Next July will mark three years since the government introduced its package of support to respond to the Covid pandemic. A key component of that support has been the investment in teacher development through the Early Career Framework (ECF) and in fully-funded National Professional Qualifications (NPQs). In terms of the whole education budget it is a modest investment, but it is vitally important in two ways.
First, it is proof that the government cares about teachers and leaders. Governments and politicians of all party affiliations make positive statements about supporting the profession, but through the investment in the ECF and NPQs this government has put its money where its mouth is. This is so important at a time when attracting people into teaching seems harder than ever.
Second, the evidence is clear that investing in effective professional development is the surest way of improving what happens in schools, at the front of the classroom. Put another way, investment in professional development is not just an investment in teachers – it is an investment in improving the outcomes for children, especially those who are most vulnerable. This is precisely why investing in professional development formed an integral part of the education recovery package.
The investments in the ECF and in fully-funded NPQs are at an early stage of their impact. These are not – nor have they ever been – short-term projects. Rather, they are long-term investments in individual teachers and leaders, in the very profession itself. We are already seeing the benefits of these investments in the classroom practice of thousands of teachers, in the leadership decisions of heads and their teams up and down the country.
We all know that these are precarious times for teacher recruitment and retention. The latest data shows the continued challenges of attracting people into the profession and in encouraging them to continue teaching into the medium and longer term against the backdrop of the cost of living crisis.
We are seeing an increase in stress and other wellbeing-related health issues as teachers and leaders find themselves stretched to cover more and more work. There are multiple reasons for this – reasons that we have different views on – but we all agree that the investment in recent years in the professional development of teachers is a positive that we wish to see retained in the future. As well as providing direct development for teachers, the investments also help to maintain a wider network of support for schools, including teaching school hubs.
The current programme of support – and the qualifications it has paid for – have helped tens of thousands of teachers already. Next spring the final cohorts that are currently to be funded will start their NPQs, and the wider profession is beginning to wonder what might come next.
We are all clear that a continuation of funding in teacher professional development beyond the current planned investment – that is into the 2025/26 academic year and beyond – will help to ensure that the impact of the ECF and NPQs can grow, especially important against the backdrop of the current recruitment and retention challenges.
As all those involved in considering the case for future investment reflect on what happens next, we want to say – clearly and directly – that continuing to support the professional development of teachers is essential.
Otherwise we risk losing the benefits that investments made in the ‘golden thread’ have already begun to deliver – not just in terms of teacher development but also in terms of recruitment and retention.
This article is jointly authored with
- Susan Douglas CBE, CEO, The Eden Academy Trust
- Geoff Barton, General Secretary, ASCL
- Patrick Roach, General Secretary, NASUWT
- Dan Sandhu, CEO, Education Development Trust
- Nigel Genders CBE, Chief Education Officer, Church of England
- Professor Sam Twiselton, Emeritus Professor, Sheffield Hallam University
- Dame Alison Peacock, CEO, The Chartered College of Teaching
- Kate Wilson, Executive Director, LLSE
- Marie Smith, Director of Education, Future Generation Trust
- Sir Steve Lancashire, Ex-CEO, Reach2
- Kat Howard, Executive Director, Core Education Trust
- Hilary Spencer, CEO, Ambition Institute
- Jo Evans, CEO, St Christopher’s Academy Trust
- Sharron Philpot, CEO, Victoria Academies Trust
- Gavin Booth, CEO, Infinity Academies Trust
- Andy Newell, MD, Iris Connect
- Haili Hughes, Director of Education, Iris Connect
- Kate Atkins, Professional Development Lead, Synergy Multi-Academy Trust
- Gemma Alldritt, Learning Institute Director, Severn Academies Educational Trust
- Anna Butler, Executive Lead for People and Development, Mowbray Education Trust
- Ian Anderson, CEO, Skinners Academy Trust
- Mike Ion, Education Director, Avanti Schools Trust
- Angela Rodda, Deputy Director, Saffron Teaching School Hub and Assistant Headteacher, Saffron Walden County High School