Peter TwiningVital's Peter TwiningVital, the continuing professional development service created by the Open University in 2009 to support teachers with ICT has had its funding renewed until 2013.

That partial funding from the Department for Education (DfE) may have been reduced to £1.2 million (the service started with £5.65m, followed by £2.5m in 2010) but the extension is seen as government recognition of effectiveness of the programme and the importance of ICT and CPD for learning and teaching.

The challenge for Vital, and for the Open University which is responsible for the project, is to come up with a sustainable self funding business plan by 2013 when there will be no more DfE funding. One of Vital’s key performance indicators (KPIs) is to become self-sustaining, and being awarded further funding is a good indication that they are currently on track to achieve that.

Indeed Vital is understood to have consistently met and exceeded its KPIs on engagement, subscription and impact. It emerged at a time when the ‘broadcast’ form of CPD had been generally discredited as ineffective, and the last national programme, funded by the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) was not considered a success.

The Open University, with its depth of experience in both online and face-to-face learning, and appropriate blends of the two, was an ideal home for the project. And it has been marked by innovative approaches, like exploiting the engagement and popularity of TeachMeets (and supporting their spread), or making available a library of Kindle readers, iPod Touches and Kinects to explore new ways of working.

The service is based on recognition of teachers as the experts in education; Vital’s role being to support teachers in sharing that expertise more effectively. Vital’s subject portals provide information about high-quality teaching resources on the web and guidance about how to use them effectively. Its In-house Professional Development Partnerships support schools and colleges in maximising the impact of staff expertise in meeting institutional objectives.

Commenting on the funding news, Vital’s director Dr Peter Twining, who is a senior lecturer with the Open University, said: “Being awarded a further £1.25 million by the DfE in the current climate is surprising and a huge vote of confidence in Vital and our new In-house Professional Development Partnership model. It gives us time to demonstrate the effectiveness of this radically different approach to CPD, which we believe will transform the staff development landscape in education and help restore the status of teachers as professionals.”

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Coming soon: interview with Peter Twining on the challenges and changes in continuing professional development.

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