Championing Teacher Ownership over Professional Development

February 5, 2014 12:19 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Lib Dem Parliamentary Party Committee for Education has published a new report on supporting teachers' professional development.

Lord Story, co-chair of the Committee and former Headteacher, who led the report said:

The Liberal Democrat ambition to realise the potential of every child has been at the forefront of Coalition education policy. Working in Government, we have delivered on our leading policies of the Pupil Premium, Free School Meals and free Early Years Education. Now, we are calling for a radical overhaul of continuing professional development for teachers.

Last year, the Liberal Democrat Education, Families and Young People Parliamentary Party Committee, which I co-chair, asked me to lead a working group to investigate why there is no nationally-agreed system or structure for continuing professional development for teachers, and what might be done to develop one. Today, we publish our findings here.

We heard evidence from the Teacher Development Trust, the Education Endowment Foundation, from teachers' unions, those in teacher education and from teachers themselves. Everything we heard suggests that teachers very much want to be part of a culture of life-long learning and continuous improvement. They want time to develop their pedagogy, subject specialism and expand their knowledge and skills. In short, teachers enjoy learning and want the opportunity to learn more.

As a long-serving former Headteacher, I find it quite extraordinary that qualified teachers working in state-funded schools remain under no obligation to undertake further training or development during a career that may well last thirty to forty years. Clearly, most teachers choose to go on courses, and all have to sit through training sessions organised in school; but there is no nationally agreed system, and no structure.

Our report calls for every teacher to be able to build an Individual Professional Portfolio and be given a personal budget allocation to fund their learning needs. Alongside our policy for all teachers working in state-funded schools to have or be working towards qualified teacher status, we also want the National Professional Qualification for Headteachers to become mandatory once again.

Above all, we want the teaching profession to take charge of its own development. A national framework for teacher learning, research and appropriate accreditation should be led by the profession, not centrally by government. Building this national framework could be one of first tasks and major achievements of a Royal College of Teaching.

Teacher ownership over continuing professional development is a crucial first step in raising the status of the teaching profession. A licensing system may be the next step, but this should grow organically by first giving teachers autonomy over their profession. Only then will teachers and learners be leading our education system, rather than politicians.