Point of no return

14th November 2003 at 00:00
What happens after the attention of the induction year has subsided? Nothing, that's what. And yet, argues Sara Bubb, professional development at this stage of a teacher's career would be highly worthwhile

There was going to be funding for professional development in teachers'

second and third years, but it's been cut! No consultation, just axed.

The earmarked funding for early professional development (EPD), as well as best practice research scholarships, teachers' international professional development and bursaries for teachers in their fourth and fifth years has been put into school budgets. There, it offsets the shortfall brought about by increased national insurance and pension contributions.

Great. This EPD strategy is only two years old and it already faces extinction. The fast-track scheme, on the other hand, costs a massive amount for a very small number of people, the benefits of which have yet to be proved - yet it's not being cut.

Why do teachers in their first five years need help with their professional development? Ofsted says that because the quality of training has improved, schools now have the best newly qualified teachers ever. However, not all who train end up working as teachers. The Teacher Training Agency 2002 figures show that for every 100 people who start a PGCE in secondary maths, only 78 qualify and just 69 end up teaching. Similarly, for every 100 people who start a primary PGCE in London, only 85 qualify and 71 end up as teachers.

And that's not the whole picture. Smithers and Robinson's research (Department for Education and Skills research report number 430) into why teachers leave the profession found that it's the newest teachers who are quitting. So of the 100 people who start a PGCE primary course, only 49 are teaching after five years. That's not a good return on the investment.

The biggest factors in retention are workload, discipline, and a general sense of professional self-respect. Professional development can help significantly.

A General Teaching CouncilGuardianMori survey published earlier this year found that teachers who are given the opportunity for further training or professional development are much more likely to want to stay. Thus, EPD is a way to stop them leaving the profession and will save money: recruiting a teacher can cost a school around pound;4,000.

Teachers can feel at sea in the years after induction. They get lots of attention when training and during induction - but then it stops. They're meant to be experienced and know what they're doing, and no longer have allowances made for them. But learning to teach well and with confidence takes years.

Yet teachers in their second and third years are in limbo when it comes to continuing professional development (CPD): neither entitled to newly qualfied teacher courses nor high up the hierarchy for leadership and management-type development.

Professional development helps bring about change. The Government wants massive changes, but it needs to have knowledgeable and motivated teachers to implement them. So EPD could be seen as the life raft offered in the choppy seas of reform. Professional development isn't cheap, but it's a cost-effective investment.

However, the Ofsted report published earlier this year found little differentiation in the professional development offered to teachers in their second and third years in at least half of the schools inspected, so that their needs remained unrecognised and unaddressed.

England is now lagging behind its neighbours. Northern Ireland has recognised teachers' need for help in the second and third years for some time, and in Wales induction is seen as the first year of a three-year EPD.

Carol Adams of England's GTC speaks for many in airing her disappointment at the Government's U-turn when she says: "Today's new teachers are the education leaders of the future and we should be prepared to invest long-term in the early stages of their careers".

Sara Bubb's book 'The Insider's Guide to Early Professional Development: Succeed in Your First Five Years as a Teacher' is due to be published by RoutledgeFalmer in March 2004, pound;12.99

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