Giving teachers an entitlement to training and development would boost pupil attainment and may stem exodus from the profession, new study shows @EduPolicyInst

  • Major study shows providing teachers with an entitlement to high-quality continuing professional development (CPD) would boost pupil attainment by two-thirds of a GCSE grade and increase future earnings.
  • Overall a £4bn programme delivering high quality CPD could generate a net societal benefit of £61bn – provided the policy is rolled-out effectively at a national level.
  • Offering a CPD entitlement of 35 hours a year to teachers could also boost retention, resulting in up to 12,000 extra teachers remaining in the profession each year.
  • Teachers in England currently participate in little CPD by international standards – 43 hours a year compared to the OECD average of 62 hours. Many programmes fail to meet government quality standards – just 11% did in a recent pilot.
  • The government should deliver on its pledge to put teacher development at the heart of its forthcoming education recovery programme, and continue to consider policies which improve the quantity and quality of teacher CPD.  

Providing teachers with a right to high-quality training and development would boost pupil attainment and earnings, and may tackle retention problems in the profession, a major cost-benefit analysis study from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) commissioned by Wellcome has shown.

While continuing professional development (CPD) can be important to ensuring teacher quality and progression, there is currently no formal entitlement to high quality support offered by the government.

Teachers in England currently participate in less CPD than their international counterparts, while the quality of CPD programmes on offer often fails to meet government standards.

The new report finds that a well-implemented policy of 35 hours a year of high quality CPD for teachers would lead to significant benefits for pupils, including an extra two-thirds of a GCSE grade – improving their lifetime earnings by over £6,000.

The EPI cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that in total, a CPD entitlement programme costing £4bn would generate a net societal benefit of around £61bn through higher earnings – a benefit 19 times the cost. However, these considerable gains are dependent on the policy being rolled-out effectively on a national scale.

In the immediate term, a policy of CPD entitlement could also significantly improve retention, leading to up to 12,000 extra teachers remaining in the profession a year. A retention boost of this scale would help to ease the Department for Education’s recurring recruitment problems. Typically, it falls short by around 3,000 teachers a year.

The government is currently exploring plans for improving the CPD offer for teachers as part of its long-term plan to tackle learning loss experienced by pupils as a result of the pandemic.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced this month that training and development for teachers would be “central” to the government’s wider education recovery plan, which is currently being led by the Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins. The plans are expected to be unveiled by the Prime Minister in the coming weeks.

As the government formulates this long-term programme to support both pupils and teachers, today’s study provides timely evidence of the high returns generated from well-implemented, high quality teacher CPD.

You can read the full report here.

Key findings from the new study

Professional development can be crucial for teachers, but the quality of programmes is mixed and England lags behind other countries

  • Secondary school teachers in England spend on average just 43 hours a year on CPD –well below the OECD average of 62 hours a year.
  • Despite teachers in England undertaking less CPD than their international counterparts, they still do more than the proposed entitlement of 35 hours each year. However, it is likely that the majority of CPD currently being provided in England does not meet the criteria for high-quality CPD. A recent Wellcome CPD pilot showed that just 11% of CPD taken up by teachers met the government’s quality criteria.

Giving teachers a formal right to high-quality CPD would bring significant returns to both pupils and teachers

  • Introducing a formal entitlement for teachers in England to 35 hours of high quality CPD a year would generate significant benefits for pupils over time in the way of education and employment outcomes.
  • If a pupil started school when the entitlement policy for teachers was introduced, by GCSE level it would lead to an extra two-thirds of a grade – which in turn translates to extra lifetime earnings of over £6,000 per pupil.
  • Overall, taking earnings into account, a programme of 35 hours a year of high-quality CPD for teachers costing £4bn would generate a net societal benefit of around £61bn through increased earnings – a benefit 19 times the cost.
  • In the short term, a policy of CPD entitlement could also significantly improve retention, leading to up to an estimated 12,000 extra teachers remaining in the profession a year.
  • This retention boost has the potential to reduce a significant proportion of the 40,000 teachers who typically leave the profession every year.  A retention boost of this kind would also help the Department for Education meet its teacher recruitment targets, which it usually falls short of by around 3,000 a year.
  • There is some evidence suggesting that improving access to high-quality CPD for teachers could improve both teacher and pupil wellbeing – but this is difficult to quantify, and more research is required to establish this.

