A partnership between a school and a university can enhance teachers’ professional development, by gaining them accreditation for work done in the classroom. Steve Merrill and Gill Yates explain the benefits

‘It has been suggested that morale is low in schools and some colleagues are experiencing a crisis of confidence. Perhaps professional development and partnership has a particular role to play here to the benefit of all stakeholders and to maintain a real and lasting impact across the whole curriculum.’ (Keating, 2001)

In recent years professional development has been seen increasingly as a continuum of teacher training and lifelong learning for the wider-school workforce and its scrutiny under Ofsted has ensured that it should become an integral feature of school policy.

The pace of change in education and changes in the curriculum, in particular, have made it inevitable that teachers need to update and develop their skills. With the advent of such initiatives as threshold payments, performance management and self-evaluation, it has become increasingly desirable for schools to form partnerships with universities to systematically enhance professional development.

An example of this is the partnership developing between Edge Hill University and Ormskirk School, both based in Ormskirk, Lancashire. As senior lecturer at Edge Hill and professional development coordinator at Ormskirk School, we have spent the past year working in close harmony to develop and enhance our partnership.

A new culture of CPD
We recognised that the nature of professional development had changed over the past decade. Disappearing were the one-day courses that were expensive and had dubious impact on the teaching of learning. Alan Child, a senior lecturer in professional development at St Martin’s College of Higher Education, Lancaster, has stated that the culture of CPD must move away from the concept, too readily accepted, that CPD activity revolves around the one-day off-site course. Teachers tend to measure the success of such courses on the two criteria of ‘menu and venue’. As a profession we have now moved into providing more sustainable professional development that recognises and accredits the everyday work of the school workforce. For many schools, this has been achieved through the creation of partnerships with a higher education institute.

At Ormskirk the partnership with Edge Hill has allowed teachers to develop higher-level skills in their classroom practice, which enhances teaching and learning. Teachers are now better placed to respond to change through their own reflection, resulting in improved standards for our children and young people.

Targeting groups
We decided that the way forward was to target specific groups. The first group was the NQTs, who were offered the opportunity to do the module ‘Beginning a Career in Teaching’. All the NQTs registered for this module, which would provide university accreditation for their career entry development profile, supported by a reflective account of their experiences.

The second group to be targeted were the mentors, both curriculum and professional. Ormskirk School has a large cohort of mentors both within curriculum areas and from a professional point of view. Recently 10 mentors registered for the module ‘The Role of the Mentor’, again recognising and formalising what in the past has been considered the everyday work of teachers. To gain accreditation, the mentors were required to submit a portfolio of evidence and a discursive piece of writing (1,500 words) demonstrating critical reflection on their understanding of educational literature linking theory with practice.

The module is part of Edge Hill’s professional programme, leading to a certificate of professional development. It can also be used as a first step towards postgraduate study, either an MA in mentoring or a generic MA in education.

Currently, all teachers at Ormskirk School are considering particular projects that they are involved in, such as curriculum development, assessment and small-scale research. Again, accreditation is available for these in school projects.

Enhancing opportunities
Through the partnership there are opportunities for collaboration to support and enhance teachers’ professional development, leading to opportunities for evaluation of, and reflection on, new school initiatives and other school-based work. Through the Edge Hill modular scheme accreditation can be used at postgraduate level up to Master’s qualifications. Edge Hill University and Ormskirk School will continue to agree appropriate individual and group projects and provide support for writing assignments. Ormskirk School also provides that important ingredient of time. NQTs have identified days to work on their assignments individually and collaboratively, leading to group reflection.

Teachers will provide evidence that will be presented for accreditation as agreed between the school and Edge Hill. This evidence will, as far as possible, use work already being done by the teacher; the intention being to minimise the amount of additional work in their busy lives and provide accreditation for naturally occurring evidence. The following are some examples of accreditation evidence:

  • Presentation to staff or governors (eg briefing paper, PowerPoint).
  • Curriculum audit.
  • Small-scale research project with staff or pupils (eg case studies).
  • Scheme of work.
  • New curriculum materials.
  • Evaluation of impact on teaching and learning.

As we move to a profession that will require all teachers to have Master’s level qualifications, the importance of postgraduate professional development and accreditation becomes more apparent. This partnership between Edge Hill University and Ormskirk is in its developmental stage but both recognise the potential for exciting times ahead.


  • Child AJ (2002), ‘Talking it Through: A Way to Raise Teacher Performance,’ Management in Education 16:2
  • Keating I (2001), ‘The Efficacy of CPD – Its Impact upon Classroom Practice,’ Professional Development Today 4:2

Gill Yates is CPD coordinator at Ormskirk School
Steve Merrill is senior lecturer at Edge Hill University