October 2021 edition: A New Season for Teacher Professional Development

A New Season for Teacher Professional Development

I like autumn. It’s a time of transition with fresh winds blowing change through the air. And change is afoot for teachers' professional development. This autumn sees the first delivery of the new and reformed National Professional Qualifications; the rubber hitting the road after several years of policy change and programme redesign.

At Ambition Institute, we’ve long made the case that investing in high-quality professional development is critical to the success of Schools and Trusts. Professional development is now, rightly, claiming its place at the heart of the school improvement effort. Evidence tells us that the quality of teaching is the single biggest lever, at a school level, we can pull to improve education, particularly for those children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s vital we do all we can to attract, develop and retain high quality teachers.

We’ve known for some time that teachers have the power to transform lives. There can be fewer things more important than developing teachers and creating the conditions where they can flourish.

Mel Hooson

This work has never been more important given the challenges that still persist around teacher retention in the system. As Nick Brook said in the NAHT 2020 School Improvement Commission:"Now is precisely the time to invest in the ongoing development of professionals throughout their careers so that teachers can thrive, and pupils can succeed.”

The national roll-out of the Early Career Framework as a dedicated programme for new teachers and their mentors, is a big step forward in structuring professional development for teachers early in their careers. Two major sector announcements in the last week will help us go further in keeping professional development right at the heart of education reform.

Firstly, the Education Endowment Foundation published new research which helps us better understand what it is about professional development that enables it to make a difference to pupil outcomes. The report cites 14 'mechanisms' which, when embedded into CPD make it more likely that the CPD will have an impact on pupil outcomes. The authors group these mechanisms into four categories: build knowledge, motivate staff, develop teaching techniques and embed practice. They report that professional development which has a 'balanced design' i.e. which includes at least one mechanism from each of the four categories, will have more impact along with more helpful insights for those of us with responsibility for professional development design.

The second major boost to teachers’ professional development is this week’s DfE announcement that all of the reformed new National Professional Qualifications (NPQs) are to be fully funded for every state school teacher or leader in England. This is excellent news for schools and trusts, who will now be able to offer these new qualifications to their staff, free of charge.

Alongside the Early Career Framework, the NPQs take us a step forward in improving professional learning for teachers and leaders. They will support educators at every stage of their career – from classroom teachers to those in leadership positions within large multi-academy trusts.

For me, one of the most exciting changes is the creation of the new specialist qualifications and, in particular, the NPQ in Leading Teacher Development.

So many teachers and leaders have responsibility for mentoring and supporting others. But teaching teachers is difficult and being a great teacher and being a great mentor, are different things. The specific knowledge and skills that are needed to be a good coach or mentor to others have to be learned and honed over time.

Even an expert teacher may have forgotten the steps that it took to get them there. The new NPQ in Leading Teacher Development breaks down the component parts of good teaching and gives participants the essential knowledge, skills and concepts that underpin successful teacher development. It sets out what those leading teacher development should know and be able to do within the specialist areas related to their role. It also covers how to put new approaches into practice.

At Ambition Institute, we’ve had our team of expert designers thinking really hard about the most important concepts and insights from research that should form the NPQ curriculum and have built these into a flexible learning platform to help teachers learn in a way that suits their schedules. Our curriculum has been built in such a way which allows participants to connect theory to practice using deliberate practice to help participants use the ideas in context, with support from peers. We’re excited about the opportunity to work with colleagues nationally across our reformed NPQ programmes and to continue to learn more and improve further in the future.

We’ve known for some time that teachers have the power to transform lives. There can be fewer things more important than developing teachers and creating the conditions where they can flourish.