THESE are critical times at the Department for Education and Employment as it sees through Green Paper teaching reforms.
Last week two important landmarks were reached. Ministers issued the long-awaited threshold criteria - see above - which teachers must meet to get their pound;2,000 pay rise. And they launched the less-heralded consultation on continuing professional development.
If performance-related pay depends in the long run on effective staff appraisal, then that appraisal will depend on teachers having the chance to improve their skills so they can meet the annual targets they will be set.
The 32-page document, Professional Development: support for teaching and learning, is described as a "work in progress", and asks questions rather than offering answers. Nevertheless, it has been warmly greeted by the profession.
School standards minister Estelle Morris called it "one of the most important documents we've ever launched. Given the challenges facing schools and the expectations on them, professional development has never been more important."
The paper says teachers are entitled to professional development, which may be included in future contracts. It says the priorities come from individual teachers, schools and the Government.
Teachers should share responsibility for their professional development and give it high priority. They should focus on raising classroom standards and development should be high-quality, well-planned and evaluated.
It says teachers should learn on the job and from best practice in the classroom. More use should be made of mentoring, peer networks, professional learning teams, teacher exchanges and business placements.
Ms Morris said: "We want to move away from just offering courses to enabling teachers to see other practitioners."
The Government says it is putting "significant investment" into CPD through the School Improvement Grant. But it plans to give money direct to teachers through bursaries to put towards their own career goals.
Bursaries could be spent on workshops, conferences or put towards a Masters degree.
Some pound;3 million will be put aside for research scholarships. Ministers want to see universities involved, and some "experienced" teachers could be given sabbaticals for research or development work. And pound;6m is earmarked over two years for international exchanges, with teachers working overseas or going on study visits abroad.
The outcome will be to put professional development on a more formal footing. The DFEE wants to see more career planning, with professional devlopment in a cycle of perhaps three-to-four years, starting from induction. Teachers could have their own development portfolio, available on disk or on the Internet.
The threshold application form - now out for consultation before being issued in late March - comes with 10 pages of guidance.
Applicants must give "concrete examples" from their day-to-day work of how they have broadly met the criteria over two or three years. Their head must judge whether they have met the standards; their decisions are verified by external assessors.
Heads will look at whether they show the characteristics of effective teaching produced by the DFEE's consultants, Hay McBer, which include inspiring trust and confidence, team building and motivating pupils. Examples of each are provided.
Evidence could include schemes of work, feedback from classroom observation, assessment data ... and any professional development undertaken. Which only serves to underline that without CPD in place, the Government's headline reforms will surely falter.
Copies of Professional Development: support for teaching and learning are available from DFEE Publications, tel 0845 6022260, fax 0845 6033360 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
FIVE STEPS ACROSS THE PERFORMANCE PAY THRESHOLD
TO CROSS the threshold and collect their pound;2,000, teachers must meet standards in five categories. These are:
Knowledge and understanding
Demonstrate a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the teaching of their subject(s), taking account of wider curriculum developments relevant to their work.
Teaching and assessment
Show ability to :
plan lessons to meet pupils' individual learning needs
use a range of appropriate strategies for teaching and classroom management
use prior attainment to set well-grounded expectations for pupils and monitor progress to give clear, constructive feedback
Show improvement in pupils' achievement which matches or betters that of similar pupils nationally. Results from relevant national tests or exams, or school-based assessment where national tests or exams are not taken will be used as a measure.
Wider professional effectiveness
Take responsibility for their professional development, using the outcomes to improve teaching and learning.
Make an active contribution to the policies and aspirations of their school.
Demonstrate that they are effective professionals who challenge and support all pupils to do their best through inspiring trust and confidence; building team commitment; engaging and motivating pupils; analytical thinking; and positive action to improve the quality of pupils' learning.