To teach, to learn: More effective continuous professional development for teachers

This report by James Kempton of CentreForum has recommendations for improving the quality of teaching through a commitment to continuous improvement in teachers’ pedagogical skills, understanding of learning and child development, and subject knowledge.

The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers and their work.

Andreas Schleicher, OECD [note 1]

Executive summary

The quality of teaching is what matters most to improving the education system. It is therefore astonishing that there is currently no expectation that teachers undertake a structured programme of certified and accredited career long continuous professional development (CPD). Indeed so bad is the situation that it is hard to justify much of the current CPD practice as either ‘continuous’, or ‘professional’ or even ‘developmental’.

This paper argues that the best way to improve the quality of teaching is through teachers making a commitment to enhancing their pedagogical skills, understanding of learning and child development, and subject knowledge within a culture of continuous improvement. The most effective way to achieve this change is to give teachers more responsibility for their CPD.

The first step to making this happen should be for the teaching profession to sign up to the aim of developing its own system of post initial teacher training (ITT) qualifications, CPD obligations and revalidation or recertification processes. A Royal College of Teaching (RCOT) is not essential for this but would be the most obvious body to oversee this process. It follows that each teacher should have an individual CPD plan. Schools would need to satisfy themselves that such a plan existed for each of their employees but would not be expected to approve its contents.

There are a number of sources of support for teachers in understanding their training needs and how best to meet them. These would include RCOT, subject associations and universities. Teaching school alliances and others have an important role and should seek to foster learning communities of teachers across their network of schools. The introduction of specialist school based teaching and learning staff and departments is also worthy of further investigation. Another body with a key role is the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) which, alongside funding and publishing high quality research, could take on the role of supporting teachers in the application of research into classroom practice. To support this new CPD regime, the government should encourage schools to pilot a system where teachers have access to a budget to contribute towards the training costs involved and an allocation of time in which to undertake this training.

Recommendations

  • The teaching profession should sign up to the aim of developing its own system of post initial teacher training qualifications, continuous professional development (CPD) obligations and revalidation or recertification processes.
  • Those developing plans for a Royal College of Teaching should give detailed consideration to the role it could play in professionalising teacher CPD and to how quickly such arrangements could be put in place.
  • Every teacher should be required to have an Individual CPD Plan. Schools would need to satisfy themselves that each member of their teaching staff had a properly drawn up plan but would not be expected to approve it.
  • The remit of the Education Endowment Fund should be extended to include a wide-ranging responsibility for encouraging the evaluation, dissemination and application of research into classroom practice.
  • The government should encourage schools to pilot a system where teachers access a personal budget to fund their CPD costs and an allocation of time in which to undertake it.

About the author

James Kempton is an associate director, leading CentreForum’s work on social policy. A former council leader, teacher, medical royal college chief executive and management consultant, James has worked extensively on public services reform, with a particular focus on education and social mobility policy. He is chair of Islington Community Theatre, a trustee of Music First, a governor of New North Academy and a fellow of the RSA.

[1] A Schleicher ‘The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers', Journal of Teacher Education March/April 2011 vol. 62 no. 2 202-221.

Read the full report