A 35-hour a year CPD entitlement could stop 12,000 teachers quitting

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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Implementing a £4bn CPD entitlement for England’s teachers would generate a £61bn boost to pupils’ future earnings and could prevent as many as 12,000 teachers from quitting the profession, it is suggested.

A cost-benefits analysis commissioned by Wellcome concludes that a “well-implemented” policy of 35 hours a year of high-quality CPD for teachers would have “significant benefits” for society and schools, including raising pupils’ outcomes at GCSE and their future earnings, increasing teaching standards, and boosting teacher wellbeing and retention.

England is currently behind international averages when it comes to CPD. Across the OECD nations, teachers receive an average of 62 hours a year of CPD. However, in England secondary teachers get just 43 hours, while primary colleagues get 55.

The Wellcome trust is campaigning for a 35-hour entitlement for CPD that meets individual teacher need and is at least 50 per cent subject-specific (for more, see SecEd, 2020). It must also meet quality criteria as set out in the Department for Education’s Standard for teachers’ professional development (DfE, 2016).

However, while current CPD levels are above Wellcome’s 35-hour target, there are concerns about the quality of CPD that teachers are accessing.

A recent CPD Challenge run by Wellcome found that before joining the pilot project only 11 per cent of CPD taken up by the teachers involved had been at least 50 per cent subject-specific and had met the DfE standard, which states that CPD should:

  • Have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes.
  • Be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise.
  • Include collaboration and expert challenge.
  • Be sustained over time.
  • Be prioritised by school leadership.

The cost-benefits analysis, which has been produced by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) on behalf of Wellcome (Van den Brande & Zuccollo, 2021), finds that high-quality CPD for mainstream teachers has an average effect on pupils’ attainment of one month of extra learning across the year in which the CPD is undertaken.

For a pupil beginning school in the first year of the 35-hour CPD entitlement, this could mean an additional two-thirds of a GCSE grade over the course of their schooling. This in turn, the analysis concludes, could improve lifetime earnings by more than £6,000.

However, a key barrier is currently the quality of CPD. The report states: “Despite teachers in England undertaking less CPD than their international counterparts, they still do more than the proposed 35 hours each year. However, it is likely that the majority of CPD currently being provided in England does not meet all the criteria for high-quality CPD.”

It adds: “Overall, if implemented as effectively as earlier pilots such as the CPD Challenge, a policy entitling all teachers to 35 hours of high-quality CPD every year could increase high-quality CPD by nine hours per year, at a cost of around £4bn over 10 years, excluding set-up costs, and create a net societal benefit of £61bn over those 10 years.”

Harder to quantify, the report admits, is the benefit for the health and wellbeing of teachers and pupils. The report states: “Among the benefits we were unable to precisely quantify, the CPD entitlement may improve the health and wellbeing of both teachers and pupils, and reduce attrition from the teaching profession. The best available data suggests that around 12,000 more full-time equivalent teachers may remain in the profession each year because of the CPD entitlement.”

Co-author of the report, James Zuccollo, who is director for school workforce at the 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.”

Nan Davies, education and learning lead at Wellcome, added: “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.”

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