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Teaching Profession

Volume 594: debated on Friday 20 March 2015

The driving force behind the delivery of this Government’s plan for education is a world-class teaching profession. We share a common goal with thousands of dedicated professionals in classrooms throughout the country: of improving the lives of children and young people, and preparing them for success in modern Britain. We are committed to taking action that promotes and supports the development of the teaching profession.

In December last year, the Minister of State for Schools and I launched a consultation setting out what we believe Government can do to give teachers that support. Today we are announcing our plan of action designed to help teachers improve the quality of their professional development, and to strengthen the professional leadership of teaching overall. Alongside this we are publishing a report detailing the responses to the consultation that have led us to this plan.

The absence of a professional body, independent of Government, marks teaching out from other professions. We agree with the many teachers and school leaders who believe that the existence of such a body—set up and owned by teachers for teachers—could be a power for good in raising the professional status of teaching, and improving the development opportunities available to its members. What we have seen in other professions, such as law and medicine, is that their professional bodies’ play a leading role in advancing practice and we believe a college of teaching would be no different, becoming a key plank of our vision of a self-improving school led system. For that reason we invited expressions of interest from organisations seeking to establish a new college of teaching, and we set out our offer of Government support to make that new college a reality.

The Minister of State and I are today announcing that we intend to work with the “Claim Your College” consortium—a coalition of leading organisations in the education sector—in support of their proposal to establish a new college of teaching. The college of teaching is expected to be fully independent of Government, established and led by teachers. It is intended that its start-up costs will be met by a significant injection of Government funding, along with funding from a range of other sources. We, as well as the organisations and individuals leading this project, are clear that support must be offered wholly in recognition of the new body’s independence from Government. But if Government can play any part in facilitating this important step towards promoting the professional status of teachers and teaching, then it is right that we should do so.

In the longer term, a new professional body could play a leading role in the promotion of high-quality professional development for teachers. A commitment to high-quality, evidence-based professional development is one of the defining characteristics of all great professions. Teachers should be able to fulfil their own passion for knowledge and betterment by pursuing learning opportunities throughout their careers, enhancing their own practice and at the same time securing better outcomes for their pupils. Responses to the consultation, however, confirmed that teachers still face significant barriers in identifying and accessing those high-quality professional development opportunities, based on sound evidence of what works.

Recognising the critical importance of high-quality professional development, we proposed to support teachers with a new, high-profile fund for professional development programmes. These would be delivered under the leadership of the growing teaching schools network, and rigorously evaluated for impact. Programmes supported by the fund would help to ensure that many more teachers have access to high-quality development opportunities, particularly teachers working in those schools which have the greatest need for additional support.

This proposal was positively received. So we are today confirming that we intend to invite teaching schools to bid for funding—for projects worth up to £300,000 each —to deliver high-quality, evidence-based professional development. The growing reach of the teaching schools network, and the broad alliances of schools that they work with, will ensure that access to high-quality professional development opportunities becomes a reality for many more teachers. Our announcement today is for the first phase of this scalable fund, for which we are making up to £5million available in the first year. We will consider extending this amount based on demand and we hope that this step will be the first of many, helping build and secure a robust evidence base for teachers to draw upon.

Our proposal to work with the sector to establish a new, online portal to facilitate the sharing of evidence about proven approaches to professional development was also well received. We therefore intend to continue working closely with sector organisations to further explore how we might support the establishment and effective use of a new forum, not least to ensure that the rigorous evaluations of programmes funded through the Professional Development Fund become freely available to all teachers, in formats that will allow the findings to translate easily into practice. Doing so will help to ensure that, in future, teachers are able to make better-informed decisions about the professional development they undertake, based on evidence of what is proven to work in practice.

Alongside the consultation we also committed to establish an expert group tasked with producing a new standard for teachers’ professional development. This standard will set out a clear and succinct statement of the key elements of effective professional development practice, helping to shape both the demand for and supply of high-quality development opportunities for teachers. The Minister of State and I are pleased to be able to announce the appointment of David Weston, Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Trust, to chair the new expert group. We expect that the group will submit its report to Ministers early next year.

Copies of the consultation report will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.