could be the development of a local system and coordinated CPD opportunities and activities across educational settings in the area. Such coordination has the possibility of leading to economies of scale in the inter-institution commissioning of CPD and promoting greater collaboration and networking between local schools and colleges

For the detailed review of the findings please see our full report here.