Step by step, Diverse Academies is transforming its schools. In this series we are invited inside the process.

Diverse Academies based in Retford is in the middle of moving towards an effective collaborative learning community across its network of schools. This transformation is very much a work in progress.

Jamie Tegerdine, Strategic Lead for Teaching, Learning and Professional Development at the Diverse Academies Trust, is steering the schools through the transition. Over the next three articles he will explain how Diverse Academies is learning to adapt to this new way of working.

This series is based on a presentation Jamie made to the Trust’s leadership team in July 2022.

Growing our people  – Personal Improvement Plan (PIPS) to Personal Development Plan PDPs – an evolution not a revolution

Who are we?

Diverse Academies (https://www.diverseacademies.org.uk/) consists of 14 academies – six secondary, six primary and two special – across Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. We also have a shared sixth form centre facility in Hucknall, which is managed in partnership with the National Church of England Academy. The Diverse Association for Professional Learning (https://www.diverseassociation.org.uk/) provides professional development programmes for the education sector including working closely with OLEVI (https://www.olevi.com/) for more than ten years, facilitating programmes and training facilitators and coaches.

To prove or improve?

In September 2022 Diverse Academies evolved its approach to people development from the PIP (Personal Improvement Plan) to the PDP (Personal Development Plan). Whilst on the surface this seemed like a simple re-branding of the same old appraisal system, there was a more deep-rooted rationale that we believed would enable us to more faithfully follow our trust values of: ‘we empower, we respect, we care’ and to shift our culture from the previous ‘I want to prove…’ to ‘I want to improve…’

Out with the old (but let’s keep a few parts)

Our well-used PIP appraisal system would be familiar to many school leaders. It was originally paper based, then in later years moved to a succession of IT-based systems before settling into Bluesky (https://blueskyeducation.co.uk/) for recording and reporting purposes. In some respects, it was a traditional appraisal system based on the linear, annual (September to September) model of staff setting a number of objectives and actions. This was followed by a mid-year face to face review to see how they were going, then an end of year review appraisal to check how they had performed.

As the PIP system matured it evolved to contain elements of coaching and therefore became developmental as well as judgmental. This change in approach and ethos resulted in a professional growth culture. However, we believed that the perception of the process was still very much one of compliance rather than challenge and support – ‘I need to get my PIP done!’ was the phrase that you would hear around deadline day. In between these key dates, the PIP would sit in its metaphorical ‘box’ until the day came to review it and put it to bed.

Of course, the main shift needed wasn’t the recording/paperwork side of the process. It was a shift in the culture of how we talked about role modelling and approached the process. We knew that staff needed more autonomy over their professional development. And we understood that we must clearly communicate WHY we asked staff to write objectives, think deeply about their professional development and to use coaching as a tool to help them grow.  The advent of the Covid 19 pandemic accelerated our thinking because setting objectives focused on data outcomes such as exam results which were heavily modified became not just undesirable but also unworkable.

What we are trying to achieve?

The aim was to move from a compliance, data driven system of appraisal to a more sustainable, developmental, coaching based model of people development with compliance and capability sitting as separate policies. We wanted all staff to:

  • Be empowered to grow in their role
  • Have a level of autonomy over their professional development
  • Have a positive impact on the children, families and adults they work with
  • Have a sense of satisfaction and wellbeing in their work and, ultimately, to stay working in education!

The diagram below illustrated the changes we hoped to make when evolving from the PIP to the PDP. It can be seen that the centre of each circle changes from accountability (PIP) to personal growth (PDP). The action also shifts from intermittent recording of outcomes (blue skies) to ongoing formal and informal coaching. It also shows that in the PDP technical, leadership and coaching are the key components which were omitted from the old approach. The size of the symbol illustrates their relative importance.

We used this diagram, alongside other resources, to help communicate the changes we desired and to help our leaders model and communicate it to their teams (Kotter’s 8 steps for change leadership were a big influence throughout).

Jamie Tegerdine

Strategic Lead for Teaching, Learning and Professional Development – Diverse Academies Trust

September 2022


We’re still in a period of adjustment as we come out of Covid, which makes it difficult to judge the impact of approaches to school transformation on pupils’ public examinations. However, in the past twelve months the vast majority of the schools in the Diverse Academies Trust have received an inspection from OFSTED. The results of these have encouraged them to believe they are on the right track to achieve the collective transformation of their school system.

We would like to thank Jamie as the author and David Cotton, CEO of the Diverse Academies Trust for sharing their work with us and wish them continued success in a period of English education that presents significant challenges, with increasing pressure on the resources provided to support their ambitions.

Take care and stay safe

George