But to deliver these benefits, a CPD entitlement policy for teachers would have to be rolled-out effectively by the government

  • The benefits of an entitlement policy are however highly contingent on the policy being implemented effectively by the government. To realise the full extent of these benefits, a CPD entitlement policy at a national level would have to be implemented as effectively as existing, smaller-scale CPD programmes.
  • Any reduction in effectiveness compared to those programmes would dramatically reduce the potential benefits of the policy.
  • The most important element of implementation of the policy is the quality of CPD seen by teachers, rather than the quantity. Identifying high quality CPD is crucial for effective implementation. Better government data on teacher CPD is required to monitor the impact of any CPD policy changes – current data for England does not indicate the proportion of CPD which qualifies as high quality.

Commenting on the new research, James Zuccollo, report author and Director for School Workforce at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

“Providing training and development to teachers is crucial to ensuring quality and stability in the profession, but teachers in England engage in far less professional development compared to other countries and many programmes fail to meet the government’s own quality standards.

“Our research shows that high-quality professional development could prove cost effective. If the government can get the delivery and quality of the programme right, such an entitlement would significantly boost pupil attainment and future earnings. In the short term, the policy also has the potential to halt a large number of teachers leaving the profession.

“Government reforms to teacher training and the development of new professional qualifications are a step in the right direction, but it must continue to improve access to high-quality professional development to realise the benefits shown in our research. We hope that positive reforms to professional development are included in the government’s long-term education recovery programme.”

Nan Davies, Education and Learning Lead at Wellcome, said:

“This is an important and timely report from the Education Policy Institute. Supporting teachers to participate in career-long professional development to ensure the best possible outcomes for young people is essential, and even more so as the UK ‘builds back’ after the pandemic.

“The study illustrates very clearly the significant potential benefits of entitling teachers to 35 hours annually of high-quality professional development, which makes a compelling case to embed this in government policy.”

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

"The NEU agrees that a boost to the amount of high quality CPD teachers receive would be extremely welcome by the profession and a good step in improving retention. We have long called for teachers to be valued as professionals and the right CPD at the right time is key to this. 

"However, there are many factors at play in teacher retention. Teachers and leaders will wonder when they are going to find the time to engage in good quality CPD in a working week that is already over-full and driven by accountability processes which do not enhance pupil learning. 

"For schools to offer effective CPD to all staff, the government must make a specific and realistic financial commitment; schools are cash stretched and therefore time poor. Decisions to agree time out of class for CPD, no matter how valuable, are made on financial considerations, the training cost itself and the cover needed. 

"However, a set number of CPD hours is at risk of becoming a tick-box exercise. The best CPD is focused, timely, and based on the individual’s needs and aspirations. It comes in many forms and a range of options neds to be available for teachers throughout their careers. Our members tell us that too much time is taken up with learning how to implement the latest government edict, or on courses with limited value for their teaching. Any entitlement based on hours must allow for a broad range of learning for teachers and must include opportunities to evaluate the impact of their CPD on their pupils' learning." 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said:

“There is a growing consensus that continuously improving the quality of teaching is likely to have significantly more impact on educational recovery than headline grabbing 'add-ons' to the school day. The best contribution to supporting 'catch-up' that government could make is to value and invest in the school workforce.

“NAHT's School Improvement Commission recommended that government should introduce a funded entitlement to high quality professional development for all teachers and leaders. This report provides further evidence to show the significant returns that this would bring to pupils and teachers alike.”

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