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Early Years CPD

23 Feb 2021

Early Years CPD



This blog will discuss the importance of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in light of the reforms to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). It will help you to better understand the expectations for CPD through three sources: the EYFS framework for Early Adopter Schools, Dr Julian Greniers’ Working with the Early Years Foundation Stage document and the Fostering Effective Early Learning (FEEL) Study. If you want to read more about the reforms you can explore these blogs that expand on the changes to the ELGS and development matters


  • CPD Meaning
  • Early Adopter Framework 2020
  • Julian Grenier
  • The FEEL study
  • CPD challenges 
  • Summary
  • Top Tips


CPD Meaning

This blog will often mention Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and Professional Development (PD) so let's begin by explaining what we mean by them. 

There is no big difference between the two apart from CPD is already underlining the idea that professional development is a process rather than a tick-box, because it is continuous

CPD has many different forms and is not a one-off, even though it is sometimes treated like it. It can be any moment you spend reflecting on your practise. It is a process where you think about gaps in your knowledge or needs in your setting and how you will work to make  improvements, whether it be through professional discussions or exploring new ideas in webinars, there are many ways to continuously develop.


Early Adopter Framework 2020

CPD has always been important in order to continuously improve teaching practise, and ultimately support children’s learning in the best way possible. The importance of accessing effective CPD is highlighted under ‘Staff qualifications, training, support and skills’ in the Framework. 

“Providers must support staff to undertake appropriate training and professional development opportunities to ensure they offer quality learning and development experiences for children that continually improves.’’  

Ofsted will also be looking for how effective a setting’s CPD is and the impact it is having.

What does effective and high quality CPD look like? It can be made up of a range of reflection and learning such as engaging with videos, articles and being part of regular discussions around practise. Each setting should have their own approach to CPD and staff should feel confident talking about their learning and the impact it has on their practise and their children.

It is also important that practitioners take time to develop their knowledge of the new reforms and ensure they know what is changing and what that will mean for them and their setting.


Dr Julian Grenier

Dr Julian Grenier, Headteacher of Sheringham Nursery School,  addresses Professional Development in the chapter ‘Improving quality’ in his “Working with the Early Years Foundation Stage”. 

He identifies that “Effective early years settings are always ambitious to become better” and highlights that PD is a process, “It needs to be seen as a year-round activity, not a one-off event.” He offers suggestions of how this process can look and that it is vital to start with self-reflection, by exploring your individual context and asking yourself: 

“What do children bring to your setting? What do they need you to offer them? What does your assessment information tell you about the progress children make?” 

These questions can help you to identify areas for improvement and find the needs that are particular to your setting and your children.

After identifying your aims “you are ready to plan your Professional Development programme”. As PD is seen as a process it is vital to think of it in a long-term capacity and that to be successful it “will run over a whole year, or the majority of the year” and have each practitioner “engage in at least 20 hours of training in total.” 

These 20 hours he makes clear do not need to be made up of 20 hours of input, but might be a mix of staff sessions, “self-study and online learning, discussion, mentoring or coaching, and peer support.”

He highlights the value of focusing on practice, and making sure the theory is transferable to everyday teaching, while using observations and coaching as an opportunity to reflect on the changes that have been made and ensure learning is being put into action.  Effective CPD can be created by making sure sessions are “engaging and practical” so that it is clear what new ideas will look like in reality. 

Julian then illustrates what the implementation process could look like, with a cycle that begins with exploring your context, then preparing the programme of learning and support, delivering consistent sessions (to add up to 20 hours) and finally sustaining the impact by reflecting on support needed to ensure the best results.

He summarised that Leadership and Management need to particularly understand the value of PD being planned carefully. It should rely on effective research and evidence, and should be reviewed regularly over a long-term period. It can include “Peer feedback, regular support, videoing and reflecting on your own practice, mentoring and coachingwhile focussing on putting learning into practice.

Finally, Julian ends the chapter by suggesting key questions you can ask yourself as you reflect on your curriculum and makes reference to a number of documents for further exploration into PD. We will do just that as we investigate one of his references, the FEEL Study.


The FEEL Study:

What is it and why is it important?


The Study

The FEEL study was carried out in order to better evidence the positive impact of professional development. It was divided into three phases of professional development input across 7 months. It was carried out with a wide range of early years settings and the impact was measured against settings that did not receive the PD intervention. They measured impact through these environmental quality rating scales: the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale - Extended and the Sustained Shared thinking and Emotional Well-being scale. These scales can be used to assess areas of growth as well as reflect on the impact of interventions.



The intervention programme was called ‘Leadership for learning’. The content was decided according to overall needs of the settings and the programme continued to be responsive. It did so by collecting feedback and using the feedback to update their intervention to ensure that the input was relevant. The intervention included teaching on the environmental rating scales, quality pedagogy, the importance of high quality interaction, sustained shared thinking and ways to support and extend language development. 

The intervention also developed the practitioners PD skills by giving them opportunities to practice and evaluate interactions, support their critical analysis and improve planning for changes in practice. They encouraged each practitioner to make their own individual adaptations, so that it would work for them and their practice.



The study successfully proved that PD interventions could positively improve child behaviour, development and learning outcomes as well as staff development.



Many key elements of the study support Dr Julian Grenier suggestions in improving quality. Such as the need for PD to be viewed as a long-term process (around 20 hours), that it needs to be evidence-based and help educators link theory to practise. The long-term process allows time for practitioners to apply new learning in their settings and then reflect on its impact.

This element of reflection is key in developing a CPD program for your setting. It is important to continuously reflect on what is working and what is needed for improvement to carry out effective CPD and see the positive impact in the long-term.


CPD Challenges

Many leaders are concerned about the challenges of time and money when it comes to planning long-term CPD.

Hopefully if this blog has shown you anything it is that successful CPD is based on building a reflective culture and mindset. It's true this will take some time but if you are able to see CPD as a reflective learning process that ultimately helps your children learn the best way they can, then it can be a great investment of time. The more that CPD becomes part of your everyday practise the less time-consuming it will be. CPD does not need to be overly expensive either and by different types of learning resources effectively, professional development can be achieved on a budget.



These reforms pose many challenges as they introduce change to your everyday practice, but with this change comes an opportunity to rethink CPD as you reflect on areas for improvement and how to address them. 

Change can feel overwhelming so don’t forget you are not alone and the Early Years community is a supportive one. A great example of this is the Early Adopters facebook page which is a safe place to pose questions and explore documents to guide you through the changes. I have also set up a new community of support especially for Early Years CPD, so please come join us to keep up to date.

Finally I will leave you with some top tips to take away when planning CPD.


Top Tips 

  • Plan CPD with a clear structure (short and long term)
  • Create the process/plan together: make sure everyone is involved in planning it
  • Identify needs (teachers and children)
  • Engage with evidence-based research
  • Put theory into practise with hands on learning
  • Reflect and share experiences 
  • Use reflection to adapt and improve CPD


Questions to help you get started

  • What does your current CPD practise look like?
  • Is it regular? 
  • How do you reflect on it? 
  • Do you find it useful? 
  • Is it impactful, how do you know?


Think I missed something or have a question? Feel free to get in touch with me at julia@onestepcpd.com 



OneStep CPD champions authors, teachers and pedagogists through our strategies, allowing everyone to test ideas and adopt what works. Our blog does the same, providing a platform for anyone with an interest in education to share good practice and great ideas.

All opinions are those of the author and not necessarily OneStep CPD.

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