The government’s response to the career progression consultation is full of thoughtful ideas and welcome suggestions, but more funding is still necessary, writes Dame Alison Peacock
At the Chartered College of Teaching, we hear every day from our members about the fantastic work they are doing and the challenges they face. If our profession is to take pride in itself, we need to see teachers at all stages of their career receiving the right support and development.
And whilst some of the proposals in the Department for Education’s QTS and career progression consultation earlier this year appeared to present some challenges, I am heartened today to see that the proposals which will be taken forward are those which will make the biggest difference for our teachers and the children they support every day.
A longer induction period, with appropriate professional learning and high-quality mentoring support, will help to strengthen the foundations for early career teachers, but should also set a high standard and high expectations for what professional learning and mentoring should look like throughout a teacher’s career. Of course, the implementation of this period is critical – we do not want to see it adding to a teacher’s workload or putting them under undue pressure. That would negate the many benefits it can provide.
Teachers deserve to be valued for their expertise and hard work
It is also positive to see that QTS will still be awarded at the completion of initial teacher training, acknowledging the quality of practice teachers will have already developed by this point.
There are many encouraging signs for later in teachers’ careers, too. With our own chartered teacher programme (CTeach) we are already beginning to recognise the knowledge, skills and behaviours of excellent teachers. Since our first 140 participants set out on the programme, we have heard first-hand just how valuable it is for the profession to have a rigorous, accredited programme focused on classroom expertise. We are therefore pleased to see clear commitment to developing specialist qualifications and pathways that complement CTeach.
I am also heartened to see the government’s commitment to researching and promoting flexible working. Excellent teachers need to be encouraged to join and stay in the profession. We want to see schools supported to develop their working practices, and teachers with different experiences, commitments and circumstances being valued.
The prospect of teacher sabbaticals to work in industry or undertake study or research is exciting, too. They are more than just a reward for long service – they have the potential to play a really important role to improve recruitment, retention and skills in the profession and provide a huge capacity-building opportunity.
The benefit extends beyond the individual, and will ripple through their schools, as well as the organisations they work with during their sabbatical; our teachers have a huge amount to offer! The commitment to fund a £5 million pilot of teacher sabbaticals is therefore a welcome step, but this funding will need to be continued, and indeed increased, if the pilot is successful.
And it is funding that remains the critical question. Extending the induction period for new teachers to two years, with an associated extension of timetable reduction, will come at a cost, as will provision of strengthened mentoring and the new early career content framework.
Schools cannot be expected to bear these costs. A true commitment to the profession and to improving teacher recruitment, retention and development will require substantial and sustained government funding. Neither can these proposals be looked at in isolation from, or as a substitute, for a concerted effort to tackle teacher workload issues and raise the status of profession.
But I am left feeling positive. Teaching is a challenging but hugely rewarding career, and we have an amazing body of teachers doing life-changing work in the classroom every day. From the first time they set foot in a classroom they deserve to be valued for their expertise and hard work and given the opportunities and the time to progress and learn. And of course, the chartered college is committed to helping this to happen.
Dame Alison Peacock is chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching