The Welsh Assembly Government has taken a lead on recognising the individual professional needs of teachers. Gary Brace, chief executive, General Teaching Council for Wales, explains.

Background

In 2002, the General Teaching Council for Wales published its seminal advice document on CPD Continuing Professional Development: An Entitlement for All. This set out the principles which should underpin teachers’ CPD and raised the issues that would need to be addressed to make those principles a reality. The Welsh Assembly Government asked the General Teaching Council for Wales (GTCW) to take the lead, working with its partners, in developing a Professional Development Framework for Teachers in Wales.

The shape of that framework has been developing incrementally and two stages of advice have been submitted to the Assembly, in July 2005 (on professional milestones and standards) and July 2006 (on professional development, recognition and accreditation). In essence, the framework seeks to put into effect the principles set out in the 2002 advice.

Practice in other professions

In 2002, GTCW commissioned UWIC/PPI to undertake a review of CPD in other professions in the UK and in teaching in other parts of the world. The review indicated that the types of learning embodied in the CPD of teachers was moving away from traditional formats to embrace a greater variety of resources and styles. This was even more pronounced in the other professions. In particular, much greater emphasis is placed on:

  • work-based learning managed by the learner
  • private study
  • undertaking research activities
  • supporting learning and learners.

The review indicated that the structure of CPD in other professions was more developed than in teaching, with more emphasis on generic skills such as the importance of management training, communications and financial acumen.  They also place greater emphasis on the personal/experiential dimension of CPD in domains such as personal skill, broadening experience and developing new areas of expertise to assure continuing employability or career changes within the profession.

Teachers’ responsibility and entitlement

The GTCW has set out the principle that all teachers should be entitled to high-quality and well planned CPD provision throughout their careers. However, along with an entitlement comes a responsibility to develop oneself professionally and to ensure that professional knowledge and skills are constantly updated. The Council’s Statement of Professional Values and Practice includes the following reference to professional development:

‘Teachers maintain up-to-date professional knowledge, understanding and skills and they reflect on their own practice. They recognise their own needs and take responsibility for their continuing professional development, taking advantage of the range of opportunities available to them. Teachers contribute to the wider development of the school and the profession.’

The GTCW also argued in its 2002 advice that teachers and employers had different but complementary responsibilities:

  • Employers’ responsibility for provision:
    Employers have a responsibility to provide professional development opportunities for teachers to support a broad range of priorities.
  • Teachers’ responsibility for individual reflection:
    All teachers have a responsibility to develop themselves as reflective practitioners. This involves identifying ways to improve their performance by reflecting on their work and by identifying new ways of working. In addition, by sharing their experiences with colleagues, teachers both disseminate their good practice and develop their own skills.

Teachers’ needs versus school/ government priorities

On the issue of teachers’ own professional priorities, the 2002 advice had a good deal to say on the matter.

The advice stated that one area that appeared to have been particularly neglected was individually focused CPD. Provision was mainly targeted at local or national priorities. There were far fewer opportunities for teachers to take advantage of professional development activities that met the individual’s own identified professional development needs.

The impact of those restricted opportunities, particularly in the area of individually focused CPD, created a culture where CPD was sometimes considered an imposition, rather than a desirable professional priority by many teachers. Excessive workloads on teachers and the consequent lack of time to engage in CPD activities reinforced this view. A major effort over a planned timescale was needed to change this perception.

Around this time, the assembly minister, Jane Davidson, also suggested that the balance in CPD may have ‘swung too far’ towards meeting national and local priorities at the expense of the individual teacher and that this needed to be redressed. She asked the GTCW to pilot approaches whereby teachers could receive funding to support their individual professional needs. Following a successful three-year pilot, the Assembly decided to mainstream this programme and the funding arrangements administered through the GTCW are now in their sixth year. Some 20,000 individual CPD opportunities have been funded to date. In2007-08, the budget will total £3m for teachers’ individual professional needs.

The current GTCW administered funding streams for CPD are:

  • professional bursary
  • teacher research scholarship
  • sabbatical
  • professional network
  • group bursary (currently a pilot).

The recognition of the legitimacy of the professional needs of individuals has fostered many debates, one of which is whether there is a clear distinction between individual development needs and school development needs. I have always taken the view that on occasions there may be a clear distinction between an individual’s need and that of the school, and that on other occasions there will be a good deal of synergy between the two – after all, teachers work in ‘school’ settings (however one defines ‘a school’) and are likely to be influenced in their professional priorities by the imperatives of the school.

In the ‘group bursary’ funding stream, teachers within the same school may work together in a professional learning community. This is part-recognition that individual needs and school needs sometimes overlap. This pilot funding stream builds on the principles of the professional network where teachers from different schools and LEAs work together.

A separate £6m budget is available to support new teachers in their induction year and years two and three (EPD) of their careers.

As far as funding of school, local and national priorities is concerned, there are separate, larger budgets and different funding routes. The Better Schools Fund (BSF) totals £37m and is for time-limited national initiatives and priorities. It is routed via LEAs according to a formula and based on LEA bids. LEAs put in 40% of total. The Assembly does not hypothecate its Revenue Support Settlement (RSS) to LEAs, but the RSS, supplemented by local revenue, forms the basis of delegated schools’ budgets, including teachers’ CPD. This rather indirect route to funding schools has led to accusations of a ‘funding fog’ as far as education expenditure is concerned. A recent National Assembly Committee review of School Funding reported on this matter and made recommendations for improving the transparency of the system.

Reconciling priorities – a framework of entitlement

Given the above, GTCW felt that it was essential to develop a flexible framework of CPD in which the expectations and responsibilities of all concerned were clearly laid out so as to provide equality of opportunity for all teachers in Wales. In effect, this meant a national framework of entitlement and opportunity.

The framework suggested by GTCW in 2002  highlighted the need for teachers to have professional development opportunities focused on three priorities – individual focused, school focused and LEA/nationally focused, as follows:

  • Individually focused:
    These activities should focus on a teacher’s own needs and be identified by the individual teacher as supporting their professional development and/or career objectives. Development in this area would, in most cases, directly benefit the school in which the teacher was currently employed by improving their practice as a teacher and thereby their contribution to their school’s performance and the quality of the education it provides. The professional development activities enable a teacher to make an enhanced contribution as a professional. There is a clear link between the performance management process as the vehicle for identifying need and the activities undertaken in this area.
  • School focused:
    These CPD activities should primarily be targeted at the requirements of the school which currently employs the teacher. The CPD requirements would be identified from the school development plan. By developing a clear link with the performance management framework and the school development plan, schools can ensure that teachers undertake professional development activities that directly impact on the school’s performance. In developing a CPD programme for teachers, schools need to consider the range of expertise and experience already available in their schools as well as external opportunities available. Teachers are often ‘hidden’ expert practitioners and sometimes ignored as a significant resource for providing CPD opportunities.
  • National/LEA focused:
    These CPD activities would meet the demands of national and local initiatives. They could involve activities organised on cross-school basis, such as cluster meetings, or around a national priority, such as the introduction of revised National Curriculum changes.

Turning this into practice – the role of performance management

Teachers are individuals and their strengths, weaknesses and aspirations will vary. The process of identifying professional and personal needs and career aspirations when providing appropriate CPD opportunities is done through the performance management dialogue, which is the means by which teachers and their team leaders can discuss, reconcile and agree the priorities for professional development. The final stage of work of the council in advising on the development of a Professional Development Framework involves looking at recording and self-reflection. The advice is due to be finalised in summer 2007.

Concluding thoughts

Underpinning much of the discussion above is respect for the professional judgement and position of teachers.      Recognising that teachers may have individual professional needs that may not always be the same as those of the school, local or central government is one illustration of such respect.

A key lead has to be given by government. It sends out the broad message and sets context. This lead has been given by the Assembly Government which has set the overall context for how the profession is conceived within Wales. In this, it has been influenced, supported and encouraged by the professional body, the GTCW. It has been taken up to a greater or lesser degree by LEAs and by individual school leaders. Those with vision have recognised that developing individual teachers is of benefit to the profession as a whole and will (even if only in the short term before teachers move on to their next posts) bring benefits for the individual institution in the form of more satisfied and motivated teachers.

This is an abridged version of a paper originally presented at the November 2006 symposium of the The Standing Committee for the Education and Training of Teachers (SCETT), ‘The New World of Education’.

References

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