From education to employment

Professional standards – supporting our professional development

Andrew Dowell & Paul Tully

82% of respondents to the Education and Training Foundation’s (ETF) Membership Matters research said that inspiring learners, changing lives and making a difference was what mattered most to those working across the FE and training sector.

This is no surprise and reflects what we see day-in, day-out across the sector – individuals and organisations working tirelessly to deliver in a climate of pandemic recovery, which brings with it a whole set of challenges. This recent sector consultation provided valuable insights on the sectors’ needs and wants, with 30% of respondents highlighting the importance of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for professional growth. High-performance, retention and career development were also recognised as key priorities.

The impact of COVID-19 on staff and students, and the need for the sector to rebuild and repair emerged as a clear theme in the research, with focus groups accompanying the research mentioning this as a key concern: “The pandemic and the impact this has had on FE and Training is still being felt across the sector. We need to build learner trust and engage with the more harder to reach.” Local authority worker, North East

Those working in the sector mentioned the knock-on challenge of dealing with students’ mental health and behavioural challenges, as well as managing their own stress and mental health. “Mental health of young people post-pandemic. We are already seeing the effect and I think this is just the start.” While we look after learners, it is key that we look after ourselves so that we can continue to support them – you can read more about the resources available to support you in this area in this recent article.

Maintaining and improving standards is key to how we best support learners, and to how we can support ourselves in our development as professionals. In 2014 the ETF produced the third iteration of Professional Standards for the FE and Training sector which aimed to support teachers and trainers to improve standards of teaching and learning, for the benefit of learners. In 2019, the ETF’s survey to assess their impact on the sector showed that three quarters (73%) of the 602 respondents used the Professional Standards with around nine in ten (87%) saying that these had made a difference to their professional practice.

New Professional Standards reflect the sector post COVID-19

In 2020, the arrival of COVID-19 pandemic provided a major impetus to review the currency of the ETF’s Professional Standards. The review was informed by stakeholder listening exercises, by the Practitioner Advisory Group at the Society for Education and Training (SET) and considered the changing landscape of the FE and Training sector.

It addressed many areas such as the need to help teachers with rebuilding learners’ confidence, independence and critical thinking. It also aimed to strengthen social inclusion by signposting the importance of learner progression and social mobility, and gave a more prominent role to education for sustainability (ESD) and learners’ digital literacy skills. It was clear from discussions with the sector that the need to support learners with appropriate advice, guidance and job readiness skills was also seen as a crucial aspect of the sector’s role, including an ongoing need to collaborate with employers and the higher education sector to plan learners’ next steps.

Involvement of the sector, their partnership and collaboration were essential to our approach when conducting the review. This has been warmly received by our FE and Training colleagues who believe the revisions have accurately reflected the changing role of the modern educator across the sector.

“Embedding the Professional Standards in our practice has been a real strength for us. The benefits are coming through now in a variety of ways, not only through teaching but also in encouraging staff to undertake research here at West Suffolk College”

Senior leader at West Suffolk College

Treat yourself to some CPD

Highly popular with over 40,000 views since their launch, the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers have already generated enormous interest and act as the gateway to the full range of Professional Standards resources on offer for the sector. This includes a new set of Professional Standards for Leaders and Managers, which were launched in September 2022. Together, the Professional Standards, self-assessment tools and accompanying resources on our site offer a complete career development framework for those working in the Further Education and Training sector.

The resources offer educators and leaders a more in-depth understanding of how to use the revised Professional Standards. For example, we have recently released a series of audiogram interviews that explain the underpinning meaning of each standard. These interviews complement our guide to the use of the professional standards.

The Professional Standards make an important contribution to high-quality CPD. They are a tool to stimulate professional development conversations, providing guidance for individuals and managers on what constitutes effective teaching practice.

With the season for giving rapidly approaching, let’s not forget to prioritise ourselves and our professional needs. Only when we are at our best can we do the best for our learners. Why not give yourself the present of planning your professional development, using the ETF’s CPD Mapping tool which aligns our CPD offer to the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers.

2023 will continue to bring new opportunities and challenges for the sector. To support you through these and to help you further embed Professional Standards in your practice we are currently piloting a set of Activity cards to support discussions around the Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers.

By Andrew Dowell, Head of Professional Status and Standards, and Paul Tully, National Head of Education Governance, ETF

Contact the ETF customer service team to find out more at [email protected]  

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