High-quality training for teachers is a more effective way to boost pupils’ outcomes than other interventions such as performance-related pay or lengthening the school day, a new study shows.
A report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI) think tank, commissioned by the Wellcome Trust, says that CPD – which can include training courses, mentoring, seminars and peer reviews – could close the gap between new and experienced teachers.
Teacher training: How to be more effective
The impact of CPD on pupils’ outcomes can be similar to the impact of a class having a teacher with a decade’s experience as opposed to a newly qualified teacher, the research reveals.
Quality training had a similar effect on improving pupil outcomes to having a more experienced teacher.
The study also shows that CPD was similarly effective to large, structural reforms of schools and that quality training could be more cost-effective than other ways of improving pupils’ outcomes such as one-to-one tutoring.
The impact of high-quality teacher CPD
While individual tutoring was found to be more effective than additional teacher training, it was also far more expensive, with one small trial of graduate coaching costing £1,400 per pupil per year.
The report says that high-quality professional development for teachers could improve teacher retention, especially for teachers with less experience starting out in their career. Research reveals that teacher induction support significantly increases retention for early career teachers.
The study also shows that high teacher turnover can obstruct the effectiveness of CPD programmes, and that programmes that offer flexibility to account for fluctuations in staffing are likely to be more successful.
James Zuccollo, director for school workforce at the EPI, said: “This research shows that quality professional development for teachers can have a positive impact on pupil attainment.
“Teacher development programmes compare favourably with other more costly education interventions, but can be overlooked as a route to improving young people’s outcomes.
“Given there is also evidence that professional development can help to tackle acute teacher retention problems, policymakers are right to explore how they can improve teachers’ access to high-quality support programmes.”
Nan Davies, professional development programme lead at Wellcome, said: "This important report from the Education Policy Institute shows the significant impact teachers' continuing professional development can have on pupil outcomes compared to other more expensive interventions.
“However, the time given to teachers' CPD in England does not compare favourably to other OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] nations. Ensuring that teachers have access to and regularly participate in high-quality professional development must continue to be a priority for policymakers.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
“Opportunities for teachers to develop throughout their career are essential for ensuring it remains an attractive profession while enabling all pupils to benefit from a world-class education.
“Our Recruitment & Retention Strategy sets out the biggest teaching reform in a generation by providing the solid foundations for a successful career in teaching, backed by at least £130 million a year in extra funding when fully rolled out.”