Placing professional development at the top of the agenda

Calls for government action

The TDT celebrated its second anniversary, this week, in the Commons. Jointly conceived by David Weston,a former maths teacher and Mark McCourt formerly   a senior Director at Tribal , the TDT  is now seen as an influential player, which  crucially has access to the higher echelons of the education establishment .The TDT raises awareness of the vital importance of professional  development and develops resources and partnerships to help  teachers and school leaders to transform their practice, ‘ thereby  achieving success for all their pupils’.

The Trust says that too many teachers still experience mainly one-off professional development in the form of one-day courses, lectures or written texts.  Indeed as little as 1% of these are ‘transformative’, in other words, able to sustainably improve teaching, while just 7% of schools and colleges evaluate the wider impact of professional learning on student outcomes.  In many of these institutions, the choices of partners and suppliers remain frequently non-systematic and ad hoc. So its all a bit hit and  miss.

The TDT now has some significant funders and a strong Board of advisers and Trustees

Lord Andrew Adonis ,the former Minister of State for Education, has just joined  the Trust as its  Honorary President . Sir John Holman, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at the University of York and Senior Education Adviser to the Wellcome Trust, joins its Board of Trustees, as the incoming Chair

While the TDT detects a movement  in the profession towards greater collaboration, sharing of resources and considerations around evidence-based practice, and a desire for professional development that is effective  and has  measurable impact, their  recent research has raised concerns that the outcomes of children and young people in England are being negatively impacted by the barriers facing the professional development of our teachers,  limiting their ability to find and  access high quality CPD. Indeed, there is no support they say ,for a systematic approach to choosing CPD suppliers.

The Trust’s Annual Report findings, , revealed  that despite 83.6% of schools stating that the continued professional development (CPD) of staff directly  impacts student attainment, a staggering 53.4% (rising to 60% for secondary schools) have found it harder  to meet teachers’ development needs in the past 12 months because of financial pressures on the school.

Accountability measures in England are also influencing decisions around how to develop our teachers and leaders. Almost one in five secondary schools felt pressured to complete CPD in response to accountability  frameworks such as Ofsted, league tables, data requirements and safeguarding, compared to one in eight  Academies and one in 10 schools nationally.

The report though has exposed gaps in schools’ strategic decision-making with cost considerations moving to the centre of many decisions around professional development rather than the impact on pupils – with some schools stating there is no budget available for external support.

Its vision is for the system is one ‘where teachers are engaged in continual professional development, prioritised by school leaders within schools and colleges who exist within national networks of professional learning.’ The Trust wants action.  It believes the government should:

1 Fund the creation of a national database of leading practice.

2 strengthen the role of Teaching school alliances in brokering support and partnerships for schools.

3 embark on a national communication drive to promote the findings from professional learning research.

4 contribute toward an ‘incubator’ organisation to prepare the ground for a new royal college of Teaching.

5 Facilitate discussions and provide funding around new  professional career levels.

6 Build confidence and capacity at the Department for education to facilitate and support system-led improvement in professional learning.

7 prepare for a future personal entitlement to professional learning.

8 Increase the funding of research into effective professional development and effective knowledge sharing

It is a somewhat ambitious wish list, and it might have been better to prioritise and  focus on a narrower set of objectives to start with,  that are bottom up rather than top down. But this is an ambitious organisation with some cross  party  clout and momentum behind it, so its easy to understand why they have chosen this approach.



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