When I was an NQT, my school promised me I would receive a full induction programme of a half-day per week to help me improve in my chosen vocation. It comprised an assistant head showing me how to take a register. That is all.
Thankfully, CPD has improved exponentially since then. But to many in the profession there is still a great deal that is lacking and could be improved. And that’s why the Harris Federation has come together with three other leading school trusts to create the National Institute of Teaching (NIoT). We share the view that, while there is already some great CPD out there, our profession deserves and requires a new approach. So the NIoT will be research-led, evidence-based, with a national reach but regionally run, and with a central structure to ensure appropriate oversight and challenge.
Crucially, all of our provision, including at degree level, will be school-led. Teachers will learn from the best teaching practitioners in every phase.
Each of the four founding school trusts – Harris, Star Academies, Oasis Community Learning and Outwood Grange Academies Trust – will lead in one phase of CPD but will offer all phases in our own regional campuses. These will each work with a coalition of schools (from all sectors), teaching school hubs and delivery partners so that, together, we shape and support the training offered.
Our four trusts have formed a charity, the School-Led Development Trust to deliver this, working in partnership with schools and partners across the country. Our coalition comprises 12 associate colleges and 13 specialist partners and already reaches nearly 10,000 schools. This number will grow and our coverage widen once NIoT is up and running from September.
But why does the system need a National Institute of Teaching? England already has a diverse range of high-quality teacher training provision, with university departments of education and schools offering some or all of the ‘golden thread’ of professional development from initial teacher training through to national qualifications for executive leadership. Well, until now there has been no school-led organisation offering all of this with university status and degree-awarding powers. Likewise, there has been no organisation tasked with undertaking real-time research on what genuinely works.
A key focus for the institute will be delivering CPD in the ‘cold spots’ across the country where outcomes for pupils are historically low and where schools find it hard to attract and retain the best teachers. By receiving high-quality national training at a local level through a broad coalition of expertise, no teacher should feel they are missing out on successful CPD, wherever they are in the country.
Working in historic cold spots must become a worthwhile opportunity for ambitious teachers and a meaningful step on the professional ladder without having to sacrifice access to the best CPD.
Simultaneously, the existence of the institute will make it easier for schools struggling to recruit in the 55 cold spots to employ specialist subject teachers rather than generalists, knowing they too will be able to access the best curriculum-based training.
While the institute’s focus is on teacher training, its ultimate success will be judged on pupils’ outcomes. Currently, the best-practice research that teachers in England rely on is based heavily on studies from the US. We need to build the datasets that allow us to learn more about the impact of different approaches to teacher development on the pupils in our schools. As a national body, NIoT will do so. This will be a huge step towards ensuring that high-quality, school-led training benefits children across the country.
Thirty years ago, everyone knew that something needed to change in recruiting graduates into our profession, but little changed. It took the creation of Teach First to make that seismic difference. The National Institute of Teaching needs to deliver an equivalent step change and more. We are all determined that it will do so